Stress can cause many problems with the body. From stomach pains to joint and muscle pains, you can experience quite a few physical problems when you are under a great deal of stress. Even smaller bouts of stress over a long period of time can produce pains in your body that may seem unrelated to a mental malady such as stress. In fact, research has shown that stress is quite capable of causing you to have pain, specifically back, neck, and shoulder pain.
If you are having back pain that is not showing a definitive cause, you may be having stress related back pain. It isn’t just related to the lower back, either. You can have tightness in your neck, headache, and pain in your shoulders. Relieving this pain is usually as simple as relieving the stress on your body. There are two broad categories of stress relieving measures: mind based techniques and body based techniques. Using either or a combination of both can get you back to feeling your best.
How Stress Causes Back Pain
Back pain from stress is caused by a cycle of behavior. Maybe you strained your back lifting something, and it is simply muscular. Because of the pain, you do not move as much as you should. You have fear of daily activities and movement. This makes the back muscles and ligaments freeze up, and they hurt even more when you try to move them. This causes more pain, more fear, and less movement, resulting in stress induced back pain.
Another theory is that people who have certain personality or life circumstances experience pain. Those who have a strong drive to succeed, have a pressing sense of responsibility, are self-disciplined, are a harsh self-critic, or are perfectionistic tend to have stress related back pain.
These behaviors cause tension in the body and abnormal functioning of the nervous system. These changes lead to constriction of the blood vessels, decreased blood flow, and a build-up of waste products in the area. This causes pain, muscle spasms, and tension in the back.
Mind-Based Stress Relief Techniques
Mind-based stress relief techniques are the ones that most people think about when they consider reducing stress in their life. The most common technique is meditation, and it is deceptively simple. You sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Watch how it comes and goes. Feel it brush past your nostrils, into your lungs, and feel your chest expanding. Do this for ten minutes.
The reason it is deceptive is because you can rarely keep your mind focused on the breath for long. When you wander – and you will – gently bring your focus back to your breath. Doing this for 10 to 15 minutes a day will help you greatly with stress related pain.
Other stress relieving techniques include writing. You can get all of your pain and emotions out onto the paper by free writing for 10 to 15 minutes. Another possibility is talking over your emotions with a trusted friend. Get the feelings out of you to fully relieve your stress. Guided imagery is cousin of meditation. Instead of following your breath, you imagine yourself in a calm and peaceful place. You imagine it in full detail and come back to it when your mind wanders. Any of these techniques can help reduce your stress and back pain.
Body Based Stress Relief Techniques
The easiest and most effective body based technique to reduce stress is exercise. This will also keep you moving which will allow for a great deal of blood flow to your muscles and ligaments in your back. You should aim for non-impact aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, 4 to 5 times per week. However, you should check with your doctor first to ensure that you are healthy enough to participate in aerobic activity. Some ideas for exercise include walking, biking, or swimming.
Other physical methods are available to help decrease stress. Yoga is a great way to get in touch with your body, stretch your back, and ease pain. Tai chi is another common practice for people who are looking to ease stress and pain. When you are doing your meditation, you can perform progressive muscle relaxing. This means that you focus on each muscle group in your body, tense the group for five seconds, and then let them relax. It helps to relax your whole body and reduce stress.
If you are having stress related back pain, BASIC Spine can help. We have on staff a pain psychologist who can help you with these techniques and many other stress reduction methods. If your pain is causing depression and anxiety, we can help you with that, as well.
For more information, contact us for a consultation regarding your pain.