Around 20 million Americans have chronic pain that’s so severe it often limits personal or work activities. Even if your back pain isn’t this bad, having recurring spine-related aches and pains could impact your cardiovascular health. In fact, there’s research suggesting a connection between ongoing back pain and hypertension, which means if you have back pain, you may also want to be mindful of your blood pressure.
If you just have occasional back pain that goes away fairly quickly, you probably won’t have issues with high blood pressure (HBP) because of it. However, if your back pain sticks around, there are certain biological processes related to chronic pain that could affect your blood pressure. First, when back pain is experienced, electrical signals are sent from your brain as a response to pain signals coming from nerves in or around your spine. The result is continuous stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which regulates your body’s unconscious actions—including heart rate and blood pressure. Second, chronic back pain triggers a response from the adrenal glands. A spike in the release of adrenaline boosts your pulse, which results in blood pressure that’s higher than it should be. The longer you have back pain, the more likely it is that overactivity of the adrenal glands will affect your blood pressure levels.
It’s not always easy to clearly determine if your blood pressure has been affected by your back pain, since HBP sometimes produces little or no symptoms. For this reason, you may want to consider getting regular blood pressure screenings from your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon if chronic back pain is part of your life. When symptoms related to high blood pressure do appear, you may notice the following issues: • Chest pain or general discomfort in the chest area • An irregular heartbeat • Lightheadedness or dizziness • Fatigue related to other health issues • Headaches High blood pressure that persists long enough may also cause problems with vision. Other serious symptoms related to HBP include difficulty breathing—especially after any type of exertion—and a pounding sensation in the chest that extends to the neck and ears. The type of treatment recommended will depend on the extent of your blood pressure elevation and the nature of your back pain. Typically, medication helps with blood pressure management. If there’s evidence that your back pain is affecting your health in other ways, a spine specialist may coordinate treatment efforts with your regular doctor. It’s equally important to be careful about changes in habits resulting from chronic spine-related pain that may also affect your health, such as not getting as much exercise or turning to unhealthy food choices to manage your discomfort. Ultimately, you’ll be better off if you get an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan that’s right for you.
If you’re living with chronic back pain, reach out to the spinal health specialists at The Spine Institute for a prompt diagnosis. Our industry-leading physicians will develop a customized treatment plan for you, whether you’re able to get relief through physical therapy or you need a surgical procedure such as a lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica patients should give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.