How Does Stress Contribute To Back Pain
Now, although stress and anxiety may not directly cause back pain, it can act as an underlying problem that leads to poor behaviors that may result in back pain.
For example, when you are stressed out and sitting down at work what do you usually do? You may not even notice it, but chances are you protrude your head forward, tense up your shoulders and round your back.
Over time this poor posture can create knots, tension and imbalances in your muscles which then causes the pain you feel in your lower and upper back.
Stress Creates A Vicious Circle
The final point is a psychological one, but its important. Stress creates a heightened awareness of pain so if youre carrying a shoulder injury, it may cause you to focus greater attention on the painful symptoms in that area. This in turn can heighten stress. So a kind of feedback loop of discomfort is created. I sometimes observe this in shoulder patients after surgery. Stress can cause them to have a heightened perception of their pain and in some cases that heightened perception may lead them to change, or to break off, their rehabilitation regime. This isnt always ideal, since it can lengthen the recovery process when it might be better to relax and persist with the exercises.
So if you are experiencing stress, what should you do? The first answer is to examine the roots of your stress. And the first way to do that is to talk. For anxiety, that might mean confiding in a friend or seeking professional help through your GP or a counsellor. For stress thats causing obvious physical problems in the shoulder and neck area, you might choose to speak to a physiotherapist. They will be able to help you unpack the issues: how things should be working, where the pressure points are, what kinds of exercises you could take up to alleviate the problems. Or of course you could book in with us for a check-up. I am always happy to analyse the issue, talk through the options and advise on the next steps.
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Can Physical Therapy Help With Stress Related Neck Pain Andshoulder Tension
Theres a multitude of evidence to support the effectiveness ofphysical therapy when it comes to reducing shoulder pain. Physical therapy treatment options for shoulder pain include manual therapy, joint mobilization, therapeutic exercises, stretching, therapeutic ultrasound, laser therapy, and modalities such as electrical stimulation/TENS, heat or ice.
Physical therapy can be a safe and effective option for managing the effects of severe stress. If your stress-induced shoulder and neck pain lasts for more than a few weeks, give us a call orrequest an appointment to discuss potential treatment options.
Article by: Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA
Holly is a practicing physical therapist, partner and Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network with more than 40 years of experience in sports management with young athletes, and is board certified as a geriatric clinical specialist and certified exercise expert for aging adults. Deuer is certified as an aquatic and oncology rehabilitation specialist and serves as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.
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Can Anxiety Cause Back Pain
Yes! Since anxiety stresses the body, and stress can cause muscle tension and back pain, anxiety can cause acute and chronic back pain symptoms. Stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is a common cause of persistent back problems, such as pain, tension, stiffness, soreness, pressure, spasms, and immobility.
Can Stress Cause Lower Back Pain
Back pain is arguably one of the most common and frustrating symptoms that we experience regularly. From causing difficulty working to trouble sleeping, there is no doubt that lower back pain is a major hassle. In many cases, the inability to pinpoint a cause or inciting event for the pain can be the most irritating thing about it, second only to the discomfort that interferes with your daily life. Your first thought may be that you pulled a muscle or moved the wrong way, leading to a sore back. However, you may be surprised to find out that a large number of back pain cases are actually caused by stress and its associated behaviors. The knowledgeable team at Interventional Orthopedics of Atlanta, led by Dr. Christopher Williams, is dedicated to helping patients determine the underlying cause of their condition and get quick relief from their painful symptoms.
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Neck Pain From Emotional Pain: How Often Does It Happen
Unfortunately, many people who experience neck pain dont realize how common it is for their discomfort to be a symptom of emotional stress. According to a study by InformedHealth.org, neck-related chronic pain is very frequently associated with emotional stress.
A study from 2012 cited the frequency of chronic neck pain in the workplace, and the part emotional stress plays in this issue. In many cases, this pain can also spread to the shoulders and the head causing tension headaches.
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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Theory Vs Practice: Youre Not Always Going To Get Ideal Cbt
Its easy enough to get optimistic about CBT in the abstract, but in my personal experience with several psychologists over the years, and based on a lot of communication with readers well, lets just say not all CBT is created equal. Theres a great range of quality and creativity in its application, a big gap between the best possible CBT and the kind that many people will actually encounter in the wild being sold for a bare minimum of $100/hour.
