Could COVID-19 pandemic stress be the cause of recently increased complaints of chronic pain? In the past few months, I, along with many of my social media followers, have complained about an increase of pain from fibromyalgia, autoimmune arthritis, and other chronic illnesses. At first, I wanted to blame the weather, but when you take our various locations and climates into consideration, it is clear that there is something else at play.
The stress connection hit me during a wellness check-in with my chronic pain-fighting Facebook group. Someone mentioned their increase in pain and how they are focusing on their mental health. It was their comment that made me reflect upon my current emotional health status. And friends, it wasn’t good!!
Let’s take a look at how COVID-19 and the stress it has caused is connected to our chronic pain and what we can do to limit it.
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Pandemic Stress and Increased Chronic Pain Connection
Even with the greatest of pain management plans, our bodies react to stress. Whether you are jolted by the bark of a large dog on your morning walk, missing physical interaction with family and friends, or worrying about what next week, month or year will be like, our bodies treat each encounter or thought as a threat.
Stress increases our heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and alters our immune system responses. Long-term stress causes our bodies to feel like they are constantly under attack.
Types of Pandemic Stress
- Fear of shopping, getting sick, unknowingly spreading the virus, job/income loss, going to the doctor/hospital, etc.
- Sadness caused by a lack of physical contact with friends and family, loneliness, etc.
- Anger in regards to having to stay home, people not staying home, the mask debate, government decisions, etc.
- Doing more than you used to because of a cut in services or care
- Not having access to the treatments or care you did before the pandemic
All of these lead to an increase in muscle tension and inflammation which triggers pain from many chronic illnesses.
How to Prevent or Reduce Stress Flares
Now that we have recognized some of the stressors that we may or may not have realized we have been experiencing, let’s talk about what we can do to decrease it.
The first thing we need to do is to take a deep breath. When we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed or like we have lost control over our lives, it is time to stop, breathe, and focus on the present moment.
You cannot control the future. Sure there are things you can do to prepare for some aspects, but no one knows what next month or year will look like.
Talk to someone! Reach out to a friend, family member, or therapist. Just be sure that your friend or family member isn’t one who will fuel the flames of your anxiety or depression. If your current therapist isn’t offering virtual or tele-appointments, I suggest looking into online therapy.
Your mind is not the only part that needs calming, so does your body. One thing I have become very aware of throughout all of my years fighting chronic pain is how my muscles react to stress and things I don’t often associate with stress. However, it wasn’t until I quit smoking a few years ago that I learned to actively combat it.
Smoking was my form of dealing with stress. Quitting required finding a way to deal with stress without nicotine. I quit with the help of CBD. Specifically by vaping a CBD concentrate from Flav CBD. Instead of smoking a cigarette, I would take a puff or two from my vape pen. To my delight and surprise, CBD made it possible for me to feel the exact areas that stress was affecting my body. Later I learned how to breathe and relax those areas myself through self visualization and rhythmic breathing.
Daily does of bad news, negative social media posts, and worry may be causing more muscle tension than you realize. If you find yourself in need of relaxation assistance, you may want to try a few of the following products.
Control What You Can
While the rest of the world spirals out of control, I find it is best to focus on what is within my control. Things I can control are our family budget, what I feed my family, how much news I watch or listen to, and my social media feed.
As someone who has been treating chronic pain with natural and alternative treatments/products since 2013, I also have control over my pain management plan. If you have not had full access to your pain management plan throughout the pandemic, you may want to consider more accessible options. As always, talk to your doctor about any changes to your care.
- PEMF Therapy for Pain Relief
- 40 Fibromyalgia Flare Fighting Products
- Four Wearable Pain Relief Devices for Fibromyalgia and Arthritis
Have you noticed an increase in pain since the pandemic and shutdowns began?
Have you been able to recognize the types of stress that have increased your chronic pain?
How are you addressing the stress and pain?