Could Stress and Anxiety Be Causing Your Chronic Back Pain?

Stress and anxiety—everyone deals with it to some extent. At times, however, stress can cause adverse health effects. Emotional side effects of stress can be depression and panic attacks, while physical effects can include heart palpitations, high blood pressure, digestive issues and even back pain.

People dealing with chronic pain feel desperate to find a solution. Knowing the way stress affects the back is the first step toward finding a solution to one’s pain.

Identifying the Two Types of Stress That Can Impact Back Health

Before going into how stress affects the back, it’s important to first understand that there are two types of stress that can have an impact on the health of a person’s back.

  1. Physical Stress
    Certain physical activities put stress on the body and can contribute to back pain. Things like:
  • Carrying a heavy purse, backpack or briefcase
  • Poor posture
  • Bad form while exercising
  • Avoiding exercise – cardio, weight training and stretching/flexibility exercises are all important
  • Aging
  • High heeled shoes
  • A bad, sagging mattress

All of these things, if not remedied, can result in chronic back pain.

  1. Emotional and/or Psychological Stress
    Emotional stress can have an immense impact on your back. For years, many considered stress and anxiety to be secondary causes of pain. The common thought was that pain was always the result of something physical. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who suffer from stress, depression and anxiety often suffer with pain as well. They also mention that back pain, specifically, is experienced more often by people dealing with emotional or psychological stress than those who don’t.

How Stress and Anxiety Can Impact the Health of a Person’s Back

Accepting that one’s emotions can be a main factor in their back pain can be hard to accept at first because we’ve thought otherwise for so long. But, more evidence is pointing to the back pain-stress correlation because of the following.

  • Stress causes tension: When a person is under stress, their muscles tighten up considerably. This is particularly noticeable in the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders. Tensing the muscles of the upper body puts pressure on those of the lower body. Massage therapists will concur—people with high anxiety will have the tightest, most knotted muscles, resulting in more daily pain.
  • Postural changes: Going through a stressful period changes a person’s posture. During the fight or flight response, the body’s muscles not only tense up, they tense up in an improper position. This position is generally one of self-protection and preservation: slumped over as if the weight of the world were on one’s shoulders, or like they’re trying to protect their abdominal area.
  • Stress, anxiety and depression can lead to inactivity: Emotional stress puts people in a major energy slump. Just getting through the day is hard enough; forget about exercise! The resulting inactivity leads to inflexibility, strain and muscle soreness.

Significantly Decrease the Occurrence of Back Pain with Stress Reduction

People don’t have to suffer with back pain, especially if it’s related to stress and anxiety. With help from a therapist, physical therapist and chiropractor people can find ways to reduce physical and emotional stressors. Working to reduce the stress is one of the best ways to reduce pain and promote overall health and wellbeing.

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain and suspect it may be due to high levels or stress or anxiety, contact us right away. We can provide the support you need and recommend ways to reduce your stress and treat your back pain effectively.