Stress. It’s an epidemic here in America. We all suffer from it at some point, and we have all read about the negative effects stress can have on our bodies. Depression, decreased energy levels, hormonal changes, increased fat storage, even early death are all results of the ravages of chronic stress on our bodies.
Unfortunately, our backs are not immune to the effects of stress either.
Stress can cause muscles to tense up, greatly restricting blood flow. When these tense muscles start to go into spasm, it can cause pain. Pinching in the shoulder, stiffness in the lower back, an inability to turn your neck – all these symptoms can be a direct result of stress on the spinal column.
Muscles that are already tense are also significantly less capable of even mild lifting or sitting too long. The prolonged reduction in blood flow to the muscles can cause the muscles to weaken, leaving them more susceptible to injury and trauma. Stress can also has a negative impact on joint health, and can make rheumatoid arthritis worse as stress can increase the inflammatory response to injury or disease.
So what can you do to keep your back, and the rest of your body, healthy and strong? Living life means living with a certain amount of stress. Escaping it entirely may be impossible. But becoming cognizant of what triggers your stress reaction, what your stress levels are, and taking steps to decrease high stress can make a huge difference in your back, and in the rest of your body.
Probably one of the most important things you can do is simply move. Exercise is a proven stress reducer, one that you can do almost anywhere and anytime, and has profound positive implications for your body, mind and emotions. Exercising every day creates an outlet for high stress, decreasing stress levels in your body, and releasing endorphins, making your mood lighter.
Meditation or even just some deep restful breathing when you feel stressed can help. Lifestyle changes from changing your job to shortening your commune can also have a positive impact on stress levels.
Learning how to cope with and moderate your stress response will go a long way toward keeping your body and your back healthy and strong.