Why do we take Blood Pressure
As many of my patients know, I like to take blood pressure measurements, especially if it is your first appointment with me. So why is blood pressure important and why am I always banging on about it?
The answer is often hypertension (or high blood pressure as it is typically known).
High blood pressure is really common. It affects more than one third of Australian over the age of 18.
In fact, it is so common that for every 10 people diagnosed with hypertension a further 7 remain undiagnosed and untreated. This is because there aren’t many obvious symptoms indicating high blood pressure, so it can slip under the radar.
High blood pressure is broken down into key stages:
Stage I hypertension= 140/90 mmHg to 159/99 mmHg
Stage II hypertension= 160/100 mmHg to 180/120 mmHg
Stage III hypertension= >180/ 120 mmHg
The good news is that high blood pressure is treatable!
There are several medicines available such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium- channel blockers (NICE, 2021). Lifestyle changes are also important for management, the usual culprits of a balanced diet, reduced/ stopping smoking, low alcohol and an active lifestyle all apply here.
So how does high blood pressure relate to pain levels?
Like most things in the medical world the concepts are not yet fully understood. However, there is evidence that acute pain (that immediate pain you feel when you stub your toe or roll your ankle) leads to an increase in blood pressure. This is part of a natural survival response in which your sympathetic nervous system is triggered.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your body’s immediate involuntary reaction to a perceived threat. Therefore the sympathetic nervous system raises blood pressure, because you need a raised blood pressure in order to rapidly supply blood and nutrients to your muscles allowing them to help you escape the ‘immediate threat’.
In today’s society this is far more likely to be stepping on a pesky piece of lego rather than being chased by a saber tooth tiger, yet your body will react the same way. Therefore, when you’re in acute intense pain your blood pressure tends to spike.
But what about long term pain?
If you have been living with pain for more than 6 months, this is known as chronic pain. The evidence related to high blood pressure and chronic pain is less well understood. What is understood is that chronic pain is complex and involves multiple systems throughout the body, such as your nervous system and endocrine (hormonal) system. It is believed that long term pain may alter these systems which could in turn have an accumulative effect on raising blood pressure levels.
There is even some evidence to suggest connections between chronic pain, anxiety and depression and hypertension (Hamam et al., 2020).
However, further research into this area is required before any clear conclusions can be drawn.
So next time I ask to take your blood pressure, you’ll now have more of an idea as to why I am doing it and remember you can always ask any of our practitioners if you would like it checked.
Contact Wigney Osteopathy Clinic to book your appointment today
Mobile: 0419 910 237
Written by Dr Sharon Banks
Hamam, M.S., Kunjummen, E., Hussain, Md.S., Nasereldin, M., Bennett, S. and Miller, J. (2020). Anxiety, Depression, and Pain: Considerations in the Treatment of Patients with Uncontrolled Hypertension. Current Hypertension Reports, 22(12).
National Institute for Health and Care (2021). CKS is only available in the UK. [online] NICE. Available at: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/hypertension/management/management/.
NHS (2019). Overview – High Blood Pressure (hypertension). [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/.
Ps, C. and Ms, K. (1999). Effect of Pain and Nonsteroidal Analgesics on Blood Pressure. [online] WMJ : official publication of the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10605351/.
Public Health England (2017). Health matters: combating high blood pressure. [online] GOV.UK. Available at:
Saccò, M., Meschi, M., Regolisti, G., Detrenis, S., Bianchi, L., Bertorelli, M., Pioli, S., Magnano, A., Spagnoli, F., Giuri, P.G., Fiaccadori, E. and Caiazza, A. (2013). The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Pain. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 15(8), pp.600–605.