Can Stress Cause Back Pain – Latest Research Included

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Stress can cause muscle spasms, inflammation, and back tension.

Back pain is among the most prevalent ailments that affect millions of people across the globe.

Did you know that, aside of physically triggered triggers (like pulling muscles or sliding the disc) back pain can be caused by or exacerbated through stress? Stress and back pain are complicated relationships that run both ways.

What is the connection between back pain and stress?

The evidence suggests that stress can trigger chronic pain, and the reverse is true. Many people experience this. It is a result of back pain.

According to a study in 2021, chronic stress ultimately leads to cortisol dysfunction and issues with the body's inflammation response. Inflammation and cortisol problems can result in oxidative stress, damage caused by free radicals cell damage or aging, and tissue degeneration. All of which can cause chronic pain.

Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that stress can have direct effects on the processing of pain.

All in all, stress is associated with back pain in many ways:

  • Tension in the muscles: Stress can result in the muscles of your back relaxing and can cause pain and stiffness.
  • Sensitivity to pain increases: Stress can make the body much more susceptible to pain. Research has shown that crucial life events can trigger changes to the limbic system and its related neurotransmitters, altering the mechanisms that block pain.
  • Inflammation: Stress can cause inflammation throughout the body, particularly the back region, which could cause pain.
  • Poor posture: If you're stressed out, your breathing patterns alter, and your shoulders become tense, which can result in tension and strain on your upper and middle back.
  • In the event of a decrease in blood flow during stress, your blood vessels can constrict, reducing blood flow toward your lower back muscles and resulting in discomfort.

An analysis of 8,473 participants discovered that stress levels were connected to a 2.8-fold higher risk of having chronic lower back pain relative to the population as a whole.

A different study of 77 officers discovered that stress was strongly related to upper musculoskeletal discomfort. However, this study did not find any connection between the stressor and lower back pain.

What is the back pain that comes due to tension?

Back pain caused by stress varies between people and can manifest in different ways depending on the area of pain.

Lower back pain can be described as a dull, intense ache, stiffness, or muscle spasms. It can also spread to the buttocks and legs.

Conversely, upper back pain could result in a stabbing or burning sensation or a feeling of tension or pressure across the shoulder blades. In some instances, upper back pain can cause discomfort in the arms or chest.

How can you tell whether back pain is due to tension

It can be difficult to know if back pain is due to stress, as back pain could have many causes. Here are a few indications that suggest your back pain may be caused by stress:

  • Emotional and physical stress: If you've been having lots of emotional or physical strain, like from a demanding job or a tough relationship, the back pain could be due to stress.
  • Gradual start: If your back pain has been developing slowly over time instead of suddenly, it could indicate that the cause is tension-related stress in your muscles.
  • Absence of any other symptoms If you're not suffering from any other symptoms, for example, numbness, tingling, or weakness, and the discomfort isn't extreme, It could be due to stress.
  • The pain that occurs and goes Back pain caused by stress can occur and disappear according to your stress levels, while pain caused by an injury or illness tends to be more regular.
  • Improved strategies for managing stress: If your pain is alleviated by stress-reducing exercises like exercise or deep breathing, it could be due to stress.

How long will lower back discomfort last?

The time frame of back pain can vary based on various variables. In certain instances, it may disappear in some days or weeks. But, if the source of stress isn't treated, the pain could persist or worsen over time.

A few studies suggest that stress may be a predictor of the likelihood in the future of pain back later in life. A study

Of 588 participants, it was found that in a two-year follow-up of two years, the following strain types were identified as potential risk factors for back discomfort and disability:

  • The tendency to be worried
  • social isolation
  • social conflict
  • Stress that is perceived as long-term

How can you alleviate the pain in your back caused by tension?

There are many options you can take to lessen back pain caused by stress, for example:

  • Pain relief drugs: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can ease discomfort and inflammation.
  • Heating therapy: Applying heat to the area affected can help relax the muscles and relieve discomfort. You can use an electric heating pad or hot water bottle to apply heat while relaxing in an ice bath.
  • Massage massaging your affected region can relieve tension and decrease discomfort. It is possible to try self-massage or visit an experienced massage therapist.
  • Stretch The stretches that focus on the back of your lower area, like knee-to-chest and cat-cow stretches, can ease tension in the back muscles.

Tips to help relieve stress

Here are some suggestions to help relieve stress:

  • Regular exercise: Exercise helps prevent the degeneration of joints and muscles and improves your mind's health.
  • Consume a balanced eating plan. Eating a healthy, balanced meal with plenty of fruits and veggies can lessen inflammation and improve your mood.
  • Relaxation techniques to practice: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscular relaxation may aid in reducing stress and encourage relaxation.
  • Connect with other people: Social support is crucial to easing stress. Spend time with your friends and family, or sign up for an organization that offers support.
  • Learn mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being present and paying attention to your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for reducing stress and allowing muscles to relax.

Bottom line

Back and stress are two related ailments that can seriously impact the quality of life. Regular stretching, exercise, and good posture can ease back pain. Likewise, methods for managing stress, such as deep breathing and meditation, can reduce stress levels.

Suppose you're suffering from back pain caused by stress. In that case, you should consider consulting medical professionals such as a physiotherapist or counselor who can offer helpful guidance and assistance for managing these issues.

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