The Impact of Hormones on Pain: Unveiling the Connection for Better Management Admin February 7, 2024

The Impact of Hormones on Pain: Unveiling the Connection for Better Management

Is it normal that my aches and pains keep coming back?

Have you ever wondered why some aches and pains keep coming back?

While the cause of pain may be in part biomechanical in nature, managing an injury by focusing only on pain is not exactly addressing the entire picture. There are various things that can affect chronic pain, namely the body’s stress response.

How does stress effect our body?

Stress affects every unique body differently. Stress, specifically caused by pain, can be both overwhelming and debilitating over time. Acute pain, or stress, leads to a surge in a hormone called cortisol which acts as the body’s natural alarm system, signalling our body’s internal “flight or flight” response. Conversely, cortisol also plays many other important roles in the body such as reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure, controlling our sleep / wake cycles, increasing blood sugar when needed and boosting energy in times of stress.

What does constant stress do to my body?

Our body is not meant to be in a constant state of stress. After a bout of acute stress, such as pain from injury, getting scared by a spider or a near-miss fender bender, a period of recovery is essential. When the body experiences chronic stress, cortisol levels spike. However, these levels can’t stay elevated forever, resulting in overstimulation causing cortisol levels to drop below normal. This drop in cortisol leads to chronic inflammation, headaches, low energy, mood swings, cravings for certain foods (ie: sugary, salty foods), blood sugar irregularities, low libido and troubles staying asleep.

What are the other factors that affect my symptoms?

The effects of cortisol do not occur in isolation. There are many downstream effects primarily caused by something referred to as the HPATG axis – the Hypothalamic, Pituitary, Adrenal, Thyroid, Gonadal axis. What does this mean? In essence, our entire body, from our thoughts, our physical environment, our immune system, our metabolism to our reproductive organs are interconnected. Through the functional medicine lenses, we can take a deeper look into your unique body in order to optimize wellness and improve quality of life.

Cortisol is designed to alert us to possible danger and to prepare us to take extra measures to protect ourselves. If there is no threat, we take a deep breathe and wait for our blood pressure and racing heart to return to normal. Cortisol is not meant to stay in our system forever, it’s supposed to fire under threat and leave when threat passes. It can cause lasting damage if we have to live in perpetual fear and anxiety. In fact, cortisol limits our release of oxytocin (linked with warm, fuzzy feelings) and limits our sense of community and bonding inclination