How Stress Can Cause Back Pain
While physical pain can certainly lead to stress, the opposite can also be true. In fact, Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) explains the cause and effect of stress-related back pain. A theory developed by Dr. John Sarno of the New York University School of Medicine, TMS typically involves patients who don’t adequately deal with stress and instead force feelings of stress from conscious to unconscious sensations.
When patients deal with unconscious stress, they usually undergo a number of physical changes. Blood vessels become restricted, a smaller amount of blood flows through the body, and oxygen to muscles and other tissues becomes restricted. Finally, muscles develop excessive biochemical waste as a result. After this chain of events, patients generally experience muscle tension, muscle spasms, and back pain.
Ways to Determine if Stress Is the Cause
To determine whether stress serves as the primary cause for your back pain, your doctor will generally start by performing a complete physical exam. This helps to identify major spinal disorders or structural issues and rule them out as causes of back pain. Next, your doctor will talk with you about common symptoms of stress-related pain. These symptoms, which can resemble those of fibromyalgia, include things like pain in your back and neck, tender areas of muscle, widespread muscle aches, and general fatigue or lack of sleep.
Your doctor will typically address common stress-related issues like changes in posture and poor posture, physical inactivity and reduced activity levels, and hypersensitivity to a number of sensations. In some cases, your doctor might also ask you about actions that typically cause back pain, the route the pain takes as it travels through your body, and any pain or stress cycles that your body experiences.
How to Alleviate Stress Symptoms
If you do suffer from stress-related back pain, a number of treatments can help with alleviating symptoms and reducing pain. Dr. Sarno typically recommends that patients undergo a combination of talk therapy and psychotherapy. Instead of simply relieving pain, this process helps patients to work through the issues that form the root cause of stress and anger. This process also helps patients to understand just how these underlying issues can cause back pain.
Many other doctors help patients work through a number of low-impact solutions to manage stress physically. These often include actions like regular stretching, monitoring posture, undergoing massages, and practicing yoga and other simple exercises.
Still other doctors pursue a multidisciplinary approach to relieving back pain. This generally involves a range of therapy options that target physical, emotional, and environmental issues that contribute to stress.
Since the causes of stress can be diverse and the ways that they affect patients can be numerous, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to stress-related back pain. If you suffer from this condition, work with your doctor to determine which of these solutions will work best for alleviating your stress symptoms and lessening your pain.