Good CBT probably gives you a better chance than winging it on your own, but its still not an easy road. And its most common weakness in practice seems to be an unfortunate overemphasis on the thinking part using conscious thought as leverage. Which I cynically assume is an issue simply because thats what is easiest to do in a therapy session.
Thinking may be what gets us anxious in the first place, and it may be hard to fight fire with fire, hard to use calming thoughts to subdue or replace worried thoughts. Or, worse, worried thoughts may over time become embodied, so entrenched in our behaviour and biology that they are no longer just thoughts and fresh attempts to think less worried thoughts may have little impact, especially at first.
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What Causes Back Pain
There are many possibilities, some more obvious than others. The most logical possibility is direct injury or trauma to your back, which can cause chronic pain. However, back pain can also be attributed to many other causes like muscle tears, ligament strains, ruptured disc, arthritis, muscle spasms, or hernias. Not to forget, activities that could seem harmless and repetitive. For example, lifting weights can strain your muscles and cause back pain.
The causes for back pain are also area-specific. For instance, pain in the lower right back could be caused by problems related to the kidney, such as kidney stones or even an infected or inflamed kidney, due to its proximity to the area. In the same manner, facet joint dysfunction, Spondylolisthesis, or such injuries to the spine could be what causes lower back pain.
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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:
- 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.
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.
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Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain
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 To Adjust Your Posture
For starters, sit actively, not passively, says Louw. By sitting forward on your seat and staying upright, youll avoid relaxing into a poor posture. Make sure youre sitting on your two butt bones and are actively using your core to sit up straight, chest tall, with shoulders rolled down and back, away from your ears. Also, keep your head over your shoulders, not in front of them, Louw says.
Improving your work setup to make it more ergonomic will also help adjust your posture. According to Dr. Baxi, your computer screen should be at eye level and your keyboard close enough that you dont have to reach for it. Your elbows should flex about 120 degrees.
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How Anxiety Causes Back Pain: And How To Stop It
- Anxiety, especially chronic anxiety, commonly leads to back pain
- Muscle tension may be the primary cause, but there are other supplementary anxiety symptoms that could also cause back pain
- Simple lifestyle changes can reduce some of the back pain
- One simple change: posture, which can be affected by anxiety in several ways
- Eliminating back pain from anxiety, specifically, traditionally requires anxiety treatments
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Stress Causes Emotional Issues
Experiencing constant stress is extremely unhealthy. It causes a variety of emotional and psychological issues that one may need assistance in dealing with. Stress if left untreated for too much time has been known to result in depression and other emotional disorders in those who suffer from it. Low self-esteem and low levels of endorphins as a result of stress causes psychological and emotional tension. These topics are often difficult to talk about, however, it is crucial that you seek assistance.
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.
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What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.
As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Upper Right Back Pain When Breathing
Sometimes, upper back pain can feel worse when a person breathes in deeply.
Breathing movements naturally affect the spine, as it connects to the rib cage. It is usually not a cause for concern.
However, in some cases, it may indicate a more serious issue. For example, it could suggest a problem with the lungs, such as a blood clot or pulmonary embolism.
If a person has concerns about their symptoms, they should seek medical advice.
In most cases, upper right back pain will resolve with home remedies, which include the below.
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What Can Cause Lower Back Pain
Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis , lordosis , kyphosis , and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
- Spina bifida which involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord and/or its protective covering and can cause problems involving malformation of vertebrae and abnormal sensations and even paralysis.
- Sprains , strains , and spasms
- Traumatic Injury such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle causing the pain, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
- Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
- Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.
Nerve and spinal cord problems
Is Stress Causing Your Back Pain
For those familiar with the trappings of stress and anxiety, emotional strain and mental tension can be all too consuming. Before we know it, physical symptoms present themselves too and manifest in a multitude of ways. Be it compromised immune health, poor digestion or neck and back pain, we often pay a painful price for prolonged stress. I am here to talk about stress, how it can influence physical symptoms like back pain, and what you can do to ease any discomfort.
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