Stress and lower back pain / sciatica

Stress can definitely increase lower back pain and sciatica.

If you think of pain as an alarm system (which – from an evolutionary perspective – it certainly is), then it isn’t surprising that stress/anxiety can increase your pain.  The pain pathways in your nervous system are intrinsically linked with the emotional centers deep in your hind-brain.  So, if your emotional systems are stressed this excites the pain pathways, meaning that if you have a history of pain, that pain is more likely to be worse in times of stress.

Think of the whole system as an interconnected system of electrical circuits.  If there’s more background electrical activity in the system, the trigger point for your pain will be lowered.  That’s why when you have long-term pain and anxiety you are more likely to have pain when the temperature changes.  Any additional change in your environment is detected by your nervous system and can trigger a change in brain activity which in turn may be enough to trigger your pain pathways to start firing, or to fire more.  Essentially your whole system is more sensitive, and this is signaled to you by pain.

So, if you’re wondering why your pain seems to come and go for no good reason, think about the other things going on in your life – it’s often not just mechanical factors that can lead to more back pain, but emotional ones.

However you’re experiencing pain, the good news is that we can work it out, and there’s an answer.  It may not be a quick fix, but it’s better than “managing” your pain.  Give us a ring, book online or email us


About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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