The answer is: possibly. A connection between stress and lower back pain is far more prevalent than many people would guess. Stress ultimately has a negative impact on your nervous system, causing downstream effects in your musculoskeletal function. But what about everything before that and in between?
Stress and Your Back Pain
When the body experiences stress your adrenal glands are prompted by the hypothalamus (a region of the brain) to release a hormone called cortisol. Many of you may have already heard of cortisol before, it’s a major stress hormone which is linked directly to your “fight or flight” reflex.
While the stress response has served a function throughout our evolutionary history by helping our bodies deal with extreme situations, this survival mechanism can backfire in today’s modern world. If you’re unable to remove the stressors in your life you may end up finding yourself constantly stressed out. Constantly being in a stressed state can begin to cause physiological issues if allowed to persist.
After being stuck in an “on” state for too long your adrenal glands can become fatigued. This impacts the nerves innervating the adrenal glands. This has been known to cause issues particularly around the L3, or third lumbar vertebra of the spine. Issues with the peripheral nerves can begin to occur, causing the muscles innervated by these nerves to contract which can lead to pain and limitations on range of motion.
Physical therapy can help with regaining this range of motion, loosening these muscles, and reducing or eliminating the pain in your lower back. More importantly, you should do whatever you can to help yourself avoid this situation entirely.
It’s vital that you learn to control as many of the stressors in your life as possible in order to reduce the overall stress you feel. Activities such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and even physical therapy itself are known to help reduce stress levels in people.