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The Connection Between Stress and Chronic Back Pain

With the fast-paced nature of today’s society, it’s no wonder that many of us are under a lot of pressure and stress. From work and social obligations to taking care of our families, there’s a lot on our plate. And while a certain amount of stress is normal, chronic stress may take a toll on our bodies. While being stressed out is often seen as an emotional issue, it may also lead to physical problems such as chronic back pain.

How Does Stress Lead to Chronic Back Pain?

There are many ways in which stress may lead to back pain. For one, our muscles tend to tense up when we’re stressed. This may lead to muscle strain and pain, especially in the neck and shoulders. In addition, when we are under a lot of stress, we are more likely to adopt poor posture, and our breathing may become shallow. This puts a lot of pressure on the spine, which may lead to chronic back pain.

Stress may also lead to inflammation, a common contributing factor to back pain. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce the hormone cortisol. While small amounts of cortisol help regulate our immune system, too much of it may lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation may damage the discs in our spine and other parts of the body, leading to back pain.

Common Symptoms Caused By Stress

Back pain isn’t the only symptom that may be caused by stress. Stress may also lead to other physical symptoms, further contributing to the pain. Common symptoms caused by stress include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle spasms
  • Upset stomach

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to seek help. Chronic stress may wreak havoc on our bodies and lead to other health problems if left untreated. Keeping your stress bottled up only makes things worse. Sometimes talking to a friend or family member about what’s going on can help, but you may also need to see a doctor or therapist.

4 Tips for Avoiding or Managing Stress

If you’re struggling with chronic back pain, it’s important to seek help. A spine specialist can offer a comprehensive treatment plan that may help relieve your pain. In addition, there are some things you may do on your own to address stress and chronic back pain. The following tips may assist you in managing your stress levels:

1. Stay Active

Exercise and our health go hand in hand. Not only does exercise improve our physical health, but it also helps reduce stress levels. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting and pain-relieving properties. A moderate amount of exercise is the key to reducing stress. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift heavy weights to get the benefits of exercise. Taking a brisk walk, going for a swim, or taking a yoga class are all great ways to stay active and reduce stress.

Moreover, by strengthening the muscles that surround and support the spine, you may reduce your risk of developing chronic back pain. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Desk jobs are particularly tough on our spine. If you have a desk job, be sure to take breaks throughout the day and go for a walk or stretch.

2. Get Enough Quality Sleep

The amount of sleep we get plays a role in managing our stress levels. When we’re tired, we’re more likely to feel stressed. Most adults need around eight hours of sleep each night to feel their best the next day. 

However, simply getting eight hours of sleep each night isn’t always enough. The quality of our sleep also matters. While getting a night of deep, restful sleep is an excellent place to start, how we sleep may be just as important. If you are sleeping in a poor position, it may contribute to back, neck, or shoulder pain. To get deep, restful sleep, it is recommended to:

  • Sleep on your side or back
  • Use pillows to support your neck and spine
  • Sleep on a mattress that is comfortable for you
  • Limit your caffeine intake before bed
  • Avoid using electronics in bed
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is crucial for maintaining our physical and mental health. Eating a diet high in unhealthy fats and processed foods may lead to inflammation, fatigue, and other symptoms that contribute to stress.

Conversely, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats may reduce inflammation and promote overall health. In addition to eating a healthy diet, it is also crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. If you are feeling overwhelmed and have not been eating or drinking as healthily as you should, try to make small changes. For example, swap out sugary drinks for water or add an extra serving of vegetables to your dinner each night.

4. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Long hours, tight deadlines, and unrealistic expectations are all common sources of stress in the workplace. While it is not always possible to avoid these stressful situations altogether, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is paramount to managing work-related stress. This may look different for everyone, but some things you may do to promote a healthy work-life balance include:

  • Taking breaks throughout the day
  • Prioritizing your to-do list
  • Setting boundaries with work
  • Making time for yourself outside of work
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Taking your allotted vacation days 

By balancing your workload and prioritizing your mental and physical health, you may reduce your stress levels and increase productivity. Work-related stress is one of the most common types of stress, so it is essential to find ways to manage it.

Treat Your Chronic Back Pain with The Spine Pro

Do you struggle to cope with stress and, as a result, have developed chronic back pain? If so, it may be time to book an appointment at The Spine Pro. Whether you have a slipped disc, degenerative disc disease, or another condition that is causing your back pain, Dr. Melamed and his team will work with you to find a treatment that works. Contact The Spine Pro today.