Muscle tension reduces blood flow to the tissues (reduced oxygen
and nutrients to the tissues). Reduced blood flow delays healing.
Adequate circulation is also necessary to flush acidic waste products
(byproducts of muscular activity) from the tissues. A build up of
acidic waste products in the tissues can cause fatigue and pain.
Stress in itself can cause back pain, even in people with healthy
spines. A person with a 'bad back', e.g. a person who has scar tissue
from an old injury or degenerative changes in the spine due to aging,
may notice the effects of stress triggering back pain even more
than someone with a healthy back. The slightest muscle tension may
be 'the straw the broke the camel's back.' For instance, if spinal
nerves are already restricted by scar tissue or calcium deposits
it may take minimal muscle tension to compress nerves and cause
pain. Sciatica may flare
up when one is feeling stressed.
Tense back muscles increase back pain and pain increases
tensing of muscles - a vicious cycle of stress and back pain can
The back is less capable of tolerating even mild abuse (lifting
something slightly heavy, poor posture, a sudden twist, sitting
too long, etc) when a person is under stress. Stress causes the
muscles to tighten up, leaving them vulnerable to injury.
Relieving stress can reduce pain that is aggravated or caused by
tense muscles. Managing stress on an ongoing basis may also help
prevent back pain from occurring in the first place.
Exercise: Stress can be relieved through exercise.
Aerobic exercise is particularly effective form of exercise for
relieving stress -aerobic exercise burns off stress hormones and
increases the body's production of endorphins - naturally occurring
chemicals that relieve pain and improve mood. Stretching exercises
also can relieve stress and loosen tight muscles. Yoga incorporates
poses that increase strength and flexibility with breathing techniques
to relieve stress. Click
here for information on aerobics, stretching exercises, and other
exercises / methods to relieve stress.
Relaxation techniques invoke the "relaxation response."
Muscles relax and blood pressure, heartbeat, and respiration decrease.
This is the opposite of the "stress response" where muscles
tense and blood pressure, heartbeat, and respiration increase.
There are many relaxation techniques, from simple deep breathing
exercises that are easy to learn on one's own to self-hypnosis that
must initially be taught by a qualified professional. Other relaxation
techniques include mediation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided
imagery, biofeedback. Special equipment is needed to for biofeedback
and it must be taught by a professional.
is very beneficial for relaxing muscles, increasing circulation,
and relieving stress. Regular massage can manage stress and back
Stress Management is an ongoing process - as is staying strong
through exercise. Keeping fit through exercise and managing stress
are both important in the treatment and prevention of back pain.
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