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The Connection Between Anxiety and Back Pain

Nov 20, 2022

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The Connection Between Anxiety and Back Pain 


We’ve spoken before about how stress can cause pain, especially in the neck. But what happens when we’re more than stressed or when we’re actually anxious? 🤔  


Fight or flight 


When we get anxious, our body goes into what is known as a fight 💪 or flight ✈️ response. This causes changes throughout the body, including a tightening of the muscles. This can result in tension, stiffness, pain, and limited movement. 

Often, muscles can tighten to the point that they spasm, which can be very painful! Anxiety is known as a common cause of acute back pain and muscle spasms. 


Semi-stress Response Readiness 


When we experience anxiety regularly or for prolonged periods of time, our bodies are constantly in some mild form of flight or fight mode 😰. This is sometimes referred to as hyperstimulation, where the body remains in a state of semi-stress response readiness as stress hormones flood the body. 

So, the muscles in your back are already tight and strained. When anxiety is ongoing, these muscles remain tight for extended periods, causing pain and stiffness. 


An Overstimulated Nervous System 


Anxiety excites and places stress on our nervous system. The cells in our nervous system act erratically when they’re stressed or overstimulated 💥. This can lead to muscle tension, twitching, pain, and spasms in the back. 

Additionally, anxiety lowers our sensitivity and reactivity to pain 😢. This means that an overly excited and stressed nervous system can make any sensation of pain feel worse and even become chronic. 


Treatment and Prevention Options For Anxiety-induced Back Pain 


Treating anxiety is not a simple thing to do. It is a complex experience for many and can even be caused by underlying mental health conditions such as a generalised anxiety disorder. However, there are some things you can do to prevent anxiety from causing back pain: 


  • Work on breathing: 4 breathes in and 8 breathes out can reduce our fight/flight response 
  • Seek chiropractic care or massage therapy for muscle tension and nerve related issues
  • Trying certain yoga poses 🧘 for back pain relief 
  • Get movement in your day every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes 
  • Try empowerment therapy to learn how to cope with anxiety 
  • Learn to take better care of your spine 

To book a chiropractic care consultation or a massage therapy appointment, visit our bookings page 

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