Stress and Back Pain: What’s the Connection?

Is your spine happy or is mental and emotional stress adversely affecting your health. Explore the psychology behind stress and back pain.

Your life’s been a whole mess of activities lately.

Not only do you have family obligations, but maybe you also have a test coming up and/or your boss is really on top of you at work. Perhaps you even have some conflicts in your romantic relationship as well.

No matter what’s going on in your life, you can swear that your back pain has flared up at the same time your anxiety has. Well, guess what? It’s definitely not a coincidence.

Keep reading to find out the links between stress and back pain.

About Anxiety

Many people mistakenly think the mind and body are two separate things, that if your mind is affected, your body isn’t, and vice versa. But this simply isn’t true at all.

For years, we never realized the link between depression and physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, and aches and pains all over the body. Now we know depression can cause pain that manifests throughout the body.

It’s the same with anxiety. If you think about it, it makes sense.

When you’re nervous about something, your heart may race and you might break out in cold sweat. If it’s bad enough, your stomach might hurt too. It’s evident your body has serious physiological responses to stress.

The Fight or Flight Response

To figure out what triggers our physiological responses to anxiety, we should understand the fight or flight response first.

Essentially, your body is flooded with a bunch of hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. This is what causes your heart to race and your blood pressure to go up.

It also causes your muscles to tense up. This lets your body prepare for whichever action you choose: fight or flight.

This reaction to outside stimuli was extremely beneficial back when we were cavemen since it enabled us to make split-second decisions. It would literally mean the difference between life or death.

But now that we’ve created civilization and are pretty much safe all the time, the fight or flight response has gone from a necessity to an annoyance. Something as simple as presenting at a meeting can trigger this response.

No matter how well you deal with anxiety, its effects are bound to interfere with your quality of life at some point.

What Causes Back Pain From Stress?

As we’ve mentioned above, when you’re in fight or flight mode, your body will tense up; even the change in your breathing pattern will cause your muscles to react differently and create back pain.

Sometimes, you won’t even notice how tightly you’re holding yourself, and you may do it for minutes or even hours at a time. If you’re sitting at your desk while you’re stressed out and working, you may start hunching up your shoulders. Not only can this lead to not only pain in your shoulders and upper back, but also your lower back if you sustain this position.

Another factor may be how you’re sleeping at night. Even if you deal with your stress appropriately during the day, most likely, it’ll manifest while you’re relaxed and sleeping.

For some people, they might clench their teeth and grind their jaw. You may think the pain would be centered in your head, but your jaw muscles are linked with your shoulder muscles, which are attached to your cervical spine. The pain in the cervical spine can then affect the rest of your back.

How to Alleviate Your Back Pain With Psychological Treatment

One of the first things you should try in regards to treating your back pain is addressing the psychological side of things. Even if you feel like you’re managing with life just fine, therapy is never a bad idea.

In counseling, you can discuss what’s stressing you out and the therapist can help you figure out effective ways to deal with it. For instance, you can learn breathing techniques that will help with the physiological symptoms of stress. They can also teach you how to change the way you perceive pain.

Also, just the act of talking to someone about your anxieties can lift the load off your shoulder. Keeping things bottled up isn’t healthy and can make your back pain even worse.

How to Alleviate Your Back Pain With Medical Treatment

If getting rid of the stresses in your life isn’t helping your back pain, or it’s not making enough of a difference, then it may be time for some medical intervention.

Before you try that, think about adding some exercise into your routine. Not only can it help you blow off some steam, but it can also help strengthen your back. Even walking around the block a few times can be beneficial.

This is all assuming your backaches are somewhat manageable. But if you’re in too much pain, try the next step.

An expert chiropractor can help you with some spinal decompression therapy, as well as perform some physio treatments. Not only can they help you get rid of the pain, but they can also teach you how to strengthen your back so you won’t risk reinjuring it from stress or anything else. You’ll also gain a better range of motion so you’re more flexible.

If you’re interested in what a chiropractor can do for your back pain, then click for more information.

Stress and Back Pain Are Heavily Intertwined

As you can see, stress and back pain are closely linked together. You can’t get rid of back pain without getting to the root cause of your stress. Otherwise, anything you try will only result in temporary relief, and your back pain will just come back again.

So remember: your mental health is just as important as your physical health, if not more. Once you figure out how to manage your anxiety, then you’ll see your back pain improve.

To learn more about taking care of yourself, please take a look at our other blog articles.

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