Patients with anxiety are often ignored by family, friends and medical experts when they complain of physical symptoms, but there is a valid connection between anxiety disorders and chronic pain. Pain is a mind and body problem that merits addressing, whether it is associated with anxiety or not. There are a number of ways in which anxiety can cause back pain.
Brain Chemistry and Increased Sensitivity
People with anxiety and other stress disorders like depression are often more sensitive to pain sensations than others. This debunks the myth that the pain is “all in their heads,” although it does originate in the brain.
The neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine also come into play. They regulate emotional signals and inhibit minor pain signals from being sent to the brain from parts of the body. Deficiencies of these neurotransmitters would result both in emotional instability and an increase in the very real sensation of pain.
While it is uncertain whether anxiety and other stress disorders are wholly attributable to brain chemistry abnormalities, it is known that these conditions involve such abnormalities.
Anxiety Creating Situational Pain
Those with anxiety and chronic pain are more likely to limit their activities than those without anxiety. Perceived disability and fear of further pain understandably inhibit activity levels, yet an increasingly sedentary lifestyle is often responsible for worsening chronic pain conditions.
One of the keys to recovering from nearly any type of back pain is maintaining cardiovascular and muscular fitness, and even increasing them. Exercise therapy is one of the most effective conservative treatments for back pain caused by arthritis, disc damage, muscular injury or spinal misalignment. When muscle tone decreases, the core muscle group is less able to support the upper body in proper posture and the spine in alignment. Decreased cardiovascular health reduces the amount of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood that flows to the injured areas of the back, which inhibits healing. For those with chronic pain, anxiety surrounding activity can make pain worse.
The fight or flight response of the brain is useful when you’re facing an external threat, but when you don’t need to fend off a predator or run for you life it can do more harm than good. Emotional stressors like anxiety trigger this response. When the brain is in fight or flight mode, it sends signals to the muscles of the body to prepare for work. Muscles tense up in preparation, and for those with chronic anxiety, chronic muscle tension can develop.
People who have panic attacks experience severe, acute muscle tension in the chest and back that often mimics pain associated with a heart attack. Unlike heart attack symptoms, the pain from panic attacks usually lasts about 10 minutes and is accompanied by intense fear. Panic attacks are often triggered by a stressful event or thought.
Relieving back pain linked to anxiety requires a mind and body approach. Though medication is the conventional first line of attack against anxiety disorders, there are natural alternatives to drugs. Unless your anxiety is posing a threat to your life or crippling your ability to perform daily tasks, it is best to first seek out natural treatments. The following techniques may help you to relieve both anxiety and the physical pain that often accompanies it:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Body awareness/Conscious muscle relaxation
Anxiety treatment and back pain treatment go hand-in-hand. There are natural and safe ways to relieve both your mental and physical pain. For more information on physical symptoms of anxiety disorders, see http://www.npadnews.com.