Is Stress Causing My Back Pain?


Back pain is a bit of a wild card. Not only do the symptoms vary wildly, from piercing pain to an annoying ache (or anything in between), but the cause is often even more of a mystery. While many of us would like to think that as long as we have good posture, we don’t lift anything too heavy and we sleep in a well-supported position that we’d be safe from back pain, but that may not be the case.

It may actually be everyday habits like a poor diet, lack of exercise, worn-out shoes, a heavy purse or the biggest offender of all—stress. It makes sense after all, since anxiety and stress are processed in the same part of the brain as chronic physical pain.

And not unlike back pain, chronic stress can be difficult—if not impossible—to pinpoint and even tougher to get rid of. So, what are you to do when you’re stuck in the never-ending pain–stress cycle?

Well for starters, try not to stress about it. And to help, the experts at GMC’s Back Pain Center provide 3 reasons for the connection between these two common conditions:

1.    Stress hormones. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, which for most of us is an everyday occurrence, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as adrenaline. Together, these two hormones impact every part of your body, some of which are more noticeable than others. While you may not notice a higher heart rate or increased blood sugar, it’s hard to ignore skin irritations, headaches, fatigue and muscle tension and pain (especially in your back).

2.    Inflammation. While inflammation is typically your body’s response to foreign substances, like infections, injuries and toxins, it may be triggered by chronic stress, too. Over time, inflammation can increase tension, while also disrupting nerve signals and affecting blood supply to your muscles, all of which can make back pain more likely.

3.     Coping. This may sound obvious, but when dealing with stress, we each have a way to cope or make it through. And chances are the last thing you’re thinking about is making healthy decisions. So if you’re someone who indulges in unhealthy foods or watches TV instead of exercising in the name of stress relief, this may worsen back pain. 

On the other hand, healthy behaviors like working out, eating a balanced diet and getting ample sleep can help to minimize both stress and back pain (it’s a win-win situation).

Don’t put care on the back burner.

Maybe it’s the 33 different bones in your spine or the fact that you use your back in everything you do (sitting, standing or moving), that makes back pain so hard to avoid. But with the streamlined process at GMC’s one-of-a-kind Back Pain Center, you’ll receive comprehensive care designed specifically to treat any back condition. It’s time you get back to what you enjoy doing—join us for a free Back Pain Informational Breakfast on May 17. To register, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/backpainrsvp.

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