Could Stress Be Causing Your Back Pain?
It’s not an esoteric belief or a mysterious twilight-zone connection; it’s a well-known medical fact: when we tense up psychologically, we tense up physically. And with prolonged tension, our muscles seize up and remain in their contracted position. It would be one thing if this meant we were just doomed to get shorter (which is the case), but in addition to shrinking from stress, we end up with back pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, TMJ, migraines, and more.
The mechanics of this uncomfortable process are simple: when we perceive a situation as a threat, our body switches in to fight or flight (sympathetic) mode. In this mode, our skeletal muscles contract in preparation to either run or engage in combat. Over a long period of stress exposure, these muscles forget how to extend out to their original length and instead remain crunched up, contorting our spine or other parts of our body in awkward ways.
In response, our posture changes: we slump, our shoulders roll in, our head bows forward. While some muscles remain tightened and overworked, others grow weak from lack of use. And, despite the fact that our body has adapted itself to this new, muscularly contracted state, it’s not happy—and it lets us know this through pain.
Each person’s body holds stress in a slightly different way. From some people, the muscles in their lower back, knees, and hips tense the most, generating chronic pain in these areas or sharp pains while performing simple, day-to-day activities. Even sitting for extended periods of time can trigger aches and pains.
For others, their shoulder and neck muscles may constrict the most when they’re under stress. Still others experience jaw, forehead, or other facial muscle contractions (think: clenching the jaw), which put pressure on the eyes, teeth, sinuses, and back of the head, leading to TMJ, migraines, headaches, and more.
For years people have sought out massage therapists and other body workers to help loosen these tight muscles, work out knots, and relieve chronic structural pain. Now, with yoga for back pain, more and more people are beginning to take their bodies into their own hands, so to speak: through regular yoga, those suffering from stress-tightened muscles can work with their bodies to gain lasting relief.
When an individual repeatedly stretches his or her body’s muscles through back pain yoga, back aches and other chronic discomforts fade away as the anatomy returns to its natural alignment. In addition, yoga for back pain helps strengthen the body’s muscles in a balanced way to promote healthy posture and support the spine. Different poses will target different areas; lower back yoga poses can provide relief from lumbar pain, and postures that stretch out the neck and shoulders can relieve tension headaches.
Over time, regular yoga for back pain will also increase the body’s range of motion, strength, and overall health. Those who use yoga for back pain find that the practice doesn’t just take away the suffering; it adds a new level of well being too.
On top of addressing the physical problems of accumulated stress, regular back pain yoga practice helps center the mind and establish an inner peace that allows individuals to face stressful situations with greater clarity and calm. As a result, yoga for back pain does more than just relieve the body’s stress: it helps prevent it from accumulating.