Published on January 20, 2013
Anxiety isn’t just a mental health problem. It’s a disorder with numerous physical symptoms as well. A common symptom – especially as you age – is back pain.
Many people suffering from anxiety find that they spend much of the day with tremendous pain around the neck and shoulders – pain that doesn’t
appear to have any other physical cause.
Back pain from anxiety is tricky, because there may be different issues that lead to the pain. Below are several strategies you can attempt to reduce the effects of anxiety and stress on back pain.
Ways to Stop Back Pain From Anxiety
Anxiety causes very real muscle tension, and that tension can create a considerable amount of pain. But the pain may become even worse if you spend too much time in an “anxiety position” – any position that makes you more comfortable when you have anxiety. For example, some people tend to bend over. Others lay down more. Regardless of your position, make sure you’re still stretching and moving so that your muscles don’t freeze and cause further aches.
When the back pain isn’t too severe, make sure you’re exercising. Exercise is often a strategy to combat back pain, but in those with anxiety – especially panic attacks – can actually gain a secondary advantage. Back pain and discomfort may be an anxiety attack trigger in some people. But when you exercise, you give your mind an “excuse” for the pain (recovering from exercise). That excuse may reduce the likelihood of a future panic attack.
Be Cognizant of Your Anxiety Over Back Pain
Those with anxiety also need to practice the idea of mindfulness, especially with regards to back pain. Back pain is often a cycle, where the way that you adjust your body in order to reduce back pain can actually create more back pain, because you throw your body off balance. Those with anxiety are especially prone to this problem, because anxiety makes it harder to ignore pain.
In addition, those with anxiety are also more likely to fear re-injury. While there is some intelligence to the idea of trying to avoid future injury, in some cases this can go overboard. If you don’t continue moving and exercising, your muscles can weaken and your likelihood of back pain increases.
Be aware of both of these problems and pay attention to how you’re reacting to your own back pain. You may be reacting more strongly than your back pain deserves.
Traditional Back Pain Treatments
Even when back pain is caused by stress and anxiety, it tends to respond well to various back pain remedies. Massage, for example, is not only a great way to reduce muscle tension – it also helps with anxiety and stress. If the back pain has gotten too severe, seeing a professional about a better way to treat your back pain may also be valuable.
Still, if you want this back pain to go away forever, you will need to address your anxiety directly. Only by ridding yourself of anxiety will you be able to prevent future anxiety-related back pain, and while anxiety will always be a symptom of aging, stress, and general tension, removing anxiety reduces the likelihood of stress related back aches.
For more information about living with back pain and anxiety, view the following links:
- A Patient who Confuses Anxiety and Back Pain
- Regular Stretching Just as Good as Yoga for Back Pain
- Mindfulness Meditation for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study
About the Author: Ryan Rivera is an anxiety specialist who suffered from intense back pain himself during his bout with anxiety. He has information on overcoming anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.