It is well documented that chronic stress can be damaging to our bodies, affecting bodily systems such as the respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and even reproductive systems. But did you know that chronic stress also impacts the musculoskeletal system negatively?
The Mechanism Of Stress In PainWhen stressful situations arise, the body’s response to protect against harm or injury is to tense, or tighten the muscles. This is an automatic reflex response, and once the stressful situation has passed muscle tension will generally ease. However, in the case of chronic ongoing stress the muscles will often remain in a tensed state. This can lead to a range of conditions presenting as movement dysfunction, muscular weakness, pain and general discomfort. It is not uncommon as a result of chronic stress to experience headaches, migraines, neck, back or shoulder pain.
The Progression Of Pain Related To StressThere is often a cycle of pain as the patient becomes limited in function. Sometimes they are unable to complete normal daily activities for fear of pain. As it progresses movement and physical activity decrease and muscular strength decreases. This can further exacerbate pain and the cycle; without intervention it can continue in this downward spiral. Using back pain as an example as a result of chronic stress, symptoms may present as:
- Restriction in mobility and flexibility
- Regular, and sometimes constant back pain, stiffness or soreness
- Back pain, stiffness or soreness after activity
- Stiffness or pain after completing normal daily activities
- Muscular spasm, especially of the muscles around the spine