Does Pain Early in Life Make One “Stress Hardened”?

November 15th, 2013 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Early life pain alters neural circuits in the brain that regulate stress, suggesting pain experienced by infants who often do not receive analgesics while undergoing tests and treatment in neonatal intensive care may permanently alter future responses to anxiety, stress and pain in adulthood, a research team according to the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University.

Premature infants can spend an average of 25 days in neonatal intensive care, where they endure up to 18 painful and inflammatory procedures each day, including insertion of feeding tubes and intravenous lines and repeated blood testing. Pain and stress circuitry in the brain are established and functional in preterm infants. Approximately 65 percent of these procedures are performed without benefit of analgesia. Some clinical studies suggest early life pain has an immediate and long-term impact on responses to stress events.

The Georgia State study tested whether a single painful inflammatory procedure performed on rat pups on the day of birth alters specific brain receptors that affect behavioral sensitivity to stress, anxiety and pain in adulthood.  The study findings match what is being reported clinically. Children who experienced unresolved pain following birth show reduced responsiveness to pain and stress.

Psychoneuroendocrinology, ScienceDaily

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec comments on “Does Pain Early in Life Make One Stress Hardened?”

Is pain always bad? Does it always cause harmful effects? In this study they found with premature infants that had a lot of pain early in life actually caused their brains to adapt in ways that made them more stress resistant or stress hardened later in life.

Our mind would say pain is always harmful but ask any seasoned athlete or weightlifter and you will hear the unanimous response when asked about pain- “no pain, no gain”. It is like this in the world. We spend so much time avoiding problems and pains, hoping that they never come our way when the simple fact is this: everything in life has a purpose and that includes pain. Without more weight on the bar, more pain applied the weightlifter would never grow stronger muscles. Without running more sprints, more distance, more hills, more when they feel exhausted- the football players would not gain endurance and stamina. One powerful way to do this in your life today is change how you see the negative things in your life. See them as opportunities to grow physically, mentally and spiritually. We cover this shift in thinking in the Sally & George Going Deeper audio series.

Remember what the world system means for bad, God can always turn around for your growth and maturity if you only will TRUST HIM.

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