November 2018 Newsletter
Does Mental Stress Cause Back Pain?
In this month’s newsletter we delve into anxiety, the stresses that result from this and how to help prevent any long-lasting musculoskeletal-skeletal implications.
Quite often when experiencing an acute episode of pain we can be heard saying “this could not happen at a worse time in my life, I’m so busy with work/ill parents/school etc”. Well, perhaps we should consider that this is precisely the reason why this musculoskeletal-skeletal condition has arisen. Our bodies have got an extremely clever mechanism or safety valve that at times force us to stop, rest and recuperate before continuing willy-nilly and risk doing permanent damage.
The answer is straight forward though, yes, mental stress can be attributed to causing back pain but that does not make the pain any less valid or real.
What Are Some of the Causes?
Pain is extremely disruptive, with back pain easily one of the most common types of pains to experience. If you are prone to anxiety, then it’s possible that you have been suffering with regular back pain for years as a result of it.
Back pain from anxiety is common, and while it is certainly not the main cause of back pain, it is a reason that some people end up getting help for their anxiety. So what causes back pain, and what can be done about it?
Being anxious activates the body’s stress response. A part of the stress response includes causing the body’s muscles to tighten so that they are more resilient to damage when in real danger. The greater the degree of stress response, the more effect it has, including causing the body’s muscles to become extremely tight, even to the point of pain.
In fact, high anxiety and persistently elevated stress can cause muscles to become so tight that they experience chronic pain, stiffness, soreness and immobility. So, as your anxious behaviours increase, so will your body’s stress and its effects, including causing severely tight muscles in the back that cause chronic back pain.
Changes In Posture
Anxiety can cause people to change their behaviours and posture, including the way they sit, what they do when they sit, whether they slouch, and so on. Changes in posture, especially when combined with the muscle tension from anxiety, can cause the muscles to be in uncomfortable positions and ultimately lead to back pain.
Anxiety may also change people’s physical activity levels. Activity plays a direct role in back pain, and healthy physical activity tends to make the back more mobile and less receptive to general aches and pains. If someone reduces their activity levels because of anxiety, it is possible that this will lead to back pain.
Another issue related to anxiety is hypersensitivity. Those with anxiety tend to experience physical sensations more than those without anxiety. As such, mild back pain, the type of back pain that normally would not change your activity levels, could feel more severe and be harder to ignore, which in turn would lead to adjustments that may contribute to further back pain.
We spend hundreds if not more each year on making sure our cars are working as expected and servicing boilers, washing machines and the like. The irony is that these are factors that can also cause us stress and potentially make us anxious.
Our bodies need this same care and attention to function properly so visiting an Osteopath on a regular basis with perhaps no pain is good practice. It can at times highlight areas that are becoming tense allowing simple defensive treatment or a gentle massage to relieve the tightness in the area. This approach is a very useful exercise in keeping your body free from injury, free from tightness, free from restriction in movement thereby promoting a lifestyle of good activity, pain free posture and general well-being.
As we have mentioned in previous newsletters, treatment for back pain can range from dealing with acute or chronic conditions resulting in more extensive investigations and lengthy treatment programmes but when we look to the type of scenarios that can be caused by stress or anxiety a more balanced approach can be extremely effective.
- Having a regular check-up when you may have no pain can be a very proactive method of keeping yourself mobile and in good physical condition
- Relieving stress with simple massage can work wonders and while there may be no back pain as such just the process of massage can be relaxing and beneficial to your mental well-being
It’s OK to book an appointment when you have no pain. We as Osteopaths see things that may not be that obvious on the surface allowing us to treat and prevent a condition from becoming acute.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for any reason, we are here to help and welcome any feedback. Click here for more information.