Article: When is Physical Pain Emotional Pain? [NoiJam]

“When treating an individual with CRPS [Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome] it may be useful for the PT [physical therapist] to be aware that sometimes it occurs with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].  In both instances the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is over-stimulated.  Our ANS connects our central nervous system, (CNS), to our organ, respiratory, and cardiac systems.  It is not under conscious control; however activities like meditation can have an effect on it.  Its two components, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) keep our life-sustaining body systems in balance (homeostasis).

“When we experience danger the SNS triggers increased heart and respiratory rates, raises blood pressure, and prepares us for fight or flight.  The PNS responds when we have no hope for escape and we freeze.  When we feel that the danger has passed, it returns to its usual function of reducing heart and respiratory rates and restoring balance to our systems.  The ANS is designed to be resilient in response to external stimuli.  But danger that continues over time can cause the SNS to remain in hyper-arousal which can cause CRPS, PTSD, and many other serious health problems.

“Emotional pain and physical pain are processed similarly.[i]  CRPS and PTSD manifest on a continuum similar to blood pressure which can go up with stress, but can also go down with meditation, or when the stress is relieved.  The nature of life is change, so the more appropriately the ANS ebbs and flows in relation to the environment, the more coincident body systems are with real-world reality.  A defining factor of CRPS is pain greater than would be expected.   PTSD is a complex state that includes fear and the experience of danger greater than the present reality.  For both, the exaggerated experience of danger may be triggered by a precipitating event.”

Read Deborah Brandt’s full article regarding her personal experience with pain, CRPS, PTSD, and her professional interest in the autonomic nervous system at NoiJam: When is Physical Pain Emotional Pain

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