There are 3 ways that stress causes lower back pain

Photo: Larm Rmah

Photo: Larm Rmah

  1. When we go into the stress response, our bodies literally prepare to fight or flight. This engages the psoas, a muscle deep within the pelvis that connects the lower back (L4-L5 is maximal contraction point) to the femur (or upper legs). This contraction lowers our center of gravity, protects the gut region, and engages the core so that we can either fight, run, or roll into a ball and go fetal. If you’ve ever felt like you’re going to miss a step of the stairs, you’ve felt the automatic reaction of the psoas nearly pulling you into a ball. This reaction happens even during normal life in a micro way. Tight back during traffic, yup! The psoas also tightens the entire abdominal sac, resulting in a tight diaphragm, which constricts our breathing.
  2. When we go through a stress response, we start decreasing the depth and fullness of our breath. We are consciously or subconsciously trying to be silent to avoid detection. (Pay attention next time you’re stressed during a meeting. Chances are, your breathing has changed.) This reduced breath interferes with the body’s ability to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body. CO2 is acidic. The breath is the primary mechanism for maintaining a proper acid/alkaline balance in the body. When the body is not excreting acid through the breath, a backup system using the kidneys is used. The kidneys go into overdrive to restore the balance. The kidneys are in the lower back.
  3. When we get stressed, our brain sends signals to pump adrenaline through the body. The adrenals, which produce and pump adrenaline, are in the lower to mid back. Stress puts the adrenals into overdrive, pushing them to limits.

Unfortunately, stress continues to spiral, cyclically getting worst unless the cycle is interrupted. The more stressed we get, the shallower our breathing becomes. That then physiologically puts the body into a more stressed mode (no oxygen) and interrupts necessary housecleaning functions, such as maintaining a good acid/alkaline balance.

 

This post originally appeared on Medium.