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Can Stress And Anxiety Cause Back Pain

Effective Treatment For Chronic Low Back Pain Is An Effective Treatment For Depression And Anxiety

How Do Stress and Anxiety Affect Back Pain, and What Can I do about it?

An interesting note here is that the researchers state low back pain is a symptom reflective of a heterogeneous group of disorders. In other words, back pain is not simplistic of a single diagnosis.

You can be diagnosed with a herniated disc, but it may be ligament damage that is causing your pain. You could be diagnosed with spinal stenosis, but that may not be what is generating the pain. This is in agreement with a philosophy of many Prolotherapy doctors who practice comprehensive Prolotherapy. Prolotherapy in our opinion is not one injection of one ingredient at one spot. Back pain is diffuse and as such needs to be treated with multiple injections at multiple sites.14,15

What Does It Mean If Your Back Hurts Out Of Nowhere

How does this happen? And how can we experience different types of back pain when nothing is physically wrong? The answer lies in what we now know about the science of pain. Have you ever heard the expression its all in your head? Think again. All pain is REAL. The source of pain may not be something physical, like a muscle strain or a ligament sprain. How pain is felt is influenced by our past experiences, memories, and even our fears.

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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Can Stress Cause Chest Pain During Panic Attacks

Your bodys stress responses are activated during a panic attack. These are also known as your fight or flight responses.

Contraction of your muscles is one of these stress responses. Your body does this to protect you from danger, as the tension makes you more resilient. This stiffness in your chest wall muscles and nearby areas can cause chest pain both during and after panic attacks.

Another stress response that can be activated during a panic attack is hyperventilation, where you over-breathe as your body believes it is going to have to move fast. This can cause you to use your chest muscles to expand your rib cage, causing chest pain when your muscles become tired. This hyperventilation can then cause carbon dioxide levels in your blood to decrease, another factor that can lead to chest pain as well as tingling, dizziness, numbness and a dry mouth.

Stomach and digestive functions also alter during a fight or flight response and it is possible for problems with these functions to be experienced as chest pain or tightness.

Other Ache And Pain Issues

Can Stress Cause Back Pain?

It should also be noted that anxiety is an incredibly complex condition that causes various changes to the way your body operates. Some people experience throat pain. Others experience unusual nerve sensations in their legs. Others experience random cramping. Still others experience abdominal discomfort or shooting pains that have no apparent causes.

Only a doctor can diagnose where these pains came from. But there are countless examples of aches and pains that are the result of anxiety despite no apparent physical reason for them to occur.

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Back Pain And Depression

The Spine Health Institute observed that although back pain can lead to depression, depression can also cause back pain. Body aches are a common symptom of depression. Like those with anxiety, people with severe depression feel pain more intensely than those without. Some believe that depression can cause increased pain and inflammation.

Depression can also cause fatigue that can prevent those who have it from exercising. The lack of exercise can put added stress on the discs and joints in their backs, making them more susceptible to low back pain, injuries, and muscle strains.

The chemical processes and physical effects connected with clinical depression can add to the presence and severity of a persons back pain. From this standpoint, depression can also trigger back pain. William Deardorff, Ph.D., discusses at length the relationship between depression and chronic back pain.

Panic Attack Or Heart Attack

The symptoms of a panic attack can overlap the symptoms of a heart attack, clinically termed myocardial infarction , making it difficult for a person to know which one may be occurring.6 People often go to the emergency room with chest pain believing they have a heart issue, but research shows that roughly 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest pain do not have a cardiac cause of the pain.7

How does a panic attack feel different from a heart attack?

Unfortunately, says Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, They can feel identical. People often are short of breath, feel dizzy, and can feel crushing chest pain. Somebody who is perfectly healthy, with great lungs, undergoing a panic attack can feel really, really short of breath. And then, of course, those symptoms feed on the panic so it builds exponentially to this enormous crescendo.

Dr. McCann explains that because of the many different ways that people experience symptoms of heart attacks and panic attacks, theres no way to know the cause of those symptoms on your own.

There are a variety of symptoms that people who are having myocardial infarctions experience or dont experience, so certainly if someone came in with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would undergo a full workup for an MI, no question, she says.

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Can Anxiety Cause Back Pain And Shortness Of Breath

Anxiety is a bodys natural or normal response to stress. It is the brains way of reacting to a stressful situation or alerting you to possible danger. Physical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea, headaches, fatigue, sweating are how your body responds to stress.

For instance, when you go through an anxiety attack, you might lose sensation in some parts of your body and feel like you might pass out or might experience shortness of breath. These physical symptoms apply stress on your spine and muscles in times of panic and cause pain. As your body is not meant to be on guard 24×7, it can have serious implications on your well being.

