Why Living In Pain Will Eventually Kill You

Young woman squinting eye closed, hand covering ear, close-up
Sanna Lindberg / Getty Images

There are shocking statistics regarding the number of Americans who suffer from chronic pain,  in thousands of years science hasn't come up with a really great way to treat chronic pain. Migraines, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, sinusitis and other conditions are major culprits affecting (according to most studies) about one in three adults. Pain is the number one reason that people call in sick to work, yet many doctors are either reluctant or inadequately trained to treat it.

What you might not realize is that living a life full of pain will shave years off your lifespan.

The pathway in the brain that registers pain has a cascading effect, triggering multiple neurotransmitters and hormones. This pathway is complex, which is one of the reasons that experts have not found the key to treating chronic pain. One of the key hormones in this process is cortisol, you may know it as the stress hormone or the "fight or flight" hormone. Once cortisol is released many changes in our bodies occur; our heart beats faster, our blood pressure goes up, many internal organs slow down as blood is shunted to skeletal muscles, our pupils dilate, even our immune system is suppressed. When released in infrequent  bursts cortisol functions as a self preservative so to speak, (it gives us what we need to run away or fight back), when released constantly over long periods of time it can have detrimental effects on our health including heart problems and high blood pressure, even a reduced ability to heal.

Researchers have even been able to predict which heart patients will live the longest by measuring their cortisol levels. Patient's with less cortisol live longer.

So why are doctors afraid to treat pain? Well, abuse is the first factor that usually comes to mind but the truth is that very few patients using narcotics to legitimately treat a painful condition actually become addicted.

The other reason is that there are so many undesirable side effects with narcotics, and unless you find the root cause of a person's pain it's like using a band aid on an amputated arm - it just doesn't work long term; all good reasons to seek the correct treatment. You never know, all those migraines might be the result of a very treatable sinus problem. If you can't find the cause of your pain, cortisol is just one factor proving that it is perfectly reasonable to insist that your doctor treat it anyway.

Continue Reading