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Back Pain Caused By Stress

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When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider

Stress and its relation to Back Pain

See your healthcare provider soon if your lower right back pain is severe, constant or getting worse. You should see a provider quicker if you have lower right back pain plus:

  • Urine that is bloody or cloudy, if it smells bad or if peeing is painful.
  • You find blood or pus in your poop.
  • Pain during or after sex.

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Anxiety And Back Pain

Back pain, such as acute and chronic tension, stiffness, soreness, shooting pains, sharp stabbing pains, back spasms, and immobility are common symptoms of anxiety disorder, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and back pain symptoms.

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Signs Your Back Pain Might Be An Emergency

In our 20s and 30s, normal back pain often can be attributed to factors of daily life, such as sitting too long, picking up children, or overdoing it while exercising.

In our 40s and older, work injuries and the beginnings of arthritis and degenerative conditions are more common.

Back pain is so common, in fact, that many patients shrug off symptoms that might indicate a medical emergency.

Approximately 80% of adults will experience back pain in their lives, so its important to be able to identify the severity of your symptoms and track how long the pain lasts.

If back pain can be associated with a specific activity, such as lifting or twisting wrong, and the pain goes away within 72 hours after resting and applying ice, its usually nothing to worry about. However, if pain creeps on gradually, appears suddenly, or doesnt go away, you might have a more serious condition.

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When To Contact A Medical Professional

  • Back pain after a severe blow or fall
  • Burning with urination or blood in your urine
  • History of cancer
  • Loss of control over urine or stool
  • Pain traveling down your legs below the knee
  • Pain that is worse when you lie down or pain that wakes you up at night
  • Redness or swelling on the back or spine
  • Severe pain that does not allow you to get comfortable
  • Unexplained fever with back pain
  • Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, thigh, leg, or pelvis

Also call if:

  • You have been losing weight unintentionally
  • You use steroids or intravenous drugs
  • You have had back pain before, but this episode is different and feels worse
  • This episode of back pain has lasted longer than 4 weeks

Youve Been In Pain For Over A Week

Can Stress Cause Back Pain?

Most back pain will subside after a few days, but if youve been experiencing pain for over a week, then its time to call a doctor. Your doctor will perform any examinations or tests required to help get to the bottom of your pain before it could become a bigger problem. As is the case with many health conditions, prevention and addressing problems early is key.

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Dr Sarno’s Tension Myositis Syndrome

In returning to Dr. John Sarno’s conceptualization of stress-related back pain or TMS, one can see the similarities with that of “spinal irritation.” The important difference is that Dr. Sarno places the causative factors for the back pain squarely in the psychological and emotional realm whereas, the early doctors would only use physical treatments.

Specifically, Dr. Sarnos theory holds that a majority of back pain cases being treated by the medical community using “organic” approaches are actually stress related cases. It is important to note that this theory and treatment approach are controversial in the medical and psychological community and there have been no well-controlled research studies to test the validity of the concept.

Treatment Options For Stress

The first thing we do with every patient who has back pain is determine its root cause. Its important to understand that no adult can expect to live 100 percent pain-free or stress-free. However, we can discuss ways to minimize discomfort and help patients feel less tense.

An effective way to reduce stress and back pain is to exercise and stretch more.

Physical activity can release endorphins and improve overall health, which can help reduce stress. Make a point to get up during the work day and do a few laps around the office every few hours, or try a standing desk. At home, reserve time to exercise. Physical therapy also can help relieve spine pain and return your neck and back to optimal flexibility. A physical therapist can show you specific stretches to pinpoint trouble areas in your neck and back.

Eating a healthy diet also can help reduce stress.

When you eat well long term, your general health can improve, and you will likely feel more energetic. Healthy eating is key to weight loss and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight offloads pressure from your spine and improves your posture.

Additionally, its important to make time in your schedule to relax.

Many patients with back pain are very busy with work, family, and social commitments. Carve out time to read a good book, spend time with family and friends, or practice mindfulness or meditation.

