Background Stress is a risk factor for musculoskeletal pain. We wanted to explore stress related physiology in healthy subjects in order to gain insight into mechanisms of pain development which may relate to the pathophysiology of musculoskeletal pain disorders. Methods Continuous blood pressure, heart rate, finger skin blood flow, respiration, surface electromyography together with perception of pain, fatigue and tension were recorded on 35 healthy women and 9 healthy men before, during a 60 minute period with task-related low-grade mental stress, and in the following 30 minute rest period. Results Subjects responded physiologically to the stressful task with an increase in trapezius and frontalis muscle activity, increased blood pressure, respiration frequency and heart rate together with reduced finger skin blood flow. The blood pressure response and the finger skin blood flow response did not recover to baseline values during the 30-minute rest period, whereas respiration frequency, heart rate, and surface electromyography of the trapezius and frontalis muscles recovered to baseline within 10 minutes after the stressful task. Sixty-eight percent responded subjectively with pain development and 64% reported at least 30% increase in pain. Reduced recovery of the blood pressure was weakly correlated to fatigue development during stress, but was not correlated to pain or tension. Conclusion Based on a lack of recovery of the blood pressure and the acral finger skin blood flow response to mental stress we conclude that these responses are more protracted than other physiological stress responses.