While most medical professionals agree that psychological factors like stress can contribute to existing back pain with a diagnosed physical source like nerve damage or joint inflammation, there are times when the main source of the pain is emotional in nature. To be fair, whether back pain is psychological or physical, the related symptoms are very real. At the same time, effective treatment is rarely possible unless the underlying source of the back pain is determined by a board-certified orthopedic physician.
Stress-Related Back Pain
Stress-related hormones like cortisol and epinephrine can increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which can contribute to back pain symptoms. Patients with prolonged stress, whether receiving any diagnosis for their back pain or not, tend to get into the habit of limiting activities to avoid aggravating their pain. However, limited activity often leads to muscle weakness, which increases the odds of experiencing more back pain. Once stress is determined to be a contributing factor to a patient’s back pain, non-surgical back treatment often includes:
- Therapy to determine the source of the stress
- Implementation of stress-relieving techniques (yoga, meditation, exercise)
- Anti-anxiety medications (tranquilizers, benzodiazepines)
- Getting more productive sleep (to counter stress that’s compounded by a lack of sleep)
Depression and Back Pain
Patients with undiagnosed depression may undergo treatments for back pain that fail to address the true cause of their pain, consequently they may become increasingly depressed due to an assumption that treatment isn’t working. Even when treatment appears to be successful, there’s research suggesting that patients with major depression experience more instances of relapse. Back pain linked to depression is often treated by:
- Properly diagnosing and treating underlying depression
- Recommending medications to improve mood (often in conjunction with therapy)
- Carefully monitoring progress as depression is treated (to avoid dependence on any medication prescribed to lessen back pain symptoms)
Even though there is a connection between psychological problems and back pain, research suggests that it’s more common for patients with chronic physical symptoms to experience emotional reactions to their pain. Regardless of when pain becomes more emotional in nature, it’s clear that patients are better served when doctors consider causes of back pain beyond what shows up on x-rays and MRIs.
If chronic back pain is impeding your ability to carry out everyday activities, it’s time to schedule an in-person consultation with a qualified spine surgeon in Beverly Hills. Call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today at (310) 828-7757. The path to a pain-free life starts here.