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back pain

Does stress cause back pain?

Back pain is one of the most prevalent and most disruptive issues for Canadians. It is a common, unfortunate side effect of getting older. There are many different types of back pain with many different causes, but if you are suffering from back pain without having sustained some sort of injury, and without evidence of a chronic condition, then you may be surprised to learn that stress or anxiety could be at the root of your problem.

How does stress cause back pain?

Unfortunately, when back pain is caused by stress or anxiety it can often lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of back pain which can grow into a much more serious issue. In order to battle back pain caused by stress, you should consider which common stressors might be causing you problems.

When stress directly results in back pain 

Massage therapists, acupuncturists, and physiotherapists will all attest to the fact that stress often causes knots in patients’ back muscles. The upper back and shoulders are particularly prone to this type of stress induced pain. Once back pain caused by stress begins to affect a patient, they are at risk to develop more serious back pain and damage as a result of the physical limitations caused by their painful back.

When stress indirectly results in back pain

Stress or anxiety don’t always lead to back pain directly. Instead, back pain can be caused by behaviours or other physical responses induced by stress and anxiety. Many behaviours exhibited by people suffering from stress and anxiety lead to serious back pain, including:

  • Inactivity is a common side effect of anxiety, stress and depression. It creates a serious mental hurdle that many patients fail to overcome. Their mental state can prevent them from engaging in healthy physical activity, stretching, and making healthy lifestyle decisions. Inactivity can also be the cause of anxiety, stress and depression in some people.
  • A change in posture may result from increased anxiety. A healthy posture is often a sign of confidence. For people lacking in confidence, they may hunch over or slouch, which puts pressure on the spine. Combined with the knots that result directly from stress, a change in posture can cause serious pain.

How to alleviate back pain caused by stress
To alleviate back pain caused by stress you need to combat both the back pain and its direct and indirect causes by:

  • Getting active! You should avoid falling into the trap of inactivity, and instead focus on remaining active. If you are already somewhat inactive due to back pain, then you should first consult a doctor or physiotherapist before engaging in physical activity.
  • Try Pilates. Pilates is a great physical activity for participants of all levels. Not only does Pilates help reduce stress, it also reduces back pain by strengthening your core, which will help protect your back from further (or future) injury.
  • Confronting your anxiety. If anxiety is affecting your quality of life you should consider seeking professional advice from a therapist.
  • Relaxing. Take time out of your day to de-stress with yoga, meditation, reading, taking a bath, or by doing whatever eases your mind the most.
  • Getting a massage or acupuncture treatment.  Both massage and acupuncture offer psychological and physical benefits to back pain and stress or anxiety. They will work out any knots in your back, while also helping you relax, thus reducing future back pain.

Are you suffering from back pain? Make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists or schedule a massage or acupuncture treatment and start feeling better.