I’ve seen firsthand the extent to which lower back pain and emotional distress can impact each other. Understanding this link can often mean the difference between getting a quick and accurate diagnosis versus spending countless resources on the wrong treatments. If you’re a back pain sufferer, here are three things you should know about the link between back pain and emotional distress.
According to a recent study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, lower back pain is the ‘world’s leading cause of disability’. The Pain News Network goes further to explain that lower back pain is the leading disability in 86 countries. Likewise, the study cites ‘major depression’ as the second leading cause of disability.
However, what is not as widely accepted is the correlation between emotional stress and back pain. Continue reading, as we explore the connection between the two ailments and how back pain patients can address both.
1. Causes of Back Pain
Back pain can be caused by any number of issues. Chief among them include arthritis, along with other pre-existing medical conditions and common injuries. Unfortunately, some back pain sufferers are unable to identify a root cause, which in turn can lead to emotional anxiety or stress. This is especially true for anyone who:
- Works in a fast paced environment or must regularly meet quotas
- Has small children to care for
- Is required to stand for long periods of time, throughout the week
On the other hand, it should be noted that stress could actually be the source of your chronic lower back pain.
While multiple theories exist, there is ample evidence to indicate a definitive link between psychological factors and back pain. All of which supports the notion that stress related back pain isn’t something you can just snap out of or wish away.
2. Back Pain and Emotional Distress, Other Mitigating Factors
Some arthritis sufferers fail to follow the advice of medical providers, who instruct them to move more to help ease the pain. However, when you are in pain, the aching causes you to move less to avoid aggravating your muscles further. When patients with arthritis, in their lower back, fail to get regular exercise, the result is increased pain.
This, in turn, begins the vicious cycle of repeatedly experiencing more back pain and restricting your body’s range of motion. Unfortunately, this can easily result in social isolation and the potential onset of major depression, anxiety and other forms of emotional distress, each can contribute to even more back pain.
3. Addressing Stress Related Back Pain
The first step in managing your back pain is to openly discuss the pain with your doctor. Explain the emotional distress associated with your back pain, not just the physical symptoms. Upon doing so, your medical provider may be better able to diagnose the problem.
If it turns out that emotional stress or anxiety is the source of your physical pain, it may be best to seek counseling. Doing so allows you to address the root cause but it could also lead to long lasting back pain relief. As Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) stated, “What ails you isn’t necessarily what kills you.”
Another point to keep in mind is that unless specifically prohibited by your physician, it’s best to ‘get moving’. Keep it simple at first because engaging in physical activities that are too strenuous may, in the long run, prove more harmful than beneficial to you. The good news is that many exercises and activities, that reduce back pain can be done at home, without the hefty costs associated with going to a gym or hiring a personal trainer.
By taking a proactive and holistic approach to relieving your lower back pain, you could very well end up easing your emotional suffering, along with ridding yourself of chronic lower back pain. Of course, as with any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen
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