28 February 2020

Stress and Back Pain

How many times have you felt stressed and seemingly out of nowhere (as if you didn’t have enough to deal with) your back pain starts to flare up?

“One study found that 29% of subjects believed that stress was the cause of their back pain.”

Though it may not seem obvious at first, there is a clear link between stress and pain. For some people, stress manifests itself mentally and for others, there is a physical reaction, often affecting your neck, shoulders or back. One study found that 29% of subjects believed that stress was the cause of their back pain.

The Effects of Adrenaline

Adrenaline is the hormone responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response we experience during times of stress. Essentially, it’s getting the body ready to either stay and fight the source of danger or flee.

Our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more rapid, and muscles become tense in case they need to take rapid action.

Breathing patterns

When our breathing rate increases and we take shorter, more shallow breaths which come from the upper chest and shoulders, rather than the diagphragm.

This changes the muscles we use to control our breathing and can cause tension and pain in areas which aren’t used to this increased demand. You may experience pain in your mid-back and find your shoulders hunching as a result.


Tension and spasms in the muscles around the spine can cause not only pain, but a decrease in function and the inability to move as you should. This then can cause lead to as muscle imbalances and – long term – loss of strength.

Lifestyle Factors

There are also the knock-on effects of a change in lifestyle, depending on the cause of your stress. For example, if you are experiencing stress at work, you may be putting in more hours, or spending longer at your desk.

You may have to sacrifice exercise if your work demands more of your time. You may also be spending longer on your phone which can lead to changes in posture which affect the neck and shoulder muscles.

If you are experiencing back pain because of stress and would like to speak to a specialist about getting stronger and reducing tension, please complete the form below to register for a complimentary consultation. Once submitted, we’ll be in touch to book your session.

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