Why Does My Back Hurt
There are a number of reasons, some of which may not be glaringly obvious, why you are experiencing back pain. Trauma or direct injury to the area can certainly result in acute or chronic pain, but oftentimes the cause of your back pain can be traced to something else. Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
Seemingly harmless activities like repetitive lifting or repetitive motions such as swinging a golf club often put a strain on your muscles and ligaments and result in back pain. Chronic or degenerative conditions, such as those listed above, can also be culprits of back pain. However, if none of these things apply to you, your back pain may be the result of something else.
Anatomy Of Stress And Emotions
Just as all of our stresses will be different, where we hold tension tends to vary from person to person. However, the most common stress-related muscle tension patterns occur in the neck or hip muscles.
This is mainly due to the fact that many of our most essential organs are directly next to the iliacus muscle in the pelvis. The pelvic area not only experiences physical and sexual trauma, but due to its location close to the reproductive system, its a common place for holding tension related to relationships and our sense of survival and safety.
Our digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems, as well as major lymph, nerves, and blood vessels, are in this area. This makes the iliacus muscle vital in protecting this area of our bodies. Similarly, the neck muscles serve the vital purpose of supporting and protecting our spinal cord and brain.
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Theory Vs Practice: Youre Not Always Going To Get Ideal Cbt
Its easy enough to get optimistic about CBT in the abstract, but in my personal experience with several psychologists over the years, and based on a lot of communication with readers well, lets just say not all CBT is created equal. Theres a great range of quality and creativity in its application, a big gap between the best possible CBT and the kind that many people will actually encounter in the wild being sold for a bare minimum of $100/hour.
Good CBT probably gives you a better chance than winging it on your own, but its still not an easy road. And its most common weakness in practice seems to be an unfortunate overemphasis on the thinking part using conscious thought as leverage. Which I cynically assume is an issue simply because thats what is easiest to do in a therapy session.
Thinking may be what gets us anxious in the first place, and it may be hard to fight fire with fire, hard to use calming thoughts to subdue or replace worried thoughts. Or, worse, worried thoughts may over time become embodied, so entrenched in our behaviour and biology that they are no longer just thoughts and fresh attempts to think less worried thoughts may have little impact, especially at first.
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Can Your Mind Create Physical Symptoms
So if you’re experiencing unexplained aches and pains, it might be linked to your mental health. According to Carla Manley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author, people with mental illnesses can experience a range of physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, pain, headaches, insomnia, and feelings of restlessness.
The Science Of Blowing Off Steam: Why Exercising Is Helpful For Stress
Exercising for stress control is an option that isnt fully satisfying to many people, and often awkward for people in pain. But its still one of the most accessible and effective options, and it is firmly grounded in biology and science. Exercise is startlingly good medicine. Anything that can ward off dementia or actually help your brain recover from injury is probably neurologically relevant to any mood disorder as well. Which is certainly what the data suggests so far.
But theres a more specific and fascinating reason that exercise is helpful for anxiety, which is well worth understanding:
Exercise simulates what stress is trying to prepare us for. More exactly, exercise simulates a reaction to a stressful emergency which then also triggers the relaxation and recovery mode that follows. Robert Sapolsky:
The stress-response is about preparing your body for an explosive burst of energy consumption right now psychological stress is about doing all the same things to your body for no physical reason whatsoever. Exercise finally provides your body with the outlet that it was preparing for.
Why Zebras Dont Get Ulcers, by Robert M Sapolsky, 255
This is why exercise is an effective outlet for frustration, which is well-known to measurably reduce the stress-response.
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A Global Pandemic A Critical Election The Brink Of War And Much More Have Combined To Cause Untold Amounts Of Stress Which Could Be Contributing To Your Back Pain Find Out How
Your doomscrolling could be making your back pain worse.
Many would agree that 2020 has done a number on the worlds physical and mental health, but is it fair to say that the challenging environment could result in stress and back pain? If youre experiencing some back pain stress right now, you know that the answer is yes.
Biologic processes and environmental factors combine to cause a physical reaction to stress, says Benjamin Bonte, M.D., board certified physical medicine & rehabilitation physician at Hudson Medical + Wellness in New York City. This can result in a disruption in our status quo, affecting our ability to follow our diet, get enough sleep or exercise, or to engage with our social support networks each of these disruptions can worsen pain, including back pain.
