How Does Physical Pain Affect Mental Health?

How does pain affect your mental health?  

Many studies have shown that there’s a positive correlation between physical pain and mental health issues. A little bit of discomfort from cutting your finger is unlikely to cause any significant psychological symptoms. In contrast, chronic pain will almost certainly result in mental health problems and affect other aspects of your life.  

Physical pain can positively affect mental health, and people with mental health issues may also show signs of physical pain. For example, depression can be challenging to diagnose since patients may not experience physical symptoms.  

Emotional pain can cause physical pain symptoms because it uses the same brain regions as physical pain. Mental health is how well your mind processes and understands information and experiences. Whereas emotional health is about a person’s ability to express and manage emotions that come from experience and things they’ve learned. People who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression often notice they experience emotional pain such as sadness and feelings of impending doom. There is help out there for anyone who is suffering from symptoms that are worrying them.  

What qualifies as chronic pain?  

Chronic pain is pain that is constant, ongoing, and generally lasts at least six months. Many factors can cause chronic pain, and it can persist even after the original ailment has been cured, healed, or after successful treatment. Often a change of lifestyle and treatment can relieve symptoms of chronic pain or eliminate it entirely. For example, correcting poor posture, lifting correctly, minimising the risk of further injury by resting, and so on. Sometimes the source of chronic pain can be unknown, and tests and investigative procedures can fail to uncover the root of the issue. 

According to Sheng et al. (2017), “Chronic pain, as a stress state, is one of the critical factors for determining depression, and their coexistence tends to further aggravate the severity of both disorders.”  

Can physical pain cause mental illness?  

If a person experiences ongoing pain, they could start to suffer from mental health issues such as:  

  • Depression  
  • Anxiety  
  • Low mood
  • Fatigue  
  • Guilt  

Seeking treatment of conditions when symptoms first appear, can go a long way to prevent the compound effect of multiple conditions forming and exacerbating each other.  

How does chronic pain cause mental illness?  

Living with chronic pain can be exhausting and impact all areas of your life. Ongoing pain symptoms can cause a strain on mental health. You must seek help and advice on ways to reduce pain. Unfortunately, mental health issues and physical pain can go hand in hand, meaning that one will often cause the other and make the other worse. Many people who suffer from long-term pain will have issues with getting to sleep and staying asleep (Insomnia), and stress levels are raised, making the pain feel stronger. Having very little or no sleep often makes the pain feel much worse, and the effects more noticeable.  

Why does mental pain cause physical pain?  

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues often result in the sufferer experiencing physical pain. It’s essential to manage and find coping strategies to deal with psychological pain and emotional pain, as these types of pain can cause physical pain symptoms. Have you ever experienced stress and anxiety, noticing that your muscles and nerves are constricting? Cortisol, the stress hormone, can be many adverse physical effects on your body. Quickly reducing tension and stress can lower cortisol levels and is beneficial for the body. There are many coping strategies available. In a study carried out by Rymaszewska et al. (2008), a study group showed improvement (compared to the control group) to depressive and anxiety disorders following three weeks of cryotherapy treatment.  

Cryotherapy can help relieve physical pain and improve your mood by increasing circulation and improving energy levels and boosting your metabolic rate. Collagen production increases, which makes your skin tighter and healthier. Making you look younger. As they say – healthy body, healthy mind!  

Which coping strategies can help mental health issues?  

  • Treatment of underlying physical pain causes  
  • Education – reduces fear of the unknown  
  • Meditation  
  • Diet and exercise  
  • Counselling  
  • Practice mindfulness  
  • Avoid self-mediation  

Can cryotherapy help to relieve physical pain?  

Cryotherapy treatment can relieve, stop, and prevent physical pain and swelling by treating the underlying cause of the issue or by helping to reduce or eliminate pain. Cryotherapy means “cold therapy”. Have you ever placed a bag of frozen peas on an injury such as a swollen ankle? Then you’ve applied a very basic form of cryotherapy! Treatment by cryotherapy is the “I” part of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). The benefits of using cryotherapy treatment to reduce pain include reduction of nerve activity, pain and swelling reduction, and lower skin temperature. But why does decreasing skin temperature work? It depends if it’s applied in a highly targeted way or to trigger your whole body to react in a certain way. For example, skin conditions can be very painful, itchy, and embarrassing, so localised (or partial body) cryotherapy treatment can be used. Application of liquid nitrogen (or argon gas) to affected areas of the skin, results in scabs forming, containing dead skin cells. This type of treatment can treat warts and other benign skin problems.  

Whole-body Cryotherapy (WBCT) can be used to treat conditions such as muscle pain, and some join and muscle conditions. This type of treatment causes the release of endorphins in the body and induces the body’s natural pain relief system. Cryotherapy also has a positive effect on sleep, the immune system, and serotonin production (serotonin improves mood, sleep, and emotional wellbeing). Whole-body cryotherapy involves sitting or standing in a Cryochamber for two to five minutes, while extremely cold air is applied, which is popular with athletes and celebrities. According to Swenson et al. (1996), “The use of cryotherapy, i.e. the application of cold for the treatment of injury or disease, is widespread in sports medicine today.” Cryotherapy can be beneficial for athletes, helping them and anyone who enjoys spending time in the gym, to recover more quickly between training sessions and events. Google “cryotherapy celebrities,” and you’ll see a list of celebrities who advocate its use, including Will Smith, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman, and Jessica Alba.  

Cryotherapy can also be effective following an operation. According to Swenson et al. (1996), “Cryotherapy has also been shown to reduce pain effectively in the post‐operative period after reconstructive surgery of the joints.”  

Cryotherapy Barnsley

“Cryotherapy can also be effective following an operation”

What kind of pain relief or general treatment can cryotherapy help with?  

  • Lower back pain  
  • Pain and swelling after a knee or hip replacement, or under a splint or cast  
  • Tendonitis  
  • Runner’s knee  
  • Tennis elbow  
  • Chronically painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis  
  • Muscle soreness – athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone who takes regular intensive exercise who’d like to help them recover more quickly between training sessions and improve their performance. Cryotherapy helps to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  
  • Low mood, anxiety, depression  
  • Weight loss  
  • Many types of injury or discomfort  
  • Various types of cancer  

Can cancer be treated with Cryosurgery?  

Cryosurgery involves using extremely cold temperatures to apply the surgical treatment. In contrast, cryotherapy helps relieve swelling, muscle pain, and sprains, following soft tissue damage (or surgery). Cryosurgery can treat various forms of cancer. 


Sheng, J., Liu, S., Wang, Y., Cui, R. and Zhang, X. (2017). The Link between Depression and Chronic Pain: Neural Mechanisms in the Brain. Neural plasticity, [online] 2017, p.9724371. Available at:  

‌Swenson, C., Swärd, L., and Karlsson, J. (2007). Cryotherapy in sports medicine. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 6(4), pp.193–200.  

‌Rymaszewska, J., Ramsey, D., and Chładzińska-Kiejna, S. (2008). Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, [online] 56(1), pp.63–68. Available at: