CRPS: Fight or Flight

CRPS: Fight or Flight

By Gracie Bagosy-Young.

Walter Cannon first described the “Fight or Flight” response in the 1920’s. He noticed that when we think there is a threat, our body quickly responds to survive. Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

Through the release of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the caveman gained a rush of energy, which prepared him to either fight the tiger or run away. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention, so we can quickly respond to the situation.

Gracie Bagosy-Young

In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.  The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido. (Stress Management Society)

Welcome to CRPS. They tell me that our “Fight or Flight” systems are broken. This explains the excessive sweating, the unpredictable heart rate, the inability to control our own body temperatures, the keen sense of smell/taste/hearing. Gosh how we HATE that enhanced hearing!

Allow me to play on words for a moment. This “fight or flight” term gets me thinking. Broken? I may be bent, but I am not broken! I FIGHT every single day. I fight as I get dressed, carefully choosing clothing that will not hurt me. I fight as I select anti-inflammatory foods. I fight to make my body cooperate with me as I try to exercise, which is never easy. I fight my insurance company and my own government. I fight for treatments, for equal rights, for parking spaces, for adaptive equipment. I fight for awareness, for understanding, for empathy. I am always fighting!

On the flip side of this…I PROMISE you that I am a flight risk as well. I have and will flee from every practitioner that tells me that they cannot help me. I will fire every doctor that says they are out of options. I will run from anyone that seems shady and appears to be interested in profits instead of my well-being. I will take flight away from anything and anyone that is not on my path to recovery. Yes, my sense of FLIGHT is in full force because I intend to thrive and survive!

Fight or flight? Thought provoking. I say both.

Gracie Bagosy-Young
FB @GGPainAdvocacy
Twitter @GracieBagosy

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

There are 11 comments for this article
  1. Janeen Utley at 2:31 pm

    Well said Gracie , I am so thankful to have you as an inspiration and to keep on keeping on , you have taught me so much in how to use my RSD CRPS toolbox to be able to get through my days as best as I can ! And most of all you have taught me to always have hope and to be positive I admire so much about you and thank you for paving the way to help so many who have this disease , and together hopefully we can find a cure ❤🎗🎈

  2. Susan Burk at 1:36 pm

    Great article! I am sooooo with you running from these clueless practitioners!

  3. Rachel at 1:33 pm

    I just add that reputable research has shown that cortisol flooding as with fight flight of frequent nor prolonged destroys grey matter in the brain and damages organs. This is why untreated or undertreated Pain is in fact a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. So we need to campaign for opioids as well as Meds for our 4 other types of pain receptors (one us for cannabinoids) on that basis. I had very severe pain all one day last week and Pain kicks off cortisol flooding so although the pain ameliorated the following day it was three more days before the cortisol flood abated so I could sleep and my heart stopped pounding 24/7. I wonder how much grey matter I lost? Sleep medication as advocated by one of your posters, not this one an actual medic, is toxic: it does not give a normal restful sleep pattern. Only melatonin will do that. Ref. Matthew Walker ‘Why We Sleep’ Allen Lane 2017. He describes how proper and enough sleep is far more important to health than previously thought and makes many suggestions to improve sleep quality and quantity. He is a Prof of Neuroscience and Psychology at UCBerkeley. He has >100 published articles.

  4. Rachel at 1:03 pm

    I have chronic central pain states, a whole body version of CRPS. Fight flight has destroyed my life. For years I have suffered this following severe abuse by ignorant primary care physicians who bullied me whilst I was trapped post foot reconstruction surgery in their hospital, to take my pain Meds away. Since then my fight flight response is triggered at any confrontation or challenging situation but my behaviour is interpreted as aggression. In fact I am terrified they are feeling my fear through what psychodynamic Psychotherapists call the Transference (feelings are infectious). I have had so much abuse and constant bullying from the medical profession including sexual assault and bodily harm with life long wounding (lost partial use of my dominant arm to Chronic Pain following the assault injury) by nurses! This phenomenon is purely neurological so I cannot control it with psychology or conscious intent. It is like a Tourette’s sufferer who cannot stop swearing.The stress has raised my pain to levels where it will never be medically controlled and I have gained symptoms like the sweating and difficulty controlling my body temperature you describe. If the medical so called ‘profession’ were trained in pain management which they are not in the UK I would not suffer the abuse and 45 Disability Hate Crimes in 5 years that I have, all from medical people. My problem is I cannot run away from bullies I am an articulate former Journalist and Psychotherapist so I argue and answer back instead. These people hate anyone with more knowledge than them. Currently I am being bullied into having a GP
    (Primary Care Physician) an £80 cab ride away with no emergency or out of hours care. None of these medics care that they are breaking the law as well as their Hippocratic Oaths. Good post, thankyou.

