Is stress contributing to your back pain? It’s becoming recognized that your state of mind has an effect upon your level of back pain and whether it eventually becomes chronic.. People who are unhappy, worried depressed, or miserable at work are more likely to develop chronic back pain, according to the latest findings. Several recent studies have shown that psychological distress has increased the risk of developing back pain and of experiencing a slow recovery. A study in Sweden found that anxiety and the practice of ‘catastrophizing’ – assuming that the worst will happen- increased the risk of back pain. In another study in the US, people who reported higher levels of anger and distress also reported higher levels of chronic back pain. These studies show that we must review the complete picture with back pain and recognize that it involves much more than just muscles and bones.

In citing the major causes of back pain, in addition to physiological and skeletal problems, the Mayo Clinic cites three Risk Factors:
• Stressful Job
Depression
Anxiety

The stresses that are experienced everyday by people are usually easily identified and can be dealt with. Some examples of stress causing situations are:
• Worry about being on time
• Missing a train or plane
• Worry about a job interview
These situations, while upsetting and tension causing, can be handled and, once dealt with, usually do not result in long-lasting problems.

Repressed Emotional Stress
The type of stress that can lead to troublesome back pain is called repressed emotional stress. The process is not logical but, then, many subconscious emotions are not logical or rational. Repressed emotional stress might be caused by:
• An unhappy relationship
• Hidden anger and resentment towards a spouse, children or parents
• Dissatisfaction with a job or career choice, or disillusionment and a poor self image.
• A rift in family relations
• Loss of a loved one
• Financial problems or disaster such as an impending foreclosure
• Physical abuse or threats

Repressed emotional stress may not be easily recognized as the subconscious mind may hide it, creating a smokescreen of back pain symptoms to keep your mind focused on the pain instead of looking for the underlying causes. Repressing (hiding) the real causes blocks any true healing and an effort must be made to recognize and deal with the factors behind the symptoms.

No one should ever discount the powerful effect of stress on the body and the mind.
Stress puts the body into a sustained ‘fight or flight’ mode. When confronted by a threat, whether physical or emotional, real or imagined, a gland in the brain, called the hypothalamus, releases noradrenaline and adrenaline. These hormones trigger a complex set of actions which lead to a physiological and psychological state of hyper-alertness. Problems arise when this hyper-alert state becomes the norm.

The fight or flight mechanism causes muscles to tense in preparation for action, and if this response is not deactivated, the muscles can go into painful spasms, causing severe back pain. As the muscles of the neck and back tighten and squeeze the blood vessels, just like a kink in a garden hose, the supply of nutrients and oxygen are decreased. This leads to pain and eventual weakening of the muscles, making them more susceptible to strain and injury.

Stress is a part of every day life but studies have shown that if we exist in a daily state of hyperawareness, due to all the stresses that confront us, that we are predisposed to develop a number of disorders including heart disease, hypertension, and depression.

Experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital say that a growing number of studies confirm that the mind-body connection plays a role in back pain, both in setting off an initial attack and in contributing to ongoing chronic pain. These studies have also led to the development of stress-relaxation techniques that can be learned to help break this vicious cycle.

Author's Bio: 

Raymond Shaw is a spinal decompression therapist, who has worked with individuals with back pain problems for seven years.
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