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Stress and Back Pain – What’s The Relationship?

Apr 3, 2023Body Pain0 comments

Back pain is as common as the, well, common cold. You can be old or young. Still, chances are you’ve experienced it. Maybe you slept in a bad position. Perhaps, you’re not standing up properly. But, did you know stress and back pain could be related?

If you think about it, it’s easy to see why. After a tough day, you feel all tensed up. Maybe your shoulders are stiff. I know that’s a common feeling. Well, your back could follow the same path.

But, why does that happen? And, most importantly, what can you do about it? Let’s find out!

Is there a relationship between stress and back pain?

According to Verywell Mind, there is. Our minds and bodies are deeply connected. Yet, most people underestimate this relationship. Your body has a stress response, which sets off different reactions.

The stress can be physical or psychological. You might have to jump off a plane or worry about a test. Interestingly, the reaction is mostly the same.

That’s because of our flight or fight response. From an evolutionary perspective, stress means imminent danger. We release norepinephrine and cortisol, among other hormones. And, that increases our heart rate, blood pressure, and more. That’s to help us fight whatever’s coming.

One of these effects is tensing muscles. Once you calm down, your muscles relax. But, chronic stress might prevent this. The result is constant tension, resulting in pain.

How can back pain come from stress?

So, how can psychological stress result in back pain? That’s actually fairly simple. You see, our body doesn’t discriminate against the source. We perceive stressful emotions as physical threats. Thus, they trigger the same response.

Our muscles tense up to prepare for quick movements. This tension subsides as we calm down. But, some people experience chronic stress. It might come from work, the future, relationships, or more. That’s when things get complicated.

In those cases, your body interprets them as physical threats. Now, imagine you’re always worried about bills. Your body “believes” it’s always under threat. Thus, it’s permanently tense.

Over time, this tension can become painful.

Another theory on stress and back pain

However, Dr. Sarno, from Spine-Health, has an interesting theory. According to him, this type of back pain isn’t physical. Instead, it comes from psychological and unconscious problems.

In that article, we get another look at this type of back pain. Basically, pain limits people’s daily functions and activities. This lack of activity and movement leads to weaker muscles. Thus, it causes more back pain.

This theory places stress and back pain separately from fight-or-flight responses. Instead, it’s a combination of two factors:

  • Muscle deconditioning due to reduced physical activity.
  • Physical manifestations of pent-up emotions.

I could get behind this theory. Yet, I wouldn’t ignore the “scientific explanation” of our flight or fight response.

What can you do to improve back pain caused by stress?

Treating stress-related back pain splits into two approaches. You need to treat physical pain and psychological stress. Naturally, each factor has different tips. But, there’s one approach that tackles both sides.

Exercise is the best way to treat back pain when done properly. It can help you strengthen your muscles to prevent pain. And, it can alleviate current pain by releasing pressure from your nerves.

Moreover, it can help you shed stress. Physical activity can help you vent out emotions. So, you’re also treating psychological stress.

Other tips include:

  • Practicing yoga and tai chi.
  • Learning mindfulness and meditation.
  • Taking enough time to relax after a stressful day.
  • Hanging out with friends and doing leisure activities.

The holistic takeaway

stress and back pain - back of a man with the low back in red

Stress and back pain share an unexpected relationship. Stress makes your body tense up. Thus, chronic stress maintains that tension. Over time, this can lead to prevalent muscle pain.

The best way to treat stress-related back pain is to take on both stress and pain. Luckily, a solid workout routine can do both. That’s why I recommend The Back Pain Breakthrough. This 10-minute program can become your best ally against back pain.


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