Woman's back bent over holding the back of her neck

How Does Stress Cause Back Pain?


Stress can affect the body in a variety of ways. Data gathered from published on Statista.com, shows that 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at one point in their lives. Among the individuals surveyed, they ranked the cause of their back pain as follow:

  • Stress: 29 percent
  • Not enough exercise/weak muscles: 26 percent
  • Physical work: 26 percent
  • Overweight: 25 percent
  • Spinal disc herniation: 21 percent
  • Sitting at a desk at work: 20 percent

Stress related back pain is not caused by mechanical or physical factors. Instead, the person’s personality, emotions and feelings are at the root of the problem. Individuals under chronic stress due to work, relationships or other causes, are at high risk to get trapped into theb cycle of pain. At that point, the pain becomes chronic and the person feels that they have to live with this pain for the rest of their lives.


When your body perceives a stressor, such as a physical injury or feelings of anxiety, it releases a series of physiological reactions known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Stress hormones are release to help the body cope with the stressor. This can be very useful in a life- threatening situation. When the source of stress is chronic, however, the stress hormones remain in the body, causing physiological harm, and overtime leading to serious chronic diseases. Unresolved emotional stress will eventually manifests itself in the form of pain, typically in the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back areas.


The combination of several factors contribute to the unending cycle of pain. First, pain causes people to tighten their muscles in the neck, shoulders and back area, increasing the sensation of pain.
As the pain lingers, the individual feels limited in their movement, which leads to reduced leisure activities and less exercise. The reduced mobility, in turns weakens the muscles supporting the spine, making them more stiff, increasing the sensation of pain further more.
Additionally, the change of lifestyle, accompanied by the reduced leisure time, makes the individual more stressed, anxious, worried and angry and leads to weight gain. These feelings increase stress levels, dissatisfaction with body image, and the cycle of pain starts again.


I found that with my clients a multidisciplinary holistic approach is critical when addressing stress related back pain. Treating just the physical pain is only a temporary fix. Instead, working on the underlying causes of emotional pain, combined with specific exercises and an anti-inflammatory diet provides the best outcome.

It has been scientifically shown that psychological factors can cause physical pain, yet most people will ignore it, making the problem worsen over time. Untreated, this emotional pain can lead to generalized health risks such as strokes, heart attacks, cancer, high blood sugar levels or high blood pressure to name a few. Don’t ignore the symptom! Learn more @ Daily Cup Of Wellness

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