Blood Pressure Trends in those with Pain

Health Professional

Your blood pressure is more than just a couple of numbers. It is the barometer of your life. The amount of force exerted by your blood against the arterial walls is influenced by a number of different factors like the strength of your heart, and the hardness of your arteries. But did you know that pain can also determine weather your numbers are high or low?1

Intuitively, you probably know that in times of stress your blood pressure goes up. That natural response helps to keep you alive in the event of a traumatic accident or being chased by a lion. If you are in some degree of pain, your blood pressure will also be elevated by this stressful experience too. In turn, when pain is under control or relieved completely, the blood pressure falls accordingly. Blood pressure is a barometer of pain.

Recently, a client of mine told me about his trip to his primary care physician. This physician was concerned about the fact that I had started his patient on a NSAID medication because he was afraid the blood pressure might suddenly increase. When this doctor took the blood pressure, he was surprised to find it lower than it was in the previous visit. Low and behold, blood pressure goes down when pain is under control

Yes, there is wide spread concern about NSAID's (ibuprofen, naproxen) and selective Coxib's (Celebrex) medication causing cardiovascular events like heart attacks and elevated blood pressure. These risks are highly variable and highest in one who has had a previous history of a cardiovascular event.2, 3 But that is no reason to avoid these useful medications completely. Strategic, temporary use of pain relieving anti-inflammatory medications can not only enhance someone's life but also lower the blood pressure too.

Other methods of pain control can also lower your blood pressure. Anything that provokes the relaxation response can rapidly reduce your blood pressure. The relaxation response is a powerful physical response to relaxation. As you relax, the pulse goes down, the blood pressure falls, and the pain intensity reduces. Anything you do repetitively to interrupt your normal train of thought can provoke the relaxation response such as meditation, running, knitting, or strumming a guitar. As your blood pressure falls so too should your pain levels. Blood pressure trends with your pain experience.

Nowadays doctors are very aggressively controlling blood pressure with some people taking multiple medications just to control two numbers. As doctors back off in their desire to control pain, I wonder how many people will experience a sudden rise in their blood pressure. Probably quite a few.   Now, that's something to ponder as these trends continue.

  1. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2013 Aug;15(8):600-5
  2. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2013 Aug 16
  3. J Eval Clin Pract. 2012 Nov 19.