Tensed muscles may put you in the fight-or-flight mode and help you get away from a panic situation faster. However, when these muscles are in a constant state of tension, it results in pain. If youre constantly anxious, the continual release of adrenaline and cortisol may have long term health implications on your body.

Can Depression Anxiety And Stress Cause Back Pain

Stress Causes Chronic Back Pain

December 11, 2020 by Dr. Todd Goldman

Many of us lead fast-paced lives as we juggle our work and personal responsibilities. Sometimes we get so caught up in all of lifes responsibilities that ailments like back pain sneak up on us. Maybe your mattress is good, and youre sleeping right at night to alleviate the stress on your back, but youre still experiencing back pain day after day. Could it be from the stress and anxiety of your day to day life?

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Psychological Stress Can Cause Back Pain

Though it might seem hard to believe, mental or emotional distress may be the reason you are experiencing back pain. In fact, there is a long list of physical symptoms that have been proven to be associated with stress and anxiety, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Low libido

Stress itself is the bodys reaction to certain usually unpleasant situations or thoughts. You may not realize it, but when you are feeling stressed or anxious, there are chemical and physical reactions taking place in your body to try and protect you from harm. Cortisol and adrenaline are released, and there is typically an involuntary tightening of your muscles. This often occurs in the neck, shoulders, and down the spine. Prolonged tension in these areas can lead to back pain and, more specifically, lower back pain. You may have had a massage therapist tell you that you hold a lot of tension in your shoulders, and this phenomenon is what they are referencing.

Chest Pains And Other Panic Symptoms

Not all aches and pains are in your muscles either. Some anxiety disorders can cause other symptoms, like chest pains, a painful tingling in the hands and feet, and more. These are often the result of hyperventilation, which occurs during panic attacks and severe anxiety.


Headaches are tricky. Most anxiety headaches are actually just a form of tension, known as a “tension headache.” Your muscles tense up, and your head experiences pain as a result. But anxiety is also known to cause migraines, and migraines can lead to immense discomfort around your head, as well as symptoms that may create more anxiety.


Another thing to keep in mind with anxiety is that not all aches and pains are caused by anxiety. Every day you experience very small discomforts all over your body for many reasons. Someone who is anxiety-free may be able to ignore them and find that they quickly go away.

But those with anxiety tend to suffer from what’s known as “hypersensitivity.” Hypersensitivity is when you become too attuned to the way your body feels, to the point where you notice nearly every physical sensation in your body. When you pay that much attention to those sensations, your mind has a tendency to amplify them, and that makes them more likely to cause more pain than they would have naturally done.

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Easy Tips To Relieve Stress

Stress affects the body in a variety of ways,from mood swings and headaches to weight fluctuations. However, an often overlookedside effect of stress is neck and back pain. Over time, repetitive bouts ofstress can cause musculoskeletal issues in these regions of the body.

When we get stressed out, the body naturally releases certainhormones. Adrenaline is associated with the ancient fight or flight phenomenonthat heightens our blood pressure, increases our blood supply, and causes themuscles around our spine to tense and spasm in case we need to flee the sourceof the stress. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone it interferes with avariety of functions. Elevations in cortisol can lead to loss of muscle massand increases in fat accumulation.

“Stress affects the body in a variety of ways, from mood swings and headaches to weight fluctuations. However, an often-overlooked side effect of stress is neck and back pain. Over time, repetitive bouts of stress can cause musculoskeletal issues in these regions of the body.”

Kavita Trivedi, D.O.

Data suggest that adults know stress affects their spines. Online survey participants ranked the No. 1 perceived cause of their neck and back pain as follows:

  • Stress: 29 percent
  • Spinal disc herniation: 21 percent
  • Sitting at a desk at work: 20 percent

Anatomy Of Stress And Emotions

Pin on Cervical Spine Surgery

Just as all of our stresses will be different, where we hold tension tends to vary from person to person. However, the most common stress-related muscle tension patterns occur in the neck or hip muscles.

This is mainly due to the fact that many of our most essential organs are directly next to the iliacus muscle in the pelvis. The pelvic area not only experiences physical and sexual trauma, but due to its location close to the reproductive system, its a common place for holding tension related to relationships and our sense of survival and safety.

Our digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems, as well as major lymph, nerves, and blood vessels, are in this area. This makes the iliacus muscle vital in protecting this area of our bodies. Similarly, the neck muscles serve the vital purpose of supporting and protecting our spinal cord and brain.

Read Also: How To Release Stress And Tension

Mindfulness Meditation And Breathing Techniques

Mindfulness, meditation, breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation have all been linked to evoking the relaxation response by reducing anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure, and improving energy, concentration, and self-awareness.

