How can I reduce stress to prevent back pain?

To reduce stress, avoid situations that seem to raise your blood pressure or cause you to feel stressed. Stress tightens your muscles, preparing them for the fight-or-flight response. This tightening can make your back ache and can cause a small ache to become a strong pain. When in an unavoidable stressful situation, be especially conscious of your posture and of the usual back-safety tips.

The following are three techniques to help reduce stress:
  1. Breathing: You can release tension by inhaling deeply and then exhaling slowly to a silent count of about six seconds. Do this three times every hour and whenever you feel tense.
  2. Exercise: Take a 10 minute walking break to reduce tension, boost your energy and improve your mood. The effects tend to last for about 1-2 hours.
  3. Calming: Sit quietly, as comfortably as you can, and close your eyes. Relax your muscles, starting with your feet and slowly working toward your head and face. Breathe through your nose, easily and comfortably. As you exhale, silently say a single-syllable word. Do this without interruption for 10-20 minutes. When you are done, sit quietly and keep your eyes closed for a couple of minutes. Open your eyes and sit quietly for another couple of minutes before you get up.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

When we're stressed, we tend to hold a lot of tension in our lower back, which, in turn, can severely exacerbate and prolong back pain.

What you can do:

  • Exercise both to relieve stress and strengthen back muscles.
  • Apply an ointment with camphor and menthol that activates cold receptors and desensitizes heat receptors to decrease pain.
  • Try willow bark: Though it's from the same root as aspirin, willow bark, which is sold at health food stores in capsule form, has been shown to be as effective or even more effective than aspirin and other pain relievers.
  • Get a massage: Massage decreases tension across the shoulders and brings blood flow and oxygen to the area. Thai massage is particularly effective for back pain, because it stretches your body at the same time as you are massaged, teaching your body how to relax and release pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.