How PTSD can Cause Physical Pain Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after an uncontrollable traumatic event. PTSD impacts approximately 7-8% of the U.S. population, and about 8 million U.S. adults are estimated to have PTSD at any given time.1 Post-traumatic stress disorder has a number of debilitating symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories
  • Avoidance symptoms, such as avoiding anything associated with the trauma, which may include avoiding things that were once enjoyable or necessary for daily living
  • Reactivity symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, difficulty calming down, relaxing, or concentrating.
  • Changes in mood that are significant enough to impact relationships, goals, happiness, or everyday living2

People who struggle with PTSD often avoid troubling situations and things that remind them of any aspect of trauma. Flashbacks, nightmares, wanting to avoid people, places, and things associated with the trauma. Emotional numbness, detachment, anxiety, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances and fear are all common features of PTSD.

All of these symptoms can harm your health, wellbeing, relationships and quality of life. These effects can be debilitating, so do not underestimate the power of these issues.

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PTSD and Your Health

 

PTSD frequently co-occurs with other physical and mental health concerns, from depression to heart disease, and one of the most common symptoms of PTSD is physical pain. Because PTSD is a psychiatric condition, many people do not connect the physical pain they experience with past trauma. Because of this, many people turn to physical medical treatment to alleviate their physical pain.

Pain often continues, or treatment becomes rocky because some parts of physical pain may be related to PTSD. Long-term physical pain symptoms also increase your risk for opioid dependence and even addiction, but a treatment team that understands these connections can help you heal both body and mind.

Connection between PTSD and Physical Pain

Woman with neck painAn obvious connection between PTSD and physical pain is that some traumas are physical and they can cause pain. The physical impact of trauma can cause immediate physical effects and injury, or encourage physical symptoms that progress later on.

The symptoms of PTSD can also create physical pain symptoms.

 
Sleep disturbances, hyper-arousal, and anxiety all create physical tension and stress, which can damage your health. Migraines, back pain, stomach pains, body aches, and other issues can easily stem from PTSD symptoms.

Furthering this idea, the many issues that co-occur with PTSD — like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obesity — can trigger physical pain symptoms as well. A person’s health is determined by wellness in physical, mental and spiritual health, so a mental health disorder has no limits to the amount of damage it can cause.

 

Non-Addictive Treatment for PTSD and Physical Pain

La Paloma inpatient buildingAnyone with both PTSD and physical pain can seek a number of treatment options to address both issues simultaneously. New treatment methods and skills are being developed each year, as science begins to understand and clarify the connection between mind and body. Even if you have sought treatment in the past, you may be surprised to learn about new treatments and possibilities that exist today.

If you would like more information, or to speak with a recovery professional, call our confidential helpline today at 901-350-4575.


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Sources

1 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD: National Center for PTSD. 2018.

2 Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Print.