This relaxation response is the opposite of your fight-or-flight impulse, which is your stress response. When you experience a relaxation response, your body no longer feels threatened by perceived danger, so your brain tells your gut it can safely revert to normal functioning.

Antidepressants For Back Pain

Recently, researchers from the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center sought to examine the safety and effectiveness of opioids , nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , and antidepressants for treatment of chronic low back pain.

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of these drugs, they also evaluated whether certain people respond more favorably to pharmacological management.

The researchers acknowledged that medications are a mainstay of low back pain management, but there is uncertainty as to the optimal use of commonly prescribed medications such as opioids, antidepressants, and NSAIDS.

After examining the medical literature, these are the conclusions they reached:

1. Opioids and NSAIDs are effective for chronic low back pain, while antidepressants have no meaningful clinical benefit.

2. Based on the significant rate of side effects with opioids and the lack of convincing superiority over NSAIDs, opioids are not recommended as a treatment for chronic low back pain.

Here are their recommendations:

1: NSAIDs should be considered as a treatment of chronic low back pain. There is evidence demonstrating favorable effectiveness, but also significant side effects that may have meaningful clinical consequences.

3: Antidepressants should not be routinely used for the treatment of chronic low back pain. There is evidence that they are not more effective than placebo with respect to pain, functional status, or depression.

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What If The Cause Is Unknown

Before a doctor can treat the pain, they must determine the cause. To do this, the doctor may take a complete medical history, press on the abdomen or back to identify pain levels and position, perform blood work, or do imaging scans of the back or stomach.

There are some home remedies that a person can try to ease back pain and bloating. However, if symptoms are due to a serious condition, such as liver failure, it is essential to talk to a doctor before trying any home remedies. Some treatments may be unsafe for people in organ failure or with other conditions.

If the problem is a minor one, such as gas or a stomach virus, it is usually safe to manage symptoms at home.

Strategies that might help include:

  • taking anti-gas medication

Low Back Pain: Quality Of Life

Does Stress Or Anxiety Cause Pain

Writing in the medical journal Pain Medicine researchers, not surprisingly, noted that when low back pain was not resolved patients had catastrophizing thoughts, state anxiety, anger, and depressive symptoms. Mostly a lot of anger, especially after failed back surgery.12

This is the challenge that faces many Prolotherapy doctors. A patient that visits a Prolotherapy doctor can express the symptoms of anger, depression, fatigue and exhaustion from their pain. The Prolotherapy doctor was not the first choice but the fifth, sixth, seventh choice and only after a failed regiment of pain-killers, epidurals, spiraling back pain, and failed surgical expectations. These patients are of course very skeptical of the medical profession on all levels.

Can Prolotherapy heal all these patients? No. If the pain source is not being generated by ligament and tendon weakness and instability, then the realistic goals of Prolotherapy should be immediately discussed with the patient. Can Prolotherapy help many of these patients? In our experience YES!

This is supported by other independent Prolotherapy research that found that pain and disability problems significantly improved after Prolotherapy treatment.13

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How Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain

Your brain may get most of the credit for overall control of your body, but the intestines have their own nervous system that is so powerful, its sometimes known as a second brain. This system is called the enteric nervous system.

With the largest collection of nerve cells in the body outside of the brain, the enteric nervous system not only controls gastrointestinal functions separately from the brain, but it also produces and responds to the same stress hormones and neurotransmitters that our brains do.

The link between your gut and your brain stems from this system. Even though these two systems function independently, this connection allows your brain to monitor your digestive tract and modify activity within your gut.

Anxiety And Chest Pain

Chest pain is one of the common symptoms of Panic Disorder. Different studies have shown that somewhere between 22% and 70% of panic attacks are associated with chest pain. Either way, thats a lot. Chest pain occurs frequently in Panic Disorder. In addition, it is estimated that 25% of the patients that come to the emergency room with chest pain have Panic Disorder.

The chest pain that occurs in Panic Disorder is often described as a sharp, stabbing sensation that starts suddenly.

While there are similarities between anxiety chest pain and pain due to a heart problem, there are some significant differences that will help you distinguish between the two.

Anxiety chest pain most often develops when you are at rest, while heart attack pain most often develops when you are being active. This is one difference.

Another difference is that pain from a heart attack will frequently spread from your chest to other areas of your body. Typically, if it spreads, it will go to your jaw, left shoulder and arm. However, chest pain caused by anxiety will only be present in your chest.

Finally, anxiety chest pain tends to develop quickly and then fade somewhat rapidly, often within 10 minutes, but heart condition pain starts slowly and gradually increases.

However, be sure to tell your doctor that you are having a panic attack or that you have a history of panic attacks. This will help your doctor understand how to best diagnose your chest pain.

Anxiety and Back Pain

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