Findings from a new study published in the journal PAIN finds that acute psychological stress dramatically impairs the body’s ability to modulate pain. The study, conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv and McGill Universities, evaluated the response of pain modulation mechanisms in healthy young male adults to the induction of stress. The researchers found that although pain thresholds and pain tolerance seemed unaffected by stress, there was a significant increase in pain intensification and a decrease in pain inhibition capabilities.
Study subjects underwent a series of pain tests before and immediately after exposure to the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST), a computer program of timed arithmetic exercises, designed to induce acute psychosocial stress. The findings were a surprising rebuttal to the anecdotal belief that increased stress from injury or danger induces increased pain modulation ability. Instead, the study noted that the higher the perceived stress, the more dysfunctional the pain modulation capabilities became.
Read a news story about the study findings here.