Chronic stress leads to physical pain and immune system problems

A research team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA believe they have found the link between chronic stress and heightened experience of physical pain, the feeling of being run down and the increased likelihood of getting a cold.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that psychological stress affects the body’s natural inflammation regulation processes which can subsequently lead to the development of disease. It was reported that immune system cells become unresponsive to the regulatory effect of cortisol the so called ‘stress hormone’. It is the change in the body’s response to cortisol that can encourage inflammation of cells and the increased risk of suffering from a cold or the flu.

The researchers questioned 176 men and women about any stress or particularly difficult life events they had experienced in the 12 months prior to the study.

The participants were then given drops of the common cold virus into their nose. The researchers monitored how each participant’s body responded to the virus and correlated this with the symptoms of stress that had been reported. The people who had reported being under pressure and had felt stressed were 50 percent more likely to develop a cold.

There are a number of ways an individual can reduce the impact of psychological stress on their physical wellbeing. Relaxation techniques and exercise such as yoga and tai chi as well as mindfulness meditation have all been found to reduce the impact of stress on the body, strengthen the immune system and better prepare the body to deal with infections and disease.

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