No one is immune to pain; at some point in your life, you have probably experienced something that hurt you severely. Whether you’ve been physically injured, assaulted, emotionally hurt or a combination of the two, pain is something that everyone struggles with in their life. What you may not realize is that there is a direct relationship between the trauma that we experience and the way we experience chronic pain that has little to do with our physical symptoms. Our mind and body are intimately tied together and when we experience something that harms us physically or emotionally, it carries over to the rest of our body.
Today we are going to take a detailed look at the relationship between chronic pain and trauma to help determine how the two are linked and what can be done to reduce pain and overcome trauma.
Trauma is any event that triggers an emotional response such as your fight or flight response. It can be an accident, injury, a crime, or just a very startling situation. When you experience trauma your central nervous system goes into a heightened state. It begins to react more sensitively and severely to stimuli
This is the reason that many people have trouble coping with their trauma because the trauma causes them to relive the event anytime, they experience something that triggers them. This is why trauma may also be accompanied by feelings of fear, anxiety, or depression. Without proper care, this heightened nervous response can continue for years or even decades and can carry over into other parts of a person’ life.
Now, when we look at the way chronic pain works, we see many similarities. First, chronic pain is caused by a reaction from the central nervous system. That is why the pain is chronic and not acute, it keeps recurring over and over again, usually due to a certain trigger or in response to something in the environment. This is what makes chronic pain difficult to treat in many cases because it is difficult to isolate the different causes and find fixes for all of them.
So then, as you can see, both trauma and chronic pain are rooted in the central nervous system. This means whether a person wants it or not, the two are linked together and can impact one another.
What it means when we say that chronic pain and trauma are linked via the central nervous system is that both are part of the same system and ultimately feed off of one another.
For example, say you are going down the street and the sound of screeching tires suddenly causes you to have a flashback of some trauma you experienced. When this happens, your central nervous system immediately goes into overdrive and this also causes your chronic pain to flare up.
The opposite may also be true as well. An episode of chronic pain may trigger memories of an accident and cause you to relive trauma that you had once experienced, such as injuries from a car crash or an assault.
What this also means is that it can be impossible to read one without treating the other, because even if you happen to be able to get a handle on the chronic pain, the trauma will cause it to resurface and vice versa.
The key to managing trauma and chronic pain if you have them together is to get treatment for both. With the help of psychotherapy and other treatments, it is possible to overcome trauma and manage the way the body responds. Similarly, finding treatment for chronic pain and learning how to manage the flare ups will reduce the episodes and the likelihood of triggering trauma, but the important thing to remember is that both have to be dealt with at the same time. If you leave one untreated, the problem will rear its ugly head again later.
We hope this helps you with dealing with your own pain and trauma the next time you have an episode or experience something that causes you to relive those events. Help is out there, no one should have to go it alone.