Can Stress Cause Pain?

hands on templesStress has been called “the silent killer”, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel its effects. It may seem like stress is all in your head, but the fact remains your head is connected to your body. When you are under mental and/or emotional duress, controlling pain is more difficult to do and the stress itself can cause pain to manifest in a number of ways.

Chronic Pain

National Institute of Health defines chronic pain as pain that last 12 weeks or more. Chronic pain and stress often go hand-in-hand and one can perpetuate the other. Stress can cause pain, that pain can cause more stress, then a vicious cycle is created. Chronic stress and pain have serious physical, mental, emotional and social repercussions that can ultimately lead to life-threatening illness. That’s why reducing stress through relaxation is so important.

Muscle Tension

One of the most acute physical problems that is caused by stress is muscle tension. Pain in the neck, shoulders and back are a common complaint of people who are stressed out. This is partly due to muscle tension and muscle spasms that are related to stress. Stress-related muscle tension is a problem that’s all too common for people with TMD. Muscle tension in the jaw and bruxism are leading causes for the pain associated with TMJ.


The Mayo Clinic has reported that stress can increase your chances of having headaches. The stressors themselves can trigger a headache, or it can be a reaction to other physical stress symptoms like muscle tension. In fact, tension headaches are one of the most common types of headaches.

Stomach Pain

Stomach pains, upset stomach and nausea are also physical symptoms of stress. Your gut is closely connected to your emotions. When we’re anxious, nervous or stressed our stomachs are more likely to act up. If you are feeling intense pressure and stress, you can be more likely to have a stomachache.


Stress is known to increase inflammation, which results in a host of medical problems. Chief among them are inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. This is often the result of chronic stress. In addition to inflammation, stress can also cause the brain to release chemicals that cause arthritis to flare up.

Skin Problems

If you ever had chicken pox as a child you know how aggravating and painful irritated skin can be. Stress has been found to cause a variety of skin problems including rashes and hives.

The Domino Affect

Stress is often an indirect source of pain as well. It can cause problems like depression, which in turn make existing pain worse than it was before. Stress can also make you more fatigued and hinder sleep. When your body isn’t able to get the rest it needs, it’s more difficult to manage pain. The immune system is also affected and won’t be able to fight off illness and ailments that can lead to pain. Another negative effect is that stress can inhibit the brain’s ability to minimize and filter pain signals, which makes it harder to manage pain.

Controlling your stress will help you better control pain. If you are experiencing pain in your jaw it’s time to see a dentist that is experienced in TMJ treatment. If you live in the Houston area, schedule an appointment with MedCenter TMJ. Our team uses the latest equipment and TMJ diagnostic techniques to determine the underlying problems and create an effective treatment plan.

Original source:

Scroll to Top