Is stress affecting your back pain?

man-stressLife is full of stress – situations, people, challenges – many things that demand our time, resources, and energy. Stress is a burden to the body that every person deals with differently. The expression “where you carry your stress” is more than just a euphemism – it’s an actual phenomenon. For many people, that stress lands in the back. Here are some pointers for recognizing if that is the case for you and how to treat it.

Recognize the Signs. The unfortunate reality with stress and back pain is that they can form an unrelenting cycle – one feeds the other which feeds the other and so on. If you are experiencing a good deal of stress ask yourself some questions. Are you feeling more fatigued? Do your muscles feel tense and stiff? Has your heart rate and/or breathing rate increased? It’s possible if you answered “yes” to these questions that you feel the effects of stress physically. At times people may think of their emotional and psychical wellbeing as separate, but identifying connections between cause and effects can be the first step to prevention.

Treat the Cause. The wrong treatment option is to simply medicate the pain because pain is a sign of something wrong on a deeper level.  Therefore, the best treatment is prevention, if at all possible.  By identifying the cause of pain, the likelihood of reducing stress long term is greatly increased. Here are some methods for addressing sources of stress:

  • Daily Life. Evaluate your sleep habits and make sure you are giving your body the rest that it needs every night, which should be an average of 7-8 hours. Have a healthy diet that is full of nutrients. Build some time for relaxation or exercise into your daily routine. This habit can help alleviate stress each day.
  • Work Habits. Don’t put off projects or tasks that can escalate and cause more stress (such as taxes perhaps). Identify the top priorities that have pressing needs and complete those tasks first. By preventing things from “snowballing” into emergencies, you can keep stress at bay.

Stress is nearly impossible to prevent completely, but discovering triggers in your life can be a step towards successful stress management.

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