Chronic Back Pain and Mental Health Closely Tied 

 May 6, 2021

By  Janessa Gazmen

Manage Back Pain with Mental Health Strategies

Suffering with chronic pain can be soul-destroying and can affect so many aspects of one’s life. The discomfort that sometimes starts off as a whisper, only to become a scream can impact a person’s mental health in so many ways. Not only does back pain affect our mobility, it can influence our sleep patterns, our mental wellness, and our relationships.

The Research: It Goes Both Ways

The effects of constant pain sound intense, and those who live with it know just how debilitating it can be. Chronic pain might seem invisible, but sufferers understand the stress, helplessness, and fatigue that accompany it. Research has shown that those with chronic pain are four times more likely to have depression, fear, anxiety, and less sleep than those who are pain-free. The duration of pain one experiences, and the intensity at which they experience it is tied to mental wellness. This is a well-known fact, given the amount of research dedicated to it.
What is emerging are findings that not only does back pain affect one’s mental health, but also that mental health can also affect one’s back pain. “Studies have shown that when untreated, depression can worsen physical symptoms, lower pain threshold, and even escalate the intensity of pain.” People with depression, stress, and anxiety tend to be more sensitive to pain.
Unfortunately, this means that pain leads to greater mental health issues, and mental health issues lead to increased pain, turning into a vicious cycle of suffering that may seem inescapable.

The Body Doesn’t Forget

Researchers, health care practitioners and alternative therapists alike, all agree that stress is a major factor contributing to back pain. The more stress in one’s life, the increased prevalence of back pain. For many, stress presents itself as muscle tension which leads to chronic pain due to repressed and trapped emotions in areas of the body. Louise Hay talks more about this in her book Heal Your Body: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness. She reminds us that if we listen carefully, our bodies will tell us where our issues lie before they become chronic.
Fortunately, there are therapies that can be very helpful with back pain. Mental wellness practices can help manage chronic pain by decreasing any vulnerabilities due to beliefs or attitudes. Changing how you perceive pain with stress-management techniques are readily available and accessible.

Ways to Heal with Mental Health Practices

Listen to your body. Be a friend to it. Many times, we don’t even know it, but our body is speaking to us and is giving constant feedback. It’s telling us what it needs to keep healthy, comfortable, and happy. The problem is that we’ve been taught to ignore what our bodies are saying. When we are in tune with what our body is saying, we will know what it needs and when; allowing us to better prevent injuries. 

We designed the crisis pose with paced breathing to help listen to our inner cues and to alleviate intense discomfort.
Progressive muscle relaxation. A mindfulness technique known as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) has been effectively used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and reduce chronic pain. It's a great practice especially for those resistant to more traditional mindfulness and meditation. In this practice one tenses a group of muscles on the in-breath and relaxes them on the out-breath. When your body is physically relaxed, anxiety melts away.
Try this full body guided relaxation.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The treatment with the greatest supporting evidence for all chronic pain syndromes, is mindfulness. MBSR can help to reduce back pain and improve emotional control. This technique improves anxiety and depressive symptoms as well.

Ways to Heal with Recovery Exercises

Our well-being is a result of our daily habits. Every day, every moment, every movement is an opportunity to make or break your body. Mend My Back programs are designed to help develop resilience. The human body was designed to move. Mend My Back Programs offer:
Right Mindset. Much of what one experiences is through their own lens. The mind is powerful. Align your mindset with your objectives and actions.
Strong Core. Imagine your body is a chain. Your weakest link is the one that wears down or breaks the fastest. We strive to balance chain links to improve power, strength, and resilience.
Proper Movement. Every minute of every day, a part of you moves. Many of those habitual movements go against keeping the body fit and healthy. Learn these simple rules and enjoy a richer life.

Remember that your mental well-being is intrinsically tied to the health of your body. Recognizing and honouring the mind-body connection is critical especially when dealing with chronic pain. Check out Mend My Back to receive back care resources from some of the best back care experts.

Janessa Gazmen

Janessa is a devoted yoga teacher, meditation guide, and life-long seeker. For over a decade, she has guided yoga and meditation for diverse populations - from the elderly and chronically ill; to young children, families, and pre/post-natal moms. Working at health and wellness companies has reinforced her holistic approach to well-being, which is deeply rooted in the mind, body, and spirit connection. What inspires her most is the ability to create unique content that empowers people to take their health and wellness into their own hands.

Janessa Gazmen

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