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For better or worse, stress is present in everyone’s life. There are bills to pay, kids to get to soccer practice, deadlines to meet at work, dinner to cook. And rarely enough time to get everything done, much less unwind and relax. But just because stress is universal doesn’t mean it’s healthy. When left unaddressed, stress doesn’t just weigh heavily on your spirit — it can also wear on your body. Over time, this can lead to physical conditions including spinal pain.
Fortunately, this mind-body connection means when you tend to your emotional health, you can also improve physical discomfort. Achieving whole-person health happens when you value mental and physical health equally. If you experience frequent muscle aches, shooting or stabbing pain, or pain that worsens with bending, lifting or walking, it may be time to consider the ways stress could be contributing to your spinal discomfort.
If It Wears on Your Mind, It Wears on Your Body
When you’re stressed, the body naturally releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Both of these hormones are associated with your body’s “fight or flight” system. When activated, this system elevates your blood pressure, increases blood supply and allows you to protect yourself from physical harm.
While this response may have been useful in life-or-death situations of the past, it can also damage many of your body systems — including your skeleton. Adrenaline causes the muscles around your spine to tense and spasm, leading to pain and discomfort. Increased cortisol levels trigger muscle mass loss and faster fat accumulation, which are both risks for making your spine more vulnerable to injury.
Relive Your Stress to Improve Your Pain
A certain amount of stress is inevitable. But stress shouldn’t mean you get to do less of what you love with the people you love. While it’s clear that stress wears on the body, it can also impede healing — studies show that stress can make treatments less effective. Managing stress is crucial, both to prevent injury and support a successful recovery.
Here are some simple steps you can take every day to not only live more joyfully, but also safeguard your body against injury.
Physical activity is a critical component of whole-person health. It has a two-fold positive effect on wellness: Physical activity strengthens the bones, muscles and immune system, while also releasing feel-good hormones that reduce stress. Whether it’s going for a brisk walk after work, joining a local yoga class or kicking a soccer ball around with your kids, be sure to set aside time in your schedule for daily physical activity.
Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
Consuming a variety of natural, nutrient-rich foods can boost your mood and help your body function more flawlessly. Over time, it also leads to weight loss. Having a lower weight means less pressure on your spine, which lowers your risk of poor posture or injury.
Take Time for Relaxation
In the hustle and bustle of everyday responsibilities, it can feel selfish to make time for yourself. But the adage “fill your cup first” is true: If you don’t value caring for yourself, you won’t be able to care for others as well. Even if it’s just setting aside 30 minutes to devour a chapter of that book you don’t want to put down or 10 minutes for quiet meditation, taking time for yourself can do wonders for your stress levels — and your health.
Treat Your Spinal Pain With Whole-Person Care
Preventive medical care and intentional, routine measures to reduce your stress are critical to a balanced, healthy lifestyle. But sometimes you may need more targeted, specialized care for a spinal issue.
Whether you want to safeguard your wellness or address a current spinal condition, AdventHealth’s got you covered. Our compassionate and skilled nurses, physicians and specialists deliver preventive and innovative spine care, so you can keep living the life you love. Find a spine care doctor you can count on and take the first step toward healing in body, mind and spirit today.