Q:

Could high blood pressure be a pain-warning indicator? Does pain release some sort of chemical into the body that raises blood pressure?

A:

It is well recognized by health professionals that pain can raise blood pressure and your heart rate by causing a surge of adrenaline.  Keep in mind that many painkillers, especially the over-the-counter types, can raise your blood pressure by triggering your nervous system.  While there is a recognized link between pain and blood pressure, it is not fully understood and more research is necessary.

What some researchers have learned, for example, is that healthy people with somewhat high resting blood pressure have a decreased sensitivity to acute pain while people with high blood pressure and who suffer chronic pain, have a heightened sensitivity to pain.  Most of the research points to pain causing an increase in blood pressure, but not vice versa.  On the contrary, blood pressure has no symptoms and that is why it is known as the “silent killer”.

More specifically, high blood pressure can silently cause serious damage to your body before any symptoms are experienced.  By the time you experience symptoms that may include pain, then you may be faced with life-threatening complications caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.  This is why it is important to visit your doctor annually and check your blood pressure.

According to the National Institute of Health, a study was conducted in 2005 by Dr. Stephen Bruehl, a researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, to see if chronic pain was associated with higher levels of hypertension.  The study examined the medical records of 300 chronic pain patients and compared them to the records of 300 medical patients who were not in chronic pain. The results showed that 39% of the pain group had been clinically diagnosed with hypertension, versus only 21% for the non-pain group. The pain group rate of hypertension was also significantly higher than the national norm (matched for age and race) of 23% in men and 14% in women. The non-pain group, in contrast, was not different from the national norm for either men or women.

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