2006-06-09 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT


Some old wives tales and myths may actually have some truth in them. We are often admonished not to be so stressed out. Worrying too much can make us sick. There has always some anecdotal evidence between the role of stress and wound healing.

There are some recent studies that have actually found this to be true. The most recent study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2003, found those with self reported high stress levels had increased levels of interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 as well as cytokine response in the current wound episode. These hormones are directly related to increased stress.

In 1995 a study was published in the British journal Lancet that found that women caring for relatives with Alzheimer disease experienced a 26% slower healing time when compared to a control group.

Finally, a study published in 1998 in Psychosomatic Medicine, had dental students who volunteered for this study. Those dental students underwent palate punctures during the summer vacation. They measured the amount of time it took for the wounds to heal. They again underwent the palate puncture during exam times.

They found that it took the wounds 40% longer to heal than the first ones done during the summer months.

What exactly causes the body to slow the healing process during stressful times?

As with many things in life as well as medicine, the causes are not completely clear.

The fact that science has identified this slower healing time, for now, is enough to start making changes.

Whether healing from an injury or surgery, it is important to give our bodies every possible chance to get the job done right and on time!

There are many ways to help lower one's stress levels. They range from do it yourself home therapies to more formalized sessions with a psychologist.

One may try relaxation tapes, yoga, exercising at home. In any case, when you are injured or experiencing pain, the amount of stress that you experience on a day to day basis may be slowing down the healing process.

That acute injury, if not dealt with properly, may turn into a chronic pain syndrome.

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