Most people will experience some form of back pain during their lives. It can happen from lifting something heavy, doing yard work, or even just sitting at a desk all day. Getting older also takes its toll on your back, causing your muscles to lose their elasticity and the cushioning discs between your vertebrae to wear down.
But one common cause of back pain that many people overlook is stress. If your back is sore and you don’t know why, or if you’ve had back pain for awhile that only seems to be growing worse, your stress levels may be to blame. Here’s why—and what you can do about it.
What stress can do to your back
When you experience stress, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as a natural response. In an isolated instance, this hormone response is good, helping prepare you for a flight-or-flight situation. And after the perceived threat has passed, your hormones return to normal levels.
But if you constantly feel anxious or nervous, your body continues to release those stress hormones in situations that simply don’t warrant them—like when your boss keeps piling more and more work on your plate. You can’t fight or run away in that situation, so those hormones just linger in your body and lead to muscle tension, especially in the back and shoulders.
That constant tension is enough to cause pain—and can pile on to make existing pain worse. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can try to relieve your tension and take control of your health.
Exercise can be a great way to help reduce anxiety and ease back pain. Walking, jogging, and other activities that get you up and moving can lower stress hormones and raise endorphin levels, making you feel more positive and acting as natural painkillers.
If you’re worried that exercises will make your back pain worse, try low-impact activities like yoga, swimming, and pilates. Inactivity can actually make your pain worse, so taking some time to do stretches or walk around your garden can work wonders on days when you don’t feel like hitting the gym.
Stress causes your heart rate and blood pressure to go up, but deep breathing helps bring them back down. Slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth for a few minutes a day can calm you and reduce stress.
Meditation is another way to lower anxiety, and it may actually change your brain’s makeup to make you more resilient to stress. Try sitting up straight with your feet on the floor and thinking or saying something positive while letting distracting and negative thoughts drift away.
Massage, whether through a therapist or on your own, can help take your mind off stressors and loosen tight muscles. It allows you to directly target back pain and soreness—plus, it’s really relaxing.
Many of us don’t get enough rest, and stress can make drifting off all the more difficult. When you don’t sleep well, it affects your mind and your body, contributing to anxious thoughts and preventing your body from performing necessary maintenance work—like repairing the damaged tissues that are causing your pain.
To get some good shut-eye, avoid distractions like your TV or phone, and create a relaxing environment that’s quiet, dark, and cool. It also helps to stick to a consistent bedtime schedule, even on weekends.
Reducing your stress levels can often ease your back pain. But if you’ve been living with back pain for a while, it might be time to consider alternative treatment options. Stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive procedure which uses your body’s own regenerative abilities to help promote circulation and target pain. Contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy is right for you.