Even the happiest of married couples sometimes have points of disagreement or contention that result in stressful situations, which is perfectly normal and even healthy sometimes. However, when marital difficulties become more frequent occurrences, the lingering effects may extend beyond emotional distress. Anyone living in a hostile environment, regardless of the reasons for the hostility, may notice an increase in back pain. When you have existing back pain, the added stress from marital issues could be even more impactful for the following reasons.
Increasing Tension in Back-Supporting Muscles
There are many muscles that either directly or indirectly support the spine, including some in the legs, thighs, and abdomen. When you are constantly exposed to stressful situations, you may tend to hold onto the stress. For instance, you may continuously go over a recent argument you and your spouse had in your mind, which could cause you to experience stress throughout your day. Muscle tension caused by stress can affect your back by:
- Triggering muscle spasms
- Making it difficult for irritated tissues to heal
- Creating more pressure on your spine
Getting into a Vicious Cycle
Let’s say you are able to forget an argument in the morning and go about your day with little or no stress. If you come home and the hostility is still there or your spouse chooses to pick up where he or she left off with your last argument, the stress may quickly return. If part of the issue between you and your spouse involves your limitations due to spine-related pain, recurring stress may make your discomfort worse.
Experiencing a Lack of Support
If you have a source of back pain that’s not directly linked to stress, you may still experience an increase in discomfort if your spouse isn’t supportive. Part of the reason for this is because pain is based on perception. In a study of more than 50 couples, it was discovered that when one spouse reacted negatively to the other’s back pain, the person with back pain reported an increase in pain. An unsupportive spouse may affect his or her partner’s perception of pain by:
- Dismissing the pain as not being real
- Constantly criticizing the partner
- Reacting with hostility or resentment when the partner complains of back pain
Making Lifestyle Changes
It’s not possible to avoid every source of stress in your life. However, when your main source of stress comes from home life with your partner, there are steps worth considering. Some couples benefit from marriage counseling. If chronic back pain is the primary cause of issues between you and your spouse, it may help to bring your spouse with you to your doctors’ appointments so he or she can develop a better understanding of your condition. You may also benefit from taking steps to enhance your home life with your spouse by:
- Talking things out calmly when tensions arise
- Establishing ground rules that include an agreement not to yell or resort to name-calling
- Suggesting a few things your spouse can do to keep you from straining your back (e.g. helping with the laundry, doing the yard work, reaching for items on higher shelves when you are cooking together)
- Attending a support group with couples who are managing similar situations
If you haven’t received a positive diagnosis of the likely cause of your back pain, schedule an appointment with a Beverly Hills spine surgeon. When back pain becomes chronic it can have a serious impact on daily life, which may contribute to marital tensions. Since back pain is often affected by certain lifestyle choices, making changes to your diet, exercise routine, and sleep habits may also ease your back pain and relieve some of your stress.
Contact The Spine Institute today to schedule an in-person evaluation and find out if you might need a minimally-invasive procedure such as laminectomy back surgery. Beverly Hills residents can call our office at 310-828-7757.