Stress and Back Pain

Stress and Back Pain

Topic Overview

Stress is what you feel when you have too much to handle. You may have too much work to do, or you may be having trouble with children or a spouse. If stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can affect your health.

Where do you hold your stress?

We all "hold" stress in different ways. Some people hold stress in their minds. They may worry so much about a problem that they can't think clearly.

If you hold stress in your body, it can affect your back. You may begin to tense your back muscles, which can trigger low back pain or make it worse.

Round and round you go

Stress and low back pain can create a vicious circle. You have back pain, and you begin to worry about it. This causes stress, and your back muscles begin to tense. Tense muscles make your back pain worse, and you worry more ... which makes your back worse ... and so on.

Can you avoid stress?

You'll always have some stress in your life, but you can try to prevent situations that cause stress and change how stress affects you.

Time management

When you don't have enough time, things pile up and stress mounts. Try these tips for managing your time:

  • Focus on what you are doing. Don't juggle too many tasks at one time. Break large projects into smaller ones.
  • Don't try to do everything yourself. Ask others to help you.
  • Rate your tasks by how important and urgent they are. Spend your time doing things that rate high on the list.
  • Make time for yourself. Plan your day so that you have time for something you want to do.
  • Don't put things off. Use the 3 Ds: Deal with it, delegate it, or dump it.


Some behaviours and lifestyle choices can help your body bounce back from stress.

  • Get enough sleep. Your body recovers from stress while you are sleeping.
  • Eat healthy foods. And when you eat, sit down and relax. Avoid too much caffeine.
  • Be active every day. Go for walks, work in the garden, or play with your kids.
  • Don't smoke.

Interacting with others

If you have a lot of stress, tell people about it and ask for help. Look for support from:

  • Family members and friends.
  • People at work or school and people who share your interests.
  • Members or leaders of your church or religious group.
  • Support groups that focus on special situations, such as giving care to someone who has a long-term illness. You can find these groups in your community or on the Internet.
  • Programs offered through your school, job, or community. These could include stress management or time management courses.

Learn to relax

There are lots of ways to help yourself relax. And relaxing can help you manage stress. A counsellor or therapist can help you learn these techniques, but you can also learn them on your own. Some of the techniques you can learn include:

  • Breathing exercises.
  • Guided imagery.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.


Current as of:
July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Robert B. Keller MD - Orthopedics