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Back Pain Caused By Stress

Anxiety may change the way you carry yourself, creating changes in your posture, causing you to slouch. It can also contribute to inactivity and hypersensitivity, which can amplify back discomfort. Back pain tends to happen in a cycle- a sufferer may adopt certain postures or avoid certain activities to try to relieve the pain, but the positions or lack of activity may actually aggravate the problem. By attempting to avoid back pain, the patient may actually be aggravating the condition.

A Global Pandemic A Critical Election The Brink Of War And Much More Have Combined To Cause Untold Amounts Of Stress Which Could Be Contributing To Your Back Pain Find Out How

Stress Causes Chronic Back Pain

Your doomscrolling could be making your back pain worse.

Many would agree that 2020 has done a number on the worlds physical and mental health, but is it fair to say that the challenging environment could result in stress and back pain? If youre experiencing some back pain stress right now, you know that the answer is yes.

Biologic processes and environmental factors combine to cause a physical reaction to stress, says Benjamin Bonte, M.D., board certified physical medicine & rehabilitation physician at Hudson Medical + Wellness in New York City. This can result in a disruption in our status quo, affecting our ability to follow our diet, get enough sleep or exercise, or to engage with our social support networks each of these disruptions can worsen pain, including back pain.

Here are some ways the compounding worries of a particularly difficult year could cause those stress and back pains youve been feeling since early 2020.

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Adaptation To Relaxation Treatments In Therapy

In considering relaxation techniques in order to attenuate the aforementioned stress mechanisms, the mindfulness-based stress reduction programas one stress reduction program amongst others may be a plausible treatment strategy. This structured therapy program combines elements of meditation, yoga, and physical attention. It aims to encourage the practice of body-related focused attention in daily life situations and supports the acceptance and processing of pain-associated stimuli and even negative emotions.

Its effectiveness in treating chronic pain has been reported in several different studies and its effects are comparable to the mean effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy . Regarding the pronounced reciprocal regulation of pain stimuli it is relevant to note that body-related focused attention is associated with increased neural activity in the insular cortex . Furthermore, neural activity during body-related focused attention is associated with concentration of the neurotransmitter GABA in the insular cortex, a region where body-related physiological stimuli including pain stimuli are processed , amongst other regions in the human brain . In addition, the application of mindfulness meditation was linked to a reduction in fear-avoidance behavior and improved perception of sensory information .

Should Exercising Be Avoided

Logically, since your lower back pain is caused mentally, it makes sense not to exercise, right? Putting any excess strain on your body is not a good idea at the moment. Well, no. That is actually the opposite of what you should be doing.

In reality, you should be exercising every day to ensure that you are properly recovering from your stress-ridden life and to bring your spine back to its natural state. Without working out, you will not be able to get away from your problems. Getting stuck in a loop is not exactly the most optimal solution.

Keep in mind, this does not mean that you should be careless while exercising. Putting too much strain on your body is not a good idea, especially when your back is quite fragile during this time.

A short ten or fifteen-minute exercise a couple of times a week is good enough. A long walk in the morning or before going to bed would also be very beneficial.

If you are not sure whether you can or should exercise in your medical state, you can always ask your doctor for a professional opinion.

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Counseling As A Treatment

Finding the root cause of your stress and aiming to eliminate it could be the first step in the right direction. Loss of a loved one, dealing with financial struggles, or not achieving your professional goals could be the reason for your stress.

To deal with raging lower back pain, find yourself a trained professional mental health counselor who will talk you through and help you deal with your emotions during tough times. This will help you cope up with stress and minimize your back pain symptoms.

It is now a widely accepted idea to seek help through counseling and therapy. These professionals develop the right strategies to deal with people and situations properly without harming yourself physically or mentally.

Can Stress Cause Shoulder And Back Pain

NapMed Pain Clinic

During periods of stress, three main hormones are released which lead to physical and mental responses: adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine.