Here are some ways the compounding worries of a particularly difficult year could cause those stress and back pains youve been feeling since early 2020.
How Severe Can Stress
Most individuals make the assumption that back pain caused by stress may not be that bad. The truth is that stress can cause back pain that is extremely debilitating. The type of stress that can cause back pain is often long-term stress that has not been dealt with. Not dealing with the stress may result in chronic back problems, like lumbago. Chronic back issues are extremely difficult to deal with and can impair the way one goes about living.
It is important to know when to get treatment for any ailments one experiences. Not seeking medical assistance for chronic back pain can result in a disc in your spine, becoming extremely damaged. A damaged disc requires surgery to fix, and should you not get surgery, the damaged disc can result in extreme pain and discomfort. This can result in lower back pain that does not seem to go away along with physical impairment. This can prevent one from living day to day normally.
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Fake It Til You Make It: Make It Harder To Worry With Confident Posture Facial Expressions And Calm Breathing
An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body.
Edmund Jacobson, founder of progressive muscle relaxation and of biofeedback
You can try to treat anxiety indirectly by creating physical circumstances in which its harder to remain anxious.
In practicing the Japanese martial art of aikido, you dont throw a person with brute force, or even with clever leveraging . Instead, you position yourself in such a way that your practice partner finds it difficult to keep his balance. Similarly, in some positions it is harder to keep your worry.
Behaviours associated with calm and confidence will also blunt anxiety in the short term, like breathing slowly and deeply. Just like its hard to stay pissy while youre making silly faces, its hard to stay anxious when you act confident in various ways. Its basically an acting exercise that contradicts the typical physical patterns of the anxious state. Act as if you are confident, focusing on specific things that are easy to fake. This gives you a little leverage on your emotional state.
For more about the relationship between mood and posture, see my huge posture article.
Acting confident is not an anxiety cure any more than taking a decongestant is a cure for the common cold, but it is probably a way to feel better in the short term. And while youre feeling a little better, logic and reason might have some more influence. Maybe youll have a better shot at outsmarting your anxiety when its dialed down a notch or two.
For People With Type 2 Diabetes
These medications should lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
A doctor may prescribe either a sodium glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitor, such as canagliflozin , or a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, such as dulaglutide .
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Can Mental Health Issues Cause Physical Pain
Its not uncommon for people to assume that mental health issues and physical health issues are mostly unrelated. Weve heard of things like stress headaches, feeling fatigued or sluggish from depression, and having an upset stomach from stress or anxiety, but theres more to it than that.
Studies have shown a link between depression and back pain. A connection also exists between stress and depression, and its effects on our bodys inflammatory system. Depression can also lower our pain tolerance, which could cause the back pain youre experiencing to feel even more intense.
What Is Chest Pain
When medical professionals talk about chest pain, theyre talking about the pain and discomfort that can be an early sign of heart attack. There are many ways to describe this pain, including tightness or unusual pressure in the center of the chest.
While pain can radiate to the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back, people often mistake this pain for indigestion, which can be dangerous.
Because heart attack symptoms in women can be so subtle, heart attacks in women frequently go unrecognized. Unfortunately, treatment is sought long after symptoms are initially felt.
If youre experiencing the heart attack symptoms listed here, call 911 immediately.
- By Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor
ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the U.S. Over 80% of people will experience an episode of this pain at some point in their lives. The most common reasons for low back pain are disc injuries, sciatica, lifting heavy objects, or some other non-specific back injury.
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How To Stop These Pains
Most of these aches and pains are treatable with the very same treatments you would use if you had these problems in the absence anxiety. For example, over the counter painkillers are a popular treatment and appropriate stretching or exercise may reduce some of the discomforts. Furthermore, by taking steps to treat the underlying anxiety, rather than simply the pain that you feel, youre more likely to be able to avoid aches and pains happening in the first place.
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Get A Massage If You Possibly Can
Getting a massage isnt exactly efficient or cheap, but it may be an extremely effective method of relaxation. Literally all non-human primates groom each other social grooming and this is clearly a behaviour used for stress management. It is a near certainty that humans can benefit from the same kind of interaction, and massage is basically just ritualized, formal social grooming, without the parasite eating. Or you could pay for a cuddling service. Yes, thats a real thing these days. Or, ahem, certain other services. The common denominator here is touch.
