Can stress lead to pain?

Are you wondering if your back or neck pain can be related to stress? Many times stress alone can cause pain and if your spinal nerves are already irritated due to a previous injury, degenerative changes or scar tissue, it may only take a little extra muscle tension to increase your pain.

Stress creates muscle tension. This can cause compression to the nerves that run through your muscles. The compression of the nerves can result in symptoms such as aching, numbness, tingling, and sharp pains. Muscle tension reduces blood flow through the tissues robbing them of nutrients and oxygen. Sciatica is one of the most common problems that can be worsened with stress.

Try to manage your stress with techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, massage therapy, walking or warm baths. Also, see your physical therapist as soon as your symptoms worsen. Physical Therapy will provide you with exercises and manual techniques to reduce muscle tension.

Clinical Question – Stress

When I have a stressful day, why do I have more neck and back pain?

When stressed, people tend to contract their muscles.  For example, people tend to elevate their shoulders toward their ears when stressed, thus causing increased tightness at the muscle on top of the shoulder (Upper Trapezius).  This leads to increased muscle tightness, which in turn can cause more pain.

Regarding physical therapy of your neck and back.  If you continue to have increased stress in your life while receiving physical therapy, this will lengthen the amount of time it takes to have a successful treatment outcome.  During therapy, the therapist will provide you with techniques to prevent further tightening of your neck and back musculature.