Is stress giving you a backache?

Last Updated 17 May 2013, 13:16 IST

In today’s lifestyle an increasing number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are suffering from stress-induced back pain. Whether it's dull and achy or sharp and stabbing, back pain can make it hard to concentrate on your daily task. A bad day at work or your daily routine tensions can give you backache. 

A recent research suggests, stress actually doesn't cause back pain on its own, but it can drain your health in a number of ways which leads to weaken your immune system, increases your blood pressure, and makes it harder to control your weight because stress often leads to unhealthy food choices. Almost everything you do in your daily routine requires the use of your back, and back problems are rarely the result of a single activity or accident. How you sleep or sit, what you eat, or how you deal with the emotional stresses at home and work. 

In today’s scenario, youngsters, especially those with desk-bound jobs, like call centre employees and corporate culture employees are more prone to the problem. Due to their work load or to meet the deadlines they don’t have time to go out and prefer sitting on computer systems for long hours to complete their work.

There is a lot of competition in every field, especially corporate and MNCs. In this rat race, youngsters neglect fitness and they work long hours, do not take rest and skip meals. All this leads to stress. Also, sitting in one position for long hours strains the back.

Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It raises our blood pressure, increases our breathing rate and heart rate, and causes muscle tension. These things are hard on the body. They can lead to fatigue, sleeping problems, and changes in appetite. Stress-related back pain is thought to relate to this tension. You may have read that back pain can be caused by muscle spasm in the back. This spasm is worsened by tension in the muscles and is a target for interventions such as stretches to the back.

Like other disease there are many ways to beat back pain. Identify the vicious cycle and take action to break it. Key to this is reducing stress levels but also increasing light activity, stretching and other exercises. For many people, stress starts at work.

When trying to make a change at work, thinking beyond just the workload and the obvious psychological stress, ensure you also consider the physical stress of your job. If you work at a desk - ensure you're on a good ergonomic chair, perhaps you need a footrest. Increasingly organisations offer employees the opportunity to take part in fitness or exercise classes.

Take advantage of this when it is available or make your own arrangements. Not everyone may be able to go to the gym in their lunch breaks, but a brisk walk is easy to include in your daily routine. Walk or cycle to work, or when this is not possible take the bus and get off a stop earlier and walk the rest. In the beginning this may all feel a big effort, but once it is part of your daily routine it is a great way of getting some exercise. Staying active and exercising is very important in reducing your chances of developing back pain and many other diseases!

Almost all pain is made worse by stress and back pain in particular can respond to a concerted effort to beat this vicious cycle. Make lots of small changes to your work and lifestyle and you'll be on your way to beating back pain.
(The writer is a medical practitioner)

(Published 17 May 2013, 13:16 IST)

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