Theres no denying that massage is pleasant for most people but its medical benefits are much less clear and proven than you might think. Myths about massage abound: it does not flush lactic acid out of cells, or increase circulation, or reduce inflammation. Maybe it reduces cortisol levels, but even that popular notion is far from proven, and there is actually evidence that its wrong. Even in the unlikely event that massage actually does reduce cortisol levels, the physiology of stress is much too complex to assume that cortisol reduction is in itself a meaningful and good thing. Theres just too much going on.
While many benefits of massage are still disconcertingly uncertain and hotly debated , there are two truly proven ones. Dr. Christopher Moyer explains that the only truly confirmed benefits of massage are its effects on mood , specifically:
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Fractured Or Broken Bone
Despite pain, sometimes theres no outward sign that youve fractured or broken a bone in your arm or wrist.
A broken bone in your arm, wrist, or hand can cause pain that gets worse when you move. Other symptoms include swelling and numbness. Its possible to have a bone fracture or break in your arm or wrist even though your arm appears normal.
How Can I Stop This Symptom
To help alleviate back pain caused by stress or anxiety you can try some light stretches and breathing exercises to calm your nervous system and loosen the muscles and joints back up. Back pain can be quite a worrying symptom to experience, so if you are concerned please contact your doctor.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT , mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If youre unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
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Could Health Anxiety Be Causing Your Back Pain
For one reason or another, most of us feel apprehensive about our health from time to time. But for some people, health worries take over everyday life and become a problem in itself.
Health anxiety is a condition that causes excessive health fears, to the point where it causes the patient significant distress. Ironically, it can also lead to the development or worsening of physical pain and discomfort, including back pain.
Our London chiropractor explains that anxiety has the ability to drastically increase muscle tension, which increases pain as a result. The back contains a wide range of muscles that are prone to tensing up during times of stress. This can lead to back pain in both the upper and lower back. Of course, people who suffer from health anxiety will typically worry more about the increase in pain, which then causes muscle tension to build up even further.
The line between mental and physical health can often be blurred, so make sure you are getting to the true cause of your back pain.
Fight Or Flight Response
The way our body manages stress is a balance between our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system . A significant part of our sympathetic nervous system travels along the psoas, another strong connection between the iliopsoas and our stress response.
The vagus nerve is a main component of the parasympathetic nervous system. The vagus nerve travels throughout our diaphragm and affects our breathing. A strong indicator that our bodies are resilient to stress is that our vagus nerve is able to regulate heart rate variability: the ability of your body to speed up the heart when increased blood flow is needed and to relax again once that need diminishes.
When your diaphragm doesnt allow you to take deep breaths, your vagus nerve isnt stimulated properly. Since the vagus nerve is a part of the rest-and-digest response of the parasympathetic nervous system, when we take deep breaths into our abdomen, it helps us shift from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest.
The ability to breathe into your abdomen and not just your chest relates in part to the diaphragms alignment, which is also impacted by tension in the iliopsoas muscles.
Thesephysical reactions in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems do not just occur when we experience a moment of stress, though. As humans, we have a unique ability to evoke emotions from our memories as well.
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Dealing With Back Pain
Although there are a lot of treatments that you can cycle through to deal with back pain or lower back pain, the most important one is that you learn to manage your stress properly. Back pain can be extremely frustrating to deal with. Other than being frustrating, back pain is also bad for your overall health and may result in other issues such as pain in one’s neck. Neck-related pain is often directly linked to back pain. The pain experienced in one’s neck often stems from either poor posture or pain in the back that has not been dealt with.
To deal with back pain, one may choose to get a massage to relieve the tension in the muscles. There are a variety of ways to deal with pain in the back and not all are favored by everyone. It is advised that you cycle through the various option until you find one that works best for your pain. What may work for the pain you experience in your back may not work for someone else.
Learning how to effectively handle the back pain you experience is important. Not knowing how to deal with the pain can result in a host of issues. Back pain can sometimes feel crippling, and should this be the case, you should seek assistance for it as soon as possible. The pain you experience today does not have to be the pain you experience tomorrow. So, get some help from a personal injury chiropractic office with your back pain before it becomes a serious issue.