  • Body releases adrenaline to prepare the body to flee, if necessary
  • Adrenaline increases the heart rate and blood pressure, and muscles tense
  • Body releases the hormone cortisol when the brain recognizes the threat
  • Cortisol increases the glucose in the bloodstream and regulates other body functions
  • Cortisol increases the availability of various substances that play a role in tissue repair
  • Body releases norepinephrine, which is similar to adrenaline
  • Norepinephrine increases mental awareness and focus and shifts blood flow to muscles so better able to flee

The hormones associated with the stress response are supposed to flow and ebb and not be continually released. When they remain at high levels due to frequent bouts of stress, the hormones will constrict blood vessels and reduce the blood flow to soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This leads to tight or tense muscles. The muscles are unable to relax normally and are not getting the nutrients needed to stay healthy. Also called muscle rigidity, the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and around the spine tense in preparation for fleeing.

The shoulders and back have primary nerves and muscles running through them. When the muscles and nerves are put under stress, sore shoulders and back develop.

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How To Get Rid Of Anxiety Back Pain Symptoms

When other factors cause or aggravate this anxiety symptom, addressing the specific cause can reduce and eliminate this symptom.

When an active stress response causes this symptom, ending the active stress response will cause this acute anxiety symptom to subside.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and neednt be a cause for concern.

When hyperstimulation causes back pain symptoms, eliminating hyperstimulation will stop anxiety back pain symptoms.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.

Visit our 60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress article for more ways to reduce stress.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including anxiety back pain symptoms.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger longer than expected.

As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can present symptoms of any type, number, intensity, duration, frequency, and at any time, including this one.

Even so, since back pain is a common symptom of stress, including anxiety-caused stress, it’s harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern. It will subside when unhealthy stress has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about it.

How Is This Treated

Non-specific lower back pain should be treated using a biopsychosocial approach. This model incorporates the biological, psychological and social aspects of pain, as shown in the image below.

Unfortunately, there is no gold-standard method for treating individuals with non-specific low back pain, especially when stress is a driving factor.

The biopsychosocial approach is an individualised approach to pain management. Every patient will have different stressors in their lives which may contribute to the development and experience of lower back pain.

Non-specific lower back pain requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment.

  • Biological factors These may be addressed through the physical aspect of treatment. In highly stressed individuals muscle tension can be high, so your physiotherapist may use a variety of soft-tissue techniques to reduce your pain and improve your function. Exercise therapy will also be a key component of treatment. Strength and mobility exercises, as well as breathing work can all be very beneficial to individuals with non-specific lower back pain.

  • Psychological factors This will be a key component to address in any individual with high levels of life stressors. Reducing fear-avoidance of painful movements and catastrophising of pain is crucial. Stress management techniques will also be very important to cope with a stressful lifestyle.

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    How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed

    Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.

    Your provider may order:

    • Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
    • MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
    • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
    • Electromyography to test nerves and muscles and check for neuropathy , which can cause tingling or numbness in your legs.

      Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .

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    What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain

    The Mid-Back Stress Connection

    Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:

    Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.

    Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.

    Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.

    Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.

    Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.

    Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.

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    How Severe Can Stress

    Most individuals make the assumption that back pain caused by stress may not be that bad. The truth is that stress can cause back pain that is extremely debilitating. The type of stress that can cause back pain is often long-term stress that has not been dealt with. Not dealing with the stress may result in chronic back problems, like lumbago. Chronic back issues are extremely difficult to deal with and can impair the way one goes about living.

    It is important to know when to get treatment for any ailments one experiences. Not seeking medical assistance for chronic back pain can result in a disc in your spine, becoming extremely damaged. A damaged disc requires surgery to fix, and should you not get surgery, the damaged disc can result in extreme pain and discomfort. This can result in lower back pain that does not seem to go away along with physical impairment. This can prevent one from living day to day normally.

    When To See A Doctor

    A person should seek medical attention if they experience back pain due to injury or an accident.

    They should also speak to a doctor if their upper right back pain does not go away after a week.

    A person should seek immediate medical attention if the back pain accompanies other worrying symptoms, including muscle weakness, bladder issues, tingling, or numbness.

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