Stress from our work and our personal lives is inevitable, and without the tools, living aids and techniques needed to reduce mental stress, it can manifest as pain in our bodies, especially back pain. While we often associate stress with mental and emotional strain, its effects on the body can be profound and often go unacknowledged.
One of the commonly overlooked consequences of stress is its potential to cause or exacerbate back pain. Stress can cause pain in other areas of the body, including headaches and muscle pain in the arms and legs. By addressing our stress, we can reduce pain across our bodies as well as our minds. Can stress cause back pain? Absolutely, and until the stress is addressed it will continue and get worse.
The connection between stress and back pain
Stress affects our body in numerous ways, and the spine is no exception. When we experience stress, our body’s natural response can lead to tension in the muscles, particularly those surrounding the spine and the shoulders. Have you ever heard the expression “they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders”? There is a lot of truth to this statement. When we carry stress, its weight can compress us – literally. This tension can manifest as pain in various regions of the back, from the neck to the lower back, and even to the hips and pelvis.
How does stress affect the muscles and spine?
From the tip of the spine to the base of the back, stress can take a toll on all our back muscles and joints. The higher the level of physiological stress you are experiencing, the worse the pain can be. Here are some of the principal areas of the back people feel pain related to stress.
Neck tension: The neck’s proximity to the head means that stress can cause tension in this area, leading to muscle pain and even headaches. Over time, chronic neck pain can result in fatigue, depression and irritability. Poor posture, especially when straining to look at digital devices or hunching over a desk, can further strain the neck muscles. Head and neck supports can help keep correct posture and prevent back and neck pain.
Mid back pain: The middle of the back includes muscles affected by our breathing patterns, such as the chest and shoulder muscles. When stressed, our breathing can become shallow, causing strain and tension in the mid back. This can lead to a hunched posture, resulting in pain throughout the upper and middle back. Using shoulder and chest supports and braces can reduce this pain and aid you in maintaining the correct posture comfortably.
Low back pain: The lower back encompasses the tailbone and the lower half of the back muscles, which play a crucial role in our flexibility and posture. During stressful periods, many people become more sedentary, leading to reduced stretching and exercise. Prolonged sitting, especially during intense work hours, can strain the spine and increase pressure on the lower back muscles. Back supports and braces can be used to help reduce pain in the lower back and improve posture while sitting.
Common symptoms of stress-related back pain
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, stress may be causing them. Many stress-related pains can start small and are barely noticeable, but if the causes of the stress go unaddressed these symptoms will worsen and develop into larger and more debilitating back pain.
Tension and tightness in the back muscles
Sharp or dull aches that persist
Pain that worsens with specific movements or postures
Headaches originating from the neck
While stress is a significant contributor to back pain, other factors like obesity, poor workstation ergonomics and lack of exercise can also play a role. Lumbar support cushions can help you feel more comfortable when sitting for long periods and reduce or alleviate back pain. It is essential to consider all aspects of your health and seek professional advice if unsure about the root cause of the pain.
Managing stress to alleviate back pain
There are some simple techniques that anyone can use to alleviate their stress levels to relieve their back pain. Not only can these activities reduce stress levels, but they can also stretch and exercise the back muscles to offer relief to back pains while also addressing the causes of stress. They offer both psychological and physical relief.
Useful techniques to manage stress induced back pain include:
Relaxation and meditation: Engaging in relaxation exercises and meditation can help calm the mind and reduce muscle tension. Yoga exercises are perfect for relieving both mental and physical pain simultaneously.
Physical activity: Regular exercise can help alleviate stress and strengthen back muscles, reducing the risk of pain. The routine of regular exercise, such as an evening walk or jog, also offers psychological benefits.
Lifestyle changes: Incorporating breaks during work, ensuring proper ergonomics and practising good posture can make a significant difference. Diet can also have an influence. Eating healthier foods at regular times can help you deal with excess stress and weight loss can have many positive psychological impacts on your mental health and stress levels.
Professional help: If stress-related back pain persists, consider seeking therapy or counselling to address the underlying causes of stress. Talking with a professional therapist can help you develop mental tools and techniques to address the stress you are experiencing now and the causes of stress in the future.
While stress is an inevitable part of life, understanding its connection to back pain and adopting strategies to manage it can lead to a healthier, pain free existence. Many of our tools and living aids can not only help people reduce back pain while remaining active, but also give them the short term pain relief they need so they can address the long term causes of their stress.
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As a copywriter in the NRS Healthcare Creative Team, Lizzie worked on the Complete Care Shop and Healthcare Pro brands, primarily the digital platforms.