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Is there a link between Pain and High Blood Pressure?

Pain tells the body that something is wrong. It is an involuntary response from the nervous system. This means the brain will automatically sense pain and work to stop it from harming the body. Pain comes in the form of a prick, tingle, sting, burn, or ache. It can be felt in one area or all over. It can occur once and be gone (acute) or it can be constant (chronic). Both acute and chronic pain can affect blood pressure. This article discusses the connection between pain and blood pressure. Learn how pain causes high blood pressure (hypertension), what symptoms to look out for, and how to manage it.

How Pain Raises Blood Pressure

Pain can acutely increase blood pressure. Hypertension is associated with a reduced sensitivity to pain. When pain is detected by the nervous system it will activate a mechanism called the baroreceptor reflex. This system is what controls blood pressure. The reflex tells the body to constrict blood flow, which increases blood pressure. This will continue until the pain is no longer detected. This reduced sensitivity to pain will tell the baroreceptor reflex to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure down to normal levels. Acute Pain is pain that comes on quickly out of nowhere. It may also be due to a disease, injury, or inflammation. This type of pain has an inverse relationship with resting blood pressure and pain sensitivity. Blood pressure should return to normal levels rather quickly during this type of pain.

Chronic Pain and High Blood Pressure

Acute pain that does not go away will become chronic It can last weeks, months, or even years. This type of pain is associated with a sprain, infection, or an ongoing medical condition. Chronic pain may also occur without any past injury or body damage. When pain is chronic the nervous system is always working to try to fix it. Over time the nervous system will lose its ability to regulate blood pressure. This is why high blood pressure is often associated with chronic pain.

Pain and High Blood Pressure Symptoms

  • Neck ache

  • Severe headache

  • Dizziness

  • Vision problems

  • Nosebleeds

  • Fatigue

  • Confusion

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Blood in the urine

  • A pounding sensation in the neck, chest, or ears

Summary

Pain is a response from the involuntary nervous system used to protect the body from harm. No matter what type of pain occurs, the nervous system uses the same mechanisms to relieve it. As a result, there is a rise in blood pressure.


In acute pain, blood pressure elevations are quickly returned to normal. On the other hand, when chronic pain occurs, there are continuous elevations that weaken the body's ability to normalize blood pressure. This can lead to more pain, hypertension, and the risk of heart disease.


High blood pressure can be noted by various symptoms, including neck ache, headache, dizziness, vision problems, nosebleeds, fatigue, confusion, chest pain, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat, blood in the urine, and a pounding sensation in the neck, chest, or ears. It can sometimes have no symptoms at all. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to have it checked.


Aside from pain, there are additional diet and lifestyle factors that may lead to high blood pressure. If these are not managed it may worsen existing pain-related blood pressure. Improvements in blood pressure may also be seen using a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.

~By

Jeanette Kimszal, RDN


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