Are you experiencing pain and high blood pressure? This would not be surprising as the two can be related. This article explains how pain and high blood pressure are related and what you can do if you experience both. Because one thing is clear: Pain can cause high blood pressure.
If you want to learn more about how the two are related and what you can do to ease pain and lower your blood pressure, read on. This article will help you understand what is happening in your body while giving you tips on how to deal with pain and high blood pressure.
What is pain?
Pain is a sensation that one experiences usually as a result of, or linked to, tissue damage. Pain is viewed as a way in which the body communicates that there is tissue damage, but it need not always be the case. Pain can also be an emotional experience.15
There are different types of pain:
- Acute pain: pain that is experienced in a certain moment as a result of tissue damage (e.g., a cut).
- Chronic pain: pain that one experiences persistently.
- Recurrent pain: pain that one repeatedly experiences with some breaks in between.
Pain is understood to be a subjective experience that is learned via association through experience.
In acute pain, a signal is sent from the damaged tissue to the brain, which communicates to the body that there is tissue damage. In this way, pain is a tool that helps people take care of their bodies.15 When pain becomes chronic, it might still communicate tissue damage. However, chronic pain can feel draining. Feeling chronic pain might lead to fatigue and can decrease quality of life. There are different ways chronic pain can be managed, such as the use of medication.
While some pain might persist without tissue damage, the pain might be a symptom of other underlying conditions. If you feel pain, whether chronic or acute, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor to identify the cause of your pain.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is described as the force with which your blood flows through your blood vessels. The pressure is dependent on different components, such as the level of activity or the strength with which the heart pumps blood through the body. High blood pressure means that the blood is consistently running through the vessels with more pressure than is needed. It is also referred to as hypertension.
Blood pressure has two measurements - the first number (higher value) indicates the systolic pressure, and the second number (lower value) diastolic pressure.1, 9
- Systolic blood pressure: The force with which the blood is flowing while the heart is contracting
- Diastolic blood pressure: The force with which the blood is flowing while the heart is relaxing
Normal blood pressure:1, 9
- Normal blood pressure ranges from 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, but can be higher in older persons.
- High blood pressure: 140/90mmHg or higher.
For a more detailed overview of blood pressure, you can refer to our article about normal blood pressure.
Symptoms of high blood pressure include:10
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Blurry vision
To find out whether you have high blood pressure, it can be measured at home using a blood pressure monitor. To have more accurate results, measuring your blood pressure for 24 hours can be a good option. The best way to measure your blood pressure is through your healthcare provider.
Link between high blood pressure and pain
Pain and high blood pressure have a bidirectional relationship. As mentioned, pain is a signal from the body to communicate potential tissue damage to the brain. If the body is in pain and there is potential tissue damage, the brain has to respond to lower the pain and fix the tissue damage. In order to do so, the body activates the sympathetic nervous system, which basically is the active state of the body. In this state, the body is able to respond and act upon encountering dangerous situations, including tissue damage. Part of the sympathetic nervous system being active involves increased blood pressure because organs and muscles can be supplied faster with nutrients when blood pressure is high, and hence respond faster to stimuli and pain.14
If the pain subsides or is acute, this can be very useful. The body reacts to the stimuli, increases blood pressure, and when the pain subsides, the blood pressure can go back to normal.
With chronic pain, this can be more complicated. If the pain does not lower, the high blood pressure may persist as well. Persistent high blood pressure can lead to discomfort and is experienced in different symptoms and complications.
Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure when in pain
Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure when in pain include:3
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure in chest
- Irregular heartbeat
Is pain a common cause of high blood pressure?
Pain is a known cause of high blood pressure. Pain can cause high blood pressure via different routes in the body:
- Endocrine or hormonal: Being in pain increases the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which in turn increases blood pressure.
- Sympathetic nervous system (SNS): The SNS regulates blood pressure in order to prepare the body to react to stimuli. The pain activates the SNS, which increases blood pressure.
Increased blood pressure for acute pain can be useful, while chronic pain and prolonged elevated blood pressure can have adverse effects. .
Risk factors for high blood pressure caused by pain are mainly relevant for chronic pain. The risk factors include:9,10
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- Little exercise
To lower the risk, it is usually advisable to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet (such as low intake of saturated fats and cholesterol), low salt, and drink enough water.
Complications of hypertension through pain:
- Angina: occurs when the blood supply to the heart is hindered and the heart muscles do not receive enough oxygen. Angina is expressed in the form of chest pain.
- Heart Failure: used to describe the heart not being able to pump blood properly.
- Heart Attack: when the heart does not receive enough blood
- Irregular heartbeat
How to manage high blood pressure when in pain
Managing high blood pressure when in pain can be done in different ways:5
- Relaxation techniques: such as yoga or meditation can help lower blood pressure, and depending on the cause of the pain, also lower pain. Taking a warm bath might also help.
- Medication: Medications that lower blood pressure, and medications that lower pain, such as aspirin.
To find the best way to treat your high blood pressure when in pain, consult with your healthcare provider. Depending on the cause of the pain and the high blood pressure, some treatment options might work, and others should not be used.
When to contact a doctor
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is always recommendable to consult with your doctor. If you feel pain, consult with your healthcare provider to find the cause of the pain. This way, the cause could be treated, resulting in the resolution of the pain. If you have high blood pressure, consult with your doctor to:
- Find ways to lower your blood pressure
- Find the cause of your high blood pressure.
If you experience any symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, sweating, pressure in chest, dizziness)6, reach out to your healthcare provider and call 999 immediately.
Pain is a sensation that often communicates tissue damage. It is a subjective experience and can be acute or chronic.
Blood pressure describes the force with which blood flows through your blood vessels. Depending on the force, blood pressure can be high, specifically, when it is above 140/90mmHg.
Acute and chronic pain can cause high blood pressure. When the pain is chronic, the blood pressure can become chronically elevated as well. Symptoms of high blood pressure when in pain include shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, chest pain or pressure in the chest, and an irregular heartbeat.
To manage high blood pressure and pain both aspects can be treated separately. Treating the pain will not only relieve it, but it might also decrease blood pressure. Pain can be relieved in different ways depending on the cause, for example, via medication or exercises. High blood pressure can be managed using medication and exercise as well.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is always wise to consult with your doctor. If you are in pain, consult with your doctor to find the cause of the pain and treat the pain. If the pain is severe, reach out to a doctor immediately. If you have high blood pressure from pain or just in general, it is also good to consult with your healthcare provider to avoid further complications.
Many people experience pain and high blood pressure. While it might be difficult at times, consulting with your doctor and finding a way of life that works for you is recommended to increase your quality of life.
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- Introduction to angina [Internet]. Klarity Health Library. [cited 2022 Oct 6]. Available from: https://my.klarity.health/introduction-to-angina/
- Sympathetic nervous system (Sns): what it is & function [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Oct 5]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23262-sympathetic-nervous-system-sns-fight-or-flight
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