3 ways stress and anxiety cause your back pain

It’s generally known that emotional stress or psychological factors can make any back pain problem worse. The diagnosis of stress-related back pain assumes that psychological and emotional factors don’t just worsen the condition, but can be the cause themselves.

The diagnosis of stress-related back pain is a “psychosomatic” or “psycho- physiological” one, an illness whose physical symptoms are thought to be the direct result of psychological or emotional factors. In this case, it means that psychological factors either initiated or are maintaining the back pain or both.

Dr. Hepler, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Boca Raton, wants you to understand that even though psychological factors may be causing the physical symptoms, the symptoms are not imaginary. They are very real physical problems.

What our orthopedic spine surgeon in Boca Raton says about body changes resulting from stress

Being anxious activates the body’s stress response, which causes us to become tense and more resilient in order to fight, freeze or flee from a perceived danger. It also creates a cascade of chemical changes in the body, which, in turn, lead to muscle tension, muscle spasms and consequent back, shoulder and neck pain.

The greater the degree of stress, the tighter the muscles are likely to become. If the body remains in a state of constant pressure, the muscles can become so tight that chronic pain, stiffness and soreness may ensue. Furthermore, if the tension remains, chances of muscle spasms and ‘locking up’ increase.

Any muscle, or group of muscles, can suffer the consequences of stress, but those in the neck, shoulders, upper, mid and lower back are particularly susceptible. Dr. Hepler, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Boca Raton, explains why:

  • Shoulders and neck

When we are stressed, we tend to subconsciously hold our shoulders in a raised position, which can shorten and tighten the muscles in the neck and shoulder area.

The muscles become strained, particularly at the tendons, where they join the bone at the back of the skull, resulting in aching shoulders and a sore neck.

  • Mid- and upper back

Under stressful conditions we tend to take short, shallow breaths; by failing to breathe deeply from our abdomen, we breathe instead through our chest and diaphragm, causing the muscles in this area to also shorten and tighten, impacting both the mid- and upper back.

  • Lower back

The lower back is composed of a large complex group of muscles which hold up the spine and help us with flexibility and movement. When we are under stress, we may change our behavior and our posture, including the way we sit, the way we move and the way we sleep. Our interest in exercise may lessen, too. This combination can increase strain, stiffness and soreness in our lower back.

Learn more about back pain and its symptoms and get advice from orthopedic spine surgeons in Boca Raton on our blog.

Stress and back pain create a vicious circle. Stress makes us prone to worry and so does pain. The more pain we have, the more we worry and the more we worry, the greater the tension in our muscles. To reduce stress and pain, try to rest more, get more sleep, do stretching and breathing exercises like yoga, and – most important – do not put off scheduling your visit to the doctor if the pain remains.

Need advice or consultation with orthopedic spine surgeons in Boca Raton?

Dr. Hepler is an adult and pediatric orthopedic spine surgeon in Palm Beach County. He treats all conditions of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, and also provides spinal stenosis treatment in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton. Additionally, he provides non-operative treatment options, such as pain medications, steroid injections, and physical therapy, as well as operative treatment, including both minimally invasive techniques and complex reconstruction. If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, visit our website or simply give us a call. We are here to make you stronger and healthier!