Why stress is hurting your back

April 12, 2017

Many back pain sufferers don’t consider stress to be a primary reason for their pain, but there is quite often a direct correlation. Anxiety from stress triggers the stress response of “fight or flight,” which increases muscle tension, often causing back pain.

“Patients will tell me about all the positive things they are doing for their health, but neglect to mention certain events in their lives that are causing them extreme stress,” says Dr. Todd Sinett, a chiropractor in our center. “When I observe signs of stress in patients, I send them for stress management counseling with Mike Lodish. Mike is able to evaluate their stress level both emotionally as well as physiologically with the use of biofeedback devices that measure nervous system activity related to their stress response.”


Sinett (pictured) explains that our muscles should naturally contract and then relax. But when our bodies stay stressed for a long period of time, our muscles aren’t able to relax, which creates more tension—to the point where we have spasms and pain.


To counteract this constant tension, Mike educates his clients about therapeutic breathing techniques, mindfulness-based practices, and how to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. It sounds elementary, but once clients implement stress-reducing habits as part of their daily routine; he finds a large majority are freed from their nagging back pain within a few weeks.

“My clients are often surprised at just how elevated their stress level is based on what I observe and measure from my initial assessment,” says Mike. “When they learn to identify and become more aware of their stress triggers, they are better able to manage them. It gives them both confidence and awareness to better control their situational stress response, and in accepting what is actually within their control and what is not.”


Dr. Robert Shire, another one of the chiropractors in our office, believes that getting into the right mindset daily is an excellent way to keep stress at bay.

“Laugh. Take a morning walk. Listen to music. These are all little things that really add up over the long run,” he says. “Being located in midtown Manhattan, we witness every day how stress affects our patients. But it’s how you deal with it that matters the most.”

Aside from our emotional health, we must also balance our bodies physically.

“Most people that are significantly impacted by stress don’t even know it,” says Dr. Vicki Seidenberg, our center’s physiatrist. “They don’t realize that when stress takes over, parts of our bodies are traumatized. And when one part of the body is not functioning well that causes other parts of the body to be limited too. It’s our job to pinpoint your misalignments and weaknesses in order to get your entire body to function optimally.”

Dr. Carmen Bosch, one of our internal medicine doctors, regularly sees patients that are being harmed by stress. She first does a detailed exam to rule out any medical reasons for back pain such as a structural or inflammatory issue. Once all the possible medical red flags are properly addressed, Dr. Bosch considers referring to one of her center’s colleagues. She’s grateful to be part of an integrated healthcare practice.

“Having on-site options to refer a patient for stress management, nutritional counseling or treatment from a chiropractor is extremely helpful,” she says. “Being in a holistic environment and a part of a community of healers is invaluable in providing the best healthcare possible, which importantly includes treating the health consequences related to stress.”



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