Dr. Brandon Claflin on How Stress Management Can Encourage Spine Health

We all know stress isn’t good for the body in general, but today we’ll narrow it down to talking about how stress affects your spine.

Reviewing this information isn’t just beneficial for those with active spine problems. It’s also for those concerned with helping support their spines in good times and in bad. Reading more about how to better manage stress can have enormous positive benefits that may surprise you. 

5 ways stress management can impact spine health

1. Stress can affect sleep health

When anxious, it is easy for racing thoughts to take over while you’re trying to sleep. As many unfortunately know, tossing and turning while trying to calm your mind and ease your anxiety often leads to landing in awkward positions in a desperate effort to try and fall asleep. These positions can put extra pressure on your spine that it does not need.

For example, back sleeping can contribute to spinal discomfort. Sleeping on the side, especially with a pillow beneath the legs, can help. 

Proper positioning is associated with better sleep and waking in a more comfortable, ready-to-see-the-world mode. Your spine is what supports your body, so the less it has to bear, the better.

2. Stress can increase muscle tension

Generally, there is a difference between muscle pain and spine pain. However, chances are you’ve noticed when stress levels rise, your muscles start to feel tight. When your muscles tense up, they can put uncomfortable pressure on your spine

Reducing anxiety can mean less muscle tension, which — in turn — can decrease the level of pressure your spine feels as a result.

3. Stress can contribute to inflammation 

Increased levels of inflammation in the body can be one of the unfortunate effects of chronic stress. Considering it occurs throughout the body, this also involves the spine. 

Stress is associated with the release of the hormone cortisol. Prolonged exposure to cortisol can lead to a rise in inflammation. When you make a conscious effort to lower your stress levels, you are also putting in the work to hopefully lessen inflammation and improve spine health.

4. Stress can lead to distraction

Naturally, using a cell phone could decrease our situational awareness, but science also suggests that stress can be related to slips and falls. 

When you’re out and about, trying to get to and from your destination safely, distress could get in the way — almost literally. Recent research found that stress can trigger the neurohormonal response, making us more likely to fall down. 

So, what does this have to do with spine health?

It can take one bad fall to negatively impact your spine. Now, this isn’t to say that feeling stress-free will eliminate your chances of tripping, slipping, and/or falling. However, anything you can do to decrease the chances of that happening in the first place is worth making the effort. One of those ways is lowering your stress levels. 

5. Improved posture while sitting and standing

Stress can lead to poor posture while sitting and standing. For instance, you may slouch more often or slump forward. Bad posture isn’t a friend to the back, including the spine. 

While we can all try to be more aware of our general posture, can we also try to reduce the amount of nervousness we experience? 

For example, try to stand up straight and keep your shoulders back. While this is better on its own, decreased stress levels can be such a welcome change.

Let’s talk about how to improve our stress management:

How to improve stress management

The unfortunate truth is that we are all going to experience fluctuating stress levels throughout our lives. Luckily, it’s how we manage that stress that matters. 

Despite all the major stressors in the world, keeping worries at a manageable level is (more often than not) not an impossible task. Eating healthy foods, speaking to a mental health professional, getting more (quality) sleep, and exercