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Back pain can be acute or chronic – depending on how long it lasts. The pain may be a burning sensation, a dull ache, or a sudden piercing pain. And it can be simply annoying or excruciating.
The pain can be caused by vertebral disc degeneration, muscle strain, or injury to the ligaments and discs that support your spine. Poor posture can also be a culprit, as can heavy lifting, and a night of disturbed sleep.
However, research has shown a link between mental and physical health where back pain is a factor. Can stress cause back pain? Read on…
Can stress cause physical pain?
Yes – stress can manifest physically causing muscles to tighten. This physical reaction may be initially unnoticeable, but is substantial enough to lead to pain. The tension causes muscles to tighten – particularly around the shoulders and down the spine.
Unconscious tension constricts blood vessels, and reduces blood flow to soft tissues – including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A decrease in oxygen and a build-up of waste products trigger muscle tension and spasms.
Personality characteristics can interact with stressful life situations and cause back pain – and this is particularly noticeable in people who are compulsive and perfectionist, and have a great sense of responsibility.
Can stress cause lower back pain?
You may actually carry the stress in your lower back, and the muscles will tighten – this tension causes pain to be experienced. Both psychological and emotional factors are the prime influence and can be the cause of continuing pain.
Can stress cause upper back pain?
When you’re stressed a change in breathing patterns happens – and this causes strain through your shoulders and your upper back. Low but constant activity in these muscles that stretch from the base of the neck to the upper back is a positive connection between stress and back pain.
Stress-related back pain caused by physical changes resulting in pain can lead to more emotional stress, depression, and increased anxiety. This cycle of pain then produces:
A sympathetic doctor will get a detailed medical history from you and then carry out a physical examination. The onset of the pain may begin with a strain or accident which continued after the injury has healed due to the result of emotional factors.
MRI findings indicating a bulging disc or degenerative disc disease may not be clinically significant – and not be determined as the cause of pain. This will also rule out serious medical conditions such as infection or spinal tumour that may be causing the pain.
There are characteristics of stress-related back pain and the symptoms include:
If a diagnosis of Tension Myositis Syndrome is made – where the tension of the back muscles is causing the pain – this is a mental and physical disorder which requires a specific form of treatment. And once the connection has been made between stress and back pain, you’ll be referred to the appropriate professional to manage the relationship.
There are four factors that will be addressed when approaching the treatment. Alongside the relative contribution of the following:
A multi-disciplinary programme will then be put into place focussing on those same four factors:
If your back pain is caused by anxiety you need to be able to battle the pain itself. This can be achieved by:
Stress relief products include:
Sensate devices and apps to manage your stress and reduces tension on demand
Touchpoint gadgets that use gentle vibrations to relieve tightness that accompanies stress
Lynda Ishida My job is to write but my hobby is to research the latest tech innovations, especially for health & wellness.