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The Link Between Stress and Back Pain

December 3, 2019

 

With 70-90% of annual doctor visits attributed to stress related illnesses, let's take a look at the psychology behind stress and back pain.

 

 

 

Stressing out a lot lately? Chronic stress is more than just a pain in the neck. Over time, repetitive, stressful periods can cause back pain as well. 

 

In fact, 29% of Americans cite stress as the main cause of their back pain.

 

So what's the link between stress and back pain, and more importantly, how can you stop it?

 

Keep reading to discover the connection and a few changes you can make to your life. If you don't make a change, however, stress can spread, causing additional musculoskeletal issues throughout your body. 

Here's how to avoid it!

 

The Link

Many people don't realize just how much stress affects the body. In addition to back pain, stress can also cause:

  • Mood swings

  • Headaches

  • Weight gain/loss

  • Grinding teeth

  • Stuttering

  • Muscle spasms

  • Dizziness

  • Sweating

  • Dry mouth

  • Rashes

  • Heartburn

  • Stomaches

  • Nausea

  • Appetite fluctuations

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Social isolation

  • Insomnia

Why does stress have such a major impact on the body?

 

When we start to stress, our bodies release certain hormones through the blood. For example, cortisol is one of the hormones most often associated with stress. Higher levels of cortisol can cause fat accumulation as well as muscle mass loss. 

 

Many people also experience an adrenaline rush. Our blood pressure rises, increasing our blood supply, which then causes muscles around the spine to spasm.

 

Psychological distress can make our physical pain even worse. 

 

Stress impacts our brain chemistry, including dopamine regulation. As a result, stress influences brain functions such as emotional control, the ability to concentrate, and anxiety. 

 

When this occurs, the pain-associated brain circuits are impacted as well. This causes psychological distress, such as stress and anxiety, to impact physical stress, such as back pain. 

 

Neck Pain

When we start to tense up in response to fear and anxiety, our neck often tenses as well. Since the neck is so close to our brain, this tension can cause muscle pain and headaches. 

 

This tension can cause chronic neck pain, which leads to depression, fatigue, and irritability. 

 

Back Pain

Many people allow stress and back pain to impact their posture. With time, mid- and low-back pain can also hurt your hips, knees, and feet as well.

 

Stress can alter our breathing patterns, causing strain and tension. This impacts the muscles that affect breathing, such as the shoulder and chest muscles. As this pain persists, your shoulders will start to hunch, increasing pain throughout the middle and upper back. 

 

Low-back pain, on the other hand, includes the tailbone and lower half of the back. Muscles in these areas impact posture and flexibility.

 

Many people decide to stop moving when they feel stressed out, instead of exercising. Unfortunately, sitting hunched over a desk cause add pain and strain to the low-back muscles.

 

Stress and back pain can escalate to new problems over time. For example, a lack of exercise can cause obesity. Meanwhile, persistent pain can cause irritability. 

 

Instead of letting your stress and lower back pain develop, a few lifestyle changes can help ease the pain away.

 

What You Can Do

After studying the link between stress and back pain, researchers determined a patient's environment, physical, and psychological stressors can all contribute to chronic pain. In fact, chronic pain afflicts 20 to 30% of adults, often based on these factors. 

 

Instead of letting your environment or mind control your pain, take control of the pain instead!

 

Here are five ways you can ease both your stress and back pain for a healthier, happier life. 

 

1. Manage Your Stress

What helps you calm down? For some people, meditation and yoga help. For others, focusing on an activity such as coloring can relieve their stress.

 

If managing your stress doesn't help, evaluate the source. For example, changing jobs or ending a relationship might help reduce your stress levels.

 

2. Adjust Your Goals

Training for a marathon or work-specific goals can add to your stress load. Take a moment to consider your long-term goals. Which ones are contributing to your stress and back pain? 

 

The tension and pain you're experiencing are trying to signal both your mind and body that you're taking on too much. 

 

3. Alter Your Environment

Where we live, work, play, and how we travel can also add physical stressors to the spine. 

 

Consider a chiropractor or ergonomic adjustment to relieve stress on your back. For example, you can use lumbar support anywhere you regularly sit. You can also use shock-absorbing floor mats and get a standing desk.

 

4. Improve Your Health

There are multiple ways you can improve your health to relieve both stress and back pain. To start, take a look at your diet.

 

The food you eat impacts your body's overall health and energy levels. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats is essential for weight loss. As you start to lose weight, you'll relieve pressure on your spine, thereby improving your posture as well. 

 

Another way to improve your health is through regular exercise. 

 

Physical activity will release endorphins throughout your body, which are natural hormones that reduce stress. Reserve time for exercise each day, even if it's just mild stretching. 

 

5. Seek Medical Attention

If changing your environment and improving your health doesn't help, consider seeing a chiropractor for an adjustment. Chiropractic care can realign your spine and ease the stress on your spinal discs.

 

Other treatments include physical therapy, epidural injections, or ergonomic adjustments. 

Instead of living with your pain, find a back pain doctor. They can develop the best back pain treatment that works for you.

 

If you neglect to make a change to relieve your stress and back pain, however, you might find yourself needing surgery and long-term medication instead. 

 

What a Strain: The Link Between Stress and Back Pain

Those aches and pains you're feeling won't go away on your own. Now that you better understand the link between stress and back pain, it's time to make a plan. With back pain treatment, you can ease the stress on your spine and get back to your life. 

 

Need an adjustment? Contact our clinic today to ease your pain away.

 

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