Can Stress Cause Back Pain?

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Back pain is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and it can be caused by various factors, including physical injuries, poor posture, and underlying health conditions. However, one often overlooked but significant factor that can contribute to back pain is stress. 

While stress is often thought of as an emotional or mental state, it can also have physiological effects on the body like chronic muscle tension, which can result in back pain. 

In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between stress and back pain, delve into the impact of stress on back health, and discuss strategies to reduce stress and relieve chronic back pain caused by stress. If you’ve ever wondered whether stress could be a culprit behind your back pain and what you can do about it, read on to learn more.

Can Stress Cause Back Pain?

Yes, stress can indeed cause back pain. Stress can manifest in the body as physical symptoms, including muscle tension. Chronic stress has been linked to various physical health issues, including musculoskeletal pain, and back pain is commonly reported by individuals experiencing high levels of stress. 

Studies published in reputable journals have found that stress is a significant predictor of low back pain among adults and that stress may exacerbate existing back pain symptoms and impact or affect an individual’s ability to cope with pain.

Also, chronic stress can impact the nervous system, leading to muscle tension, inflammation, and other physiological changes that contribute to back pain. The nervous system plays a critical role in how the body responds to stress, and prolonged stress can lead to patterns of tension and pain in the neck, spine, and back.

Common Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain commonly presents with localized pain or discomfort in the lower, middle, or upper back, which may be dull, achy, or sharp. Pain can worsen with certain movements and be accompanied by stiffness, muscle tension, or spasms. Other associated symptoms of back pain may include limited range of motion, difficulty in standing or sitting for prolonged periods, reduced physical activity, fatigue, disrupted sleep, changes in mood, and radiating pain to other areas of the body with tingling, numbness, or weakness. The severity and duration of physical pain symptoms can vary, and a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional is essential for appropriate management.

What does it mean if your back hurts out of nowhere?

If your back hurts suddenly and unexpectedly, it could be due to a variety of factors, such as muscle strain from sudden movement or lifting, poor posture, or even an underlying health condition. It’s important to pay attention to the severity and duration of the pain, as well as any accompanying symptoms, and consider seeking medical advice if the pain persists or worsens. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help identify the root cause of the sudden back pain and guide appropriate management strategies for relief.

The Impact of Stress on Back Health

Stress can significantly impact back health by triggering the release of “stress hormones” like cortisol and adrenaline. This can result in muscle tension, stiffness, soreness, and limited mobility in the back due to chronic muscle tightening.

Chronic stress is caused by an impaired stress response in the body, also known as a dysregulated nervous system. Nervous system dysregulation causes the body to release stress hormones at an increased rate, causing the body to be in a constant state of hypervigilance, also known as “fight-or-flight mode”, which can create patterns of tension in other muscles throughout the body. This chronic tension can lead to muscle knots, trigger points, and muscle imbalances that can worsen existing back issues.

In addition to the physical effects, stress can also have mental and emotional impacts. Chronic stress can increase anxiety and depression, and hinder coping mechanisms, which can further impact back health. Poor posture, decreased physical activity, and neglect of self-care due to stress can contribute to back pain and discomfort.

How Do You Relieve Chronic Back Pain Caused by Stress?

Stress is a common trigger for chronic back pain, and short-term remedies can provide temporary relief, but addressing the root cause of stress is crucial for long-term healing. 

Short-term remedies can include:

  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Engaging in moderate exercise
  • Stretching
  • Using a heating pad
  • Receiving a massage
  • Taking warm baths with Epsom salts
  • Avoiding stimulants
  • Taking breaks from prolonged computer use 

These remedies can provide relief by promoting relaxation, improving blood pressure and flexibility, releasing muscle tension, and reducing inflammation. However, they only provide temporary relief and do not address the underlying sources of stress that are causing back pain. 

While these short-term remedies can provide relief, it is important to focus on long-term solutions as well, such as addressing the underlying cause of chronic stress – a dysregulated nervous system. The nervous system plays a critical role in how the body responds to stress, and chronic stress can lead to dysregulation in the nervous system, resulting in patterns of tension and pain in the neck and back. Fortunately, regulating the nervous system and healing our body’s stress response is something we are all capable of doing!

One of the key benefits of nervous system regulation is that it goes beyond symptom management and addresses the underlying cause of stress-related back pain. By targeting the nervous system dysregulation that often causes chronic stress, the program aims to provide long-term relief rather than just temporary symptom relief. This approach focuses on healing the nervous system and addressing the root cause of the pain, which can lead to sustained relief and improved overall well-being.

Our affordable, world-class program The Nervous System Solution focuses on regulating the nervous system and releasing patterns of tension in the neck and back, providing healing on a deeper level. This program takes a comprehensive approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and emotions in the experience of stress-related back pain. Through a combination of techniques, the program aims to regulate the nervous system, reducing overall stress levels and accompanying physical symptoms.


All in all, stress can indeed exacerbate back problems and lead to chronic pain. It is important to be aware of the many different symptoms of back pain and how they can affect your day-to-day life. Furthermore, since stress can play a key role in making these issues worse, it is essential that any individual experiencing severe or chronic back discomfort make sure to address their mental health as well as physical health.

While short-term remedies can provide temporary relief, addressing the root cause of stress-related back pain is crucial for long-term healing. Healing the body’s response to stress by regulating the nervous system can provide sustained relief. By prioritizing long-term solutions and developing strategies to regulate your body’s stress response, individuals can manage stress-related back pain more effectively and improve their overall health and vitality.

If you’d like to get started on your journey of building a flexible, thriving nervous system and alleviating symptoms such as chronic neck and back pain, please click here to learn more.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.