We often see patients who are worried about their hand or arm injuries. Worrying or experiencing anxiety over injuries is an uneasy feeling, and occasional anxiety is a normal reaction, but ongoing anxiety is not.
There are several types of anxiety; Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorder are all types of medical problems. Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. Stress response causes our bodies to activate the nervous system which releases the stress hormone, cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides. These chemical reactions in your body can cause a variety of symptoms from dizziness, fatigue, headaches to inability to concentrate, or nausea. These hormones can cause suppression of your immune system, aggravate digestive disorders, cause short term memory loss or even on rare occasions, cause a heart attack.
Pain is the most common cause of anxiety over injuries we see in hand therapy. Patients will fear always having pain or that something is seriously wrong. Pain is the body’s beacon to alert us to pay attention to one specific area. It can signal that there is an injury but it can also be a false signal, sometimes. Patients with fibromyalgia get heightened pain responses and often times modify their activities and try to not use an extremity due to the pain. However, often times the pain signal is just being interpreted by the brain too strongly.
How do you know when pain is signaling an injury? Look at function not pain. Hands and arms are very mechanical and if you can’t move the thumb or wrist, then that signals there maybe a more serious injury and you should see a doctor. If you can move the body part through full range of motion but it just hurts, then that is the signal that the body wants you to pay attention to that part of the body. If this is the case, then RICE is what is in order. It is ok to give the painful part time to heal, but if 2-4 weeks later it still hurts then make an appointment to go in and see your medical provider.
What should you do if anxiety or worrying is an issue for you:
- Talk to your primary care provider and get a thorough physical to make sure there are not other medical issues causing anxiety
- Have a resilience plan and do it. Here are a few ways to keep yourself emotionally healthy:
- Exercise Daily
- Eat a healthy and well balanced diet
- Moderate caffeine consumption
- Be aware of your worries
- Have a strong social network
- Talk to a professional therapist