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A Little Stress Goes A Long Ways.


Delay in healing was found to be also true of people with less stressful circumstances.  Stress can still impede healing.  Twenty-four healthy young men were evaluated  for 21 days following a 4 mm punch biopsy was performed on their forearm.


In that study, the wound healing was evaluated using ultrasound biomicroscopy. The participants’ stress levels were measured with a self-report questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale. Higher perceived stress on the day of the biopsy foreshadowed slower wound healing. A basis of the correlation was found between perceived stress and healing progress between the days 7 and 21 post biopsy.


Pain, which is a body and mind stressor, effects also wound healing. In a study there was 2 mm wound created on the upper arm’s back of obese women.  This was done prior to having elective gastric bypass surgery. The subjects that experienced greater pain immediately following surgery and had continuing pain for 4 weeks after surgery were found to have slower healing in the experimental wound.  Pain causes, as this experiment results indicate, mental distress, and, when added to other stressors, can put a person at greater risk of slowed wound healing.


Scientific animal studies support this understanding of stress in wound healing in humans. Mice put under restraint, which causes stress, healed after receiving 3.5 mm punch biopsy wound on average healed 27% more slowly than the mice who were not restrained. Restraint stress was also associated with delayed wound healing in a tree lizard experiment.


Social stress factors also impaired wound healing. Mice healed from a punch wound more slowly when separated from their fellow mice, compared to when they were continuously involved with other mice.


Mucous membrane wounds’ healing is also affected by psychological stress.  This was shown in a study using academic examination stress. Eleven dental students had a biopsy taken from their hard palate while they were on their summer vacation, and later another biopsy was taken 3 days before a major examination.  The wounds received before the school testing healed on average 40% slower than the self same wounds happening during summer vacation.  While there was some individual differences in rate of healing, the rate of healing was absolutely the same in that no student healed as rapidly during examinations as they did during their unstressed vacation.


Negative emotions cause stress.  Therefore, it was not surprising to find that the impact of negative emotions on wound healing was the same in a larger study.  Using 193 healthy undergraduate students who got a 3.5 mm biopsy on the hard palate, individuals who reported higher levels of depression like symptoms proved to be almost 3.6 times classified as slow healers, compared to less emotionally depressed students.

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