While pulled muscles and carrying heavy furniture get blamed for back pain, a surprising culprit often lurks in the shadows: stress. Recent studies suggest a profound connection between chronic stress and back pain, and here’s the intriguing revelation – it’s more common than you might think!
A 2021 study revealed that chronic stress sets off a chain reaction, disrupting cortisol function, inflammatory responses, and leading to oxidative stress. The result? Cellular injury, tissue degeneration, and the onset of chronic pain. But why does stress target the back?
The answer lies in muscle tension, increased pain sensitivity, inflammation, poor posture, and reduced blood flow – all orchestrated by stress.
Why does my back hurt?
Ah, the age-old question, echoed by millions of backs through history. There are a number of reasons, some of which may not be overtly obvious, why you are experiencing back pain. Here are some of the usual suspects:
- Muscle strain
- Ligament strain
- Muscle spasms (caused by strain)
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
- Ruptured disc
Nagging back pain can also come from seemingly harmless activities like not properly stretching before a pickleball game or overswinging a golf club. However, if you don’t experience any chronic or degenerative causes of back pain such as the ones listed above, your back pain may be the result of something more mental.
Psychological stress might just be the cause.
The stress factor
Picture your back muscles as a bunch of tightly wound rubber bands. When stress rears its ugly head, it cranks up the tension, leading to stiffness, aches, and that oh-so-charming feeling of having a permanent knot between your shoulder blades.
Stress has been proven to be linked to back pain, but just because it’s psychological doesn’t mean it’s less real. In fact, stress has been wreaking havoc on other parts of our bodies for a long time too. Here are just some of the other physical symptoms associated with stress and anxiety:
- Chest pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Low libido
Stress turns up the pain volume.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is like a pain amplifier for your body. It makes you extra sensitive to discomfort, even the tiniest twinges feel like Olympic-level torture.
Continued tightness in these regions can result in back pain, particularly in the lower back. You might recall a massage therapist pointing out the significant tension in your shoulders, and this is precisely what they are alluding to.
So, is it my couch or my mind?
The good news is, figuring out if stress is the cause of your back pain won’t require a ton of leg work. Here are some clues:
Gradual Onset: Unlike injury-induced pain, stress-related backaches creep in slowly.
Emotional Echo: Notice your back acting up after a particularly stressful day? Knots in your upper back or aches in your lower back?
No other symptoms: No numbness, tingling, or weakness? This could be an indication of stress-related pain.
Mood Magic: Does exercise or meditation make your back feel better? If you notice improvement with breathing exercises or yoga, it might be stress-related.
Muscle tension: Stress can cause the muscles in your back to tense up, which can lead to stiffness and pain.
Increased sensitivity to pain: Stress can make the body more sensitive to pain.
Inflammation: Persistent stress can trigger inflammation throughout the body, extending to the back and resulting in pain.
Poor posture: Stress alters your breathing patterns and induces a hunched shoulder posture, leading to strain and tension in your upper and middle back.
Reduced blood flow: Under stressful conditions, your blood vessels may constrict, reducing blood flow to your back muscles and causing pain.
How chiropractic care can help stress-related back pain
Chiropractic care also helps to release the oxidative stress that many of us carry around in our spine, which often lies around the foundations of chronic back pain. Oxidative stress can lead to a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Through gentle chiropractic adjustments, Petett Chiropractic can help:
Loosen Stress-Clenched Muscles: Imagine your back muscles sighing with relief as we gently coax them out of their tension-fueled fist.
Reduce Inflammation: We can help your body reduce inflammation, creating a more pain-free environment for your spine.
Improve Posture: We’ll guide you towards a posture that’s kind to your spine and restores pain-free movement to your back.
Calm the Inner Storm: Chiropractic care can help promote relaxation and stress reduction, giving your body and mind a much-needed break from the stress.
At Petett Chiropractic, we’re here to help you untangle the mind-body connection and rediscover the joy of a pain-free spine. Reach out to our expert chiropractors and take the first step towards a happier, healthier back!