If you’ve ever been injured or sick for an extended period of time, you know firsthand that the pain and discomfort of not feeling well can lead to not being in the best mood. While physical pain can cause emotional distress, there’s another side of the coin – emotional stress can also cause physical pain.

This phenomenon is called psychogenic pain, and it occurs when your physical pain is caused by underlying emotional, psychological, or behavioral disorders. Even though this type of pain isn’t caused by a clear physical reason, it is a very real type of chronic pain.  In this article, we will explore further the connection between your emotions and your physical body.

What Causes Psychogenic Pain?

Psychogenic pain may not be explained with a traditional physical reason, but is instead triggered by prolonged mental or emotional distress. However, it is currently unclear why emotional stress can cause physical pain. 

There are many different emotions that can lead to physical pain. While we all may experience these feelings from time to time, experiencing these emotions for long periods of time can cause physical reactions. Some of these emotions include:

  • Sadness

If you experience sadness for a long period of time, that sadness could develop into depression. Untreated depression affects the body in a variety of ways including fatigue, aching muscles, and headaches.

  • Anger

Feeling angry triggers the body’s fight or flight response. If you have unexpressed anger that is bottled inside, it can have physical effects such as headaches, tense muscles and teeth, and jaw grinding or clenching.

  • Anxiety

If you experience prolonged periods of anxiety, your body is pumping more adrenaline in the body than it needs causing you to be jumpy or easily startled. Physical symptoms of anxiety include stomach pain, headaches, and tense muscles throughout your body.

  • Shame

If you’re overwhelmed with shame for an action or a reaction in your past, that feeling can physically manifest itself in your body. Prolonged feelings of shame can lead to overall muscle tension, headaches, and digestive problems. 

Diagnosing Psychogenic Pain

Unfortunately, there’s not a simple blood test or machine that can diagnose physical pain that is being triggered by emotions. Because there isn’t a simple test, diagnosing this type of pain can be difficult and time-consuming.

First, your doctor needs to rule out any physical causes of pain through examinations and ordered tests. Unfortunately, with psychogenic pain, physical findings are either not present or substantial enough to account for the pain you’re experiencing. 

Since psychological factors are what is triggering your pain response, a physician should elicit a history that will uncover these factors in your life. 

Treating Psychogenic Pain

Because of the nature of psychogenic pain, someone who suffers from it is experiencing both emotional and physical distress. Because of this, treatment has to be two-pronged as it addresses both the underlying cause and the physical symptoms. 

To treat the underlying emotional cause, there are several different therapies that could be helpful such as :

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Stress Management
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Mindfulness
  • Alternative therapies – yoga, Tai Chi, etc.

One or a combination of the above treatments could drastically improve your emotional health, which will then begin to positively affect your physical health, too.

To treat your physical pain, your medical doctor may work hand-in-hand with a mental health professional to thoroughly treat both sides of the issue. Your medical doctor may recommend non-narcotic pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Additionally, they may recommend lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, increasing exercise, and improving nutrition.

Alternative treatment such as chiropractic care may also help alleviate your psychogenic pain. Pain is the number one reason why people visit a chiropractor. Through adjustments and therapy, a chiropractor can help alleviate the physical symptoms of your pain while you work on the emotional component as well.

Our experts at South Orange Chiropractic Clinic are here to help you feel better as you begin your journey to physical and emotional wellness. Schedule an appointment today to discuss how we can create a treatment plan that is right for you to help you feel better fast.