Can your Mental Health Directly Affect your Back?

We are all well aware that our mental health is as important as our physical health. Yet, we often tend to overlook the signs our body gives concerning our mental condition.

We consider it a minute issue which is totally in our control. Do we really have the capability to control it? Yes, we do. Is it really that simple? Maybe, but it definitely requires some work and understanding.

Monitoring and pacifying our mental stress is especially important at times like this when there is so much negativity around us.

effects of mental health

It is unfortunate that talking about our mental health problems is still a taboo in our country. Visiting a psychiatrist or a mental therapist is still a big deal. Doing so would be perceived as if we have a really serious mental condition.

Simply talking or opening up to a therapist/psychiatrist could be a huge help to certain conditions. Sometimes, we only need somebody to support or listen to our feelings or opinions and we are all set. But for most of us, it would still be an embarrassing visit, due to the preconceived notion.

Can stress really cause back pain?

Unfortunately, this invisible issue named stress could cause pretty serious tangible problems without our knowledge. Yes, it directly affects our physical health in a number of ways.

If a simple physical illness like fever could evidently affect our mood (mental state), why wouldn’t the effect happen vice-versa? It sure does but is not as evident as the former scenario. In fact, research says that our mind exerts more influence on our body than what our body does to our mind.

Considerably, Back pain is one of the most common physical concern out of several others, which could indirectly or directly be affected or even worse, aggravated by mental stress.

mental health affects back pain

There could be several reasons for back pain like the wrong posture, injury, ageing, tearing of muscle or tissue, vitamin deficiency, a herniated disc etc, which we usually hear from our doctors. However, there is rarely a doctor who says our mental stress is the reason for our back pain.

It is important to understand the dynamic relationship between our physical condition and our state of mind. It could be difficult to diagnose where it started from but, stress causes pain -> pain causes even more stress -> which in turn causes even more pain, is a cycle which is difficult to break.

This is how it works

When we are stressed out, it directly affects the activities of our Autonomic nervous system. This part of our nervous system regulates all the important involuntary functions of our body.

The Autonomic nervous system consists of two branches, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. The Sympathetic nervous system is highly sensitive to stress, it tends to speed up the metabolism and excite the body. On the other hand, the Parasympathetic nervous system slows down the metabolism and stimulates relaxation in the body.

Autonomic nervous system

This combination of reactions to stress is known as Flight or Fight response. This reflex action has evolved as a survival mechanism for life-threatening situations.

When our body is stressed out, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, automatically causing our muscles to tense and tighten up. This, in turn, has direct consequences on our back.

In the long term, the unmanaged stress, experienced repeatedly, over months and years, could eventually hamper our back, causing chronic muscle tension that distorts the normal alignment of the spine.

Tension Myositis Syndrome

Such chronic pains that are not due to pathological or structural abnormalities, might not be explained by diagnostic tests. This condition is known as Tension myositis syndrome. According to it, real physical pain occurs due to mild oxygen deprivation through the Autonomic nervous system, as a result of built-up stress and repressed emotions.

Nonetheless, it could be difficult to believe that our real physical pain is an effect of something psychological like stress, but it is a well-researched fact. We tend to ignore it easily and get on with our day, but this only worsens the problem in the long run. Hence it is important to understand the root cause of stress and take the necessary action right now before it is too late.

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