“Psychosomatic means mind (psyche) and body (soma). A psychosomatic disorder is a disease which involves both mind and body. Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety.”
(A quick note before we begin: it is extremely important that any severe physical symptoms must be attended to by a licensed medical professional, such as a physician.)
If there is a mental aspect to virtually every type of disease, isn’t it then rational to assume there is a mental aspect to virtually every type of physical pain? The simple truth is that mental states affect physical states and vice-versa.
Traditional medicine has labeled this the psychosomatic effect. Interestingly, the specialty of psychosomatic medicine is the latest sub-specialty in psychiatry to become board-certified. Board-certified physicians comprise the “best of the best” in 24 different medical specializations (e.g. neurology, dermatology, psychiatry, etc.) As important, these medical specialties are universally recognized by the medical and scientific communities as vital to public health.
Indeed, pain can be caused by emotional and mental states. In science, it has been demonstrated that both mental/emotional and physical pain activates the same areas of the brain: the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex. So – a physiological connection between brain and body exists as well.
Here we are going to discuss 10 different types of pain that are directly linked to feelings, emotions and thoughts. Equipped with this knowledge, one can begin to make whatever adjustments necessary to feel better (we’ll also provide some recommendations).
Here are 10 types of pain caused by feelings/emotions/thoughts:
1. Back pain
Areas of the back and shoulders are arguably where we feel muscle tension the most. Chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical professionals have been explaining the stress/anxiety connection between back pain and mental/emotional health for years.
Making matters worse, this type of pain is cyclical. We begin to stress and worry about back pain, which tenses back the muscles; the muscles tense, and then we begin to feel things like frustration and anger.
2. Headaches and migraines
Dr. Christina Peterson, a board-certified physician, writes: “Stress comes in many varieties, including time stress, emotional stress, and the stress of physical fatigue…and (these) emotions pack a wallop for the migraine sufferer.” Furthermore, emotions like anger, anxiety, crying/sadness and depression trigger headache pains.
The good doctors recommend practicing relaxation techniques, meditation, and to seek the help of a counselor in the event that this pain doesn’t subside.
3. Neck pain
The buildup of emotions; more specifically, negative emotions, can affect virtually every area of the body. Neck pain, according to Calm Clinic, is one of the most common complaints of people suffering from anxiety-related disorders.
It’s nearly impossible to explain every one of the multitude of ways that anxiety can manifest. Financial problems/worries, relationship problems, sadness, fatigue, etc.
4. Shoulder pain
Many kinesiologists believe that our shoulders are the area of the body most prone to feeling the adverse effects from pressure. Ever wonder where the axiom “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders” comes from?
Us too. But it turns out there is a whole lot of truth to it.
5. Stomach aches and/or cramps
Our poor stomach is where we house most of our worries, fears, and anxieties. Experiencing these emotions repeatedly, without surprise, can cause stomach aches and pains. In fact, as it turns out, chronic stress can develop into stomach ulcers.
6. Elbow pain and/or stiffness
Dr. Alan Fogel, in a piece published by Psychology Today, writes, “All emotions have a motor component.” The elbow is no different. While medical conditions such as arthritis and others may be the reason for pain or stiffness; mental states such as anxiety and depression can also manifest in strange areas…including the elbows.
7. Pain in hands
Similar to the elbows, pain in the hands can arise from legitimate medical conditions. Some even say that hand pain may result from feelings of isolation or confinement. As Dr. Fogel said, every one of our emotions manifests into a physical symptom…so, anything is possible, right?
8. Hip pain
Aside from a documental medical condition, some type of emotional trigger is almost assuredly the cause of hip pain. The human body has more nerve connections in the hip than we would think; so distress can manifest into physical pain in this area as well.
9. Knee pain
The rationale given for knee pain experienced from emotions is pretty much the same as that given for hip pain. Of course, there are many nerve endings in the knee; hence, more of a brain/body connection. As such, it is perhaps more likely that emotional triggers such as anxiety, fear, depression, etc. will manifest into knee pain than other, less sensitive areas, such as the hip.
10. Foot pain
Here’s what one podiatrist says about the relationship between mental/emotional states and foot pain: “Stressed people present with a wide range of biomechanical issues. I am not trying to be a guru…but I am convinced there is an anecdotal connection between lower limb and foot presentation and their emotional status.”
Experts at Columbia University admit that “there’s some evidence that there are psychological conditions that may be associated with physical symptoms,” and that treating the real cause of the pain may be the answer.
After investigating the physical pain or stress, it’s worthwhile to do the same with any emotional state(s). What are you feeling?
Relaxation techniques (e.g. progressive muscle relaxation), controlled breathing, meditation, guided imagery, and many other techniques and practices exist to help people who are experiencing both physical and/or emotional pain.
Connection between emotions and physical pain? (2008, November 21). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from Go Ask Alice!, http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/connection-between-emotions-and-physical-pain
Fogel, A. (2012, April 9). Emotional and physical pain activate similar brain regions. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/body-sense/201204/emotional-and-physical-pain-activate-similar-brain-region
Knott, L. (2014, January 15). Psychosomatic disorders. Mind and body disorders. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://patient.info/health/psychosomatic-disorders
Pain and your emotions. (2015). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from MedlinePlus, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000417.htm
Peterson, C. (2011, May 27). Stress and emotions can trigger your headaches. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://www.migrainesurvival.com/stress-emotional?f=sb
Specialty and Subspecialty Certificates. (2016). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from American Board of Medical Specialties, http://www.abms.org/member-boards/specialty-subspecialty-certificates/
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