  5. Terry at 10:43 am

    Why is it so hard to explain how debilitating CRPS is? It seems like when ever I try to explain CRPS to someone and how it affects my life, I get the big eye roll, especially when I mention that I’m on disability. I wish that I had a magic button that I could push when I’m feeling at my worse and transfer my pain to anyone who rolled their eyes at me, and let them experience what it’s truly like to feel so horrible
    every day, even if just for one day. I’m pretty sure the eye rolls would quickly disappear. I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I think I may have realized part of the problem, we don’t have any visible injuries and if you all are like me, you don’t walk around moaning and groaning all the time, on the surface we just look like Joe average going about our business like everybody else. You don’t really want to take the time explaining things like how horrible you feel in the morning, how tired you are because pain keeps you awake at night, getting dressed, showering, wiping my rear end when I’m finished, and I’m 100% serious about that, what’s go to happen when I can no longer do that? You try and blend in, do your share, have fun when you’re with lived ones, not show how worried you are that you can get comfortable when you go out to eat, play with your grandchild. Everyone reading this knows what I’m talking about and of course there are a million other considerations. The hardest thing is to be jovial and festive with friends and family. And now btw your pain management doctor wants to decrease your pain meds, which aren’t enough to manage your pain to begin with. Folks we have to declare war on those people trying to take away our quality of life and turn us into useless burdens with our happiness sucked out of us. We need to have a voice, write your congressman or senators, explain your situation and do your homework, give them statistics, causes, how it affects your life. It’s time to make some noise and be heard! There are so many blogs and threads out there, we have a voice and we need to be our own advocate because nobody else is going to do it for us. I have been noticing a slight change in people on the Web in which the overall mood seems to be changing in our favor but just ever so slightly, so FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT for your right to get reasonable, quality care from your pain management doctor, we have to get them to advocate for us more than anyone out there, they are the key, and wherever possible use the doctor’s name, it may help bring attention to this crazy, paranoia that is ruining our lives. Stop being afraid that your doctor is going to cut you off entirely of your pain meds, you have RIGHTS!!! God bless us all.

  6. Penny R. Rosen at 9:27 am

    I have been suffering with CRPS for 24 yrs, when it was called
    RSD. 19 useless surgeries, including experimental, and
    severe osteoporosis in my entire body due to steroidal
    epidural (over45) injections, 2 neurostimulators that did
    nothing, a myriad of opiates (including OpanaER that led
    to me contracting UTI dementia) and drugs from Ultram
    through Gralise. I am no longer in opiods, by choice, and left
    my pain docs after 24 yrs. What’s the point? Any suggestions?

  7. Alison at 9:08 am

    While I don’t have CRPS, I do appreciate your explanation of the flight/flight response. Having lost my husband unexpectedly a few days ago, I keep experiencing this rush of adrenaline & hormones as the realization keeps coming into focus. I was leaning towards thinking I was experiencing panic attacks. I had no idea that this experience could become a way of life and I am so sorry you have to continually face this.

  8. Denise Bault at 7:40 am

    I have had diagnosed fibromyalgia for 13 years. (I say that because I probably had it much longer.) My body constantly feels like it is in the “fight or flight mode”. I thought that was part of the fibro. Is it? Does anyone know?

  9. Debbie at 7:24 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ms. Bagosy-Young’s post. So true and so wonderfully expressed. I have a wonderful, compassionate Geriatric Internest for the last 15 years and he is a Godsend.

    God Bless Gracie, you are a brave, beautiful young woman.

  10. Karen C. at 3:29 am

    Ooooooh how I hate my bloodhound sense of smell! Gotta just love RSD/CRPS…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *