For people with chronic pain syndrome, pain is their daily reality. In some cases, there may have been a clear cause for the pain. In other cases, the cause may be a mystery. But either way, the pain persists and may continue to do so for weeks, months or years. Just to add a bit of insult to injury research is now suggesting that pain may actually contribute to hypertension – otherwise known as high blood pressure. But can that be? Can chronic pain cause high blood pressure? That’s what we’re here to find out.
The Pain/Hypertension Nexus: Is it Real?
There is a growing body of clinical evidence that seems to confirm what some doctors have long suspected. That chronic pain can actually increase a person’s blood pressure. Although the mechanism involved is extremely complex it can be distilled down to this: chronic pain relentlessly stimulates that nerves responsible for regulating blood pressure, causing it to rise.
As the picture painting a connection between pain and blood pressure has come into focus researchers have scrambled to try and either verify the hypothesis or debunk it. Unfortunately, most of their work seems to verify it. These researchers have used an array of negative stimuli to measure the relationship between pain and blood pressure. And in nearly every case they discovered that when a negative stimulus was applied – be it ice-cold water or mild electrical shocks – there was a corresponding increase in blood pressure.
For those living with chronic pain, the news is the ultimate double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s no longer a mystery why they were suddenly diagnosed with high blood pressure. On the other hand, they now have high blood pressure to deal with in addition to chronic pain.
At What Cost Pain Relief?
If there is a bright spot here it’s a decidedly unorthodox one: these same researchers also discovered that this type of relentless stimulation of the blood pressure regulatory system reduces overall sensitivity to pain. You don’t need to be a research scientist to understand how that might be construed as a benefit for people with chronic pain. Yet at the same time, this raises tough questions such as “How far would one go to obtain pain relief?” It’s an important question but one we’re going to leave for another day.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Many people with chronic pain who have discovered they also have high blood pressure did not suffer hypertension prior to the onset of their chronic pain. And there are doubtless many more chronic pain sufferers out there today who may worry that they’ve developed high blood pressure but are unsure what symptoms to look for. If you are one of them, here are some common symptoms that could indicate the presence of high blood pressure:
● Dizziness or lightheadedness
● Sudden problems with your vision
● A growing sense of fatigue
● Irregular heartbeat
● Discomfort or pain in the chest
● Respiratory problems
● A throbbing sensation in the ears or neck
What to do?
So can chronic pain cause high blood pressure? Unfortunately, all indications are leaning toward “yes”. Some people with chronic pain are not going to want to contemplate having one more serious health issue to deal with. In fact, it’s a safe bet none of them will. But by treating your high blood pressure effectively you can likely help mitigate the severity of your chronic pain. Here are a few tips to help lower blood pressure without drugs:
● Lose any extra weight – High blood pressure and being overweight go hand in hand. Being overweight is also likely to increase your chronic pain symptoms.
● Exercise – Exercise will help you lose weight but it also releases endorphins into the blood that stimulate the pleasure center of the brain and counteract pain.
● Eat less salt – Small amounts of sodium are necessary. But excess sodium is really bad for your blood pressure and your vascular system.
● Drink less alcohol – People who drink more than a couple of drinks per day often suffer hypertension and nullify the positive effect small amounts of alcohol can have.
● Reduce your caffeine intake – There is no proof that caffeine increases blood pressure. But what it does do is increase anxiety levels. The last thing someone with chronic pain needs.
Ketamine for Chronic Pain Treatment
Ketamine is a powerful FDA-approved anesthetic and painkiller, used for decades for rapid pain relief. But research in the last two decades indicates that it may be the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of pain disorders in many years. When infused at a low dose into the bloodstream, studies show that Ketamine can be up to 80% effective at treating the symptoms of pain and depression. One reason Ketamine infusion is such an innovative new treatment is its rare ability to sometimes bring relief to symptoms within hours or even minutes, rather than the weeks or months traditional treatment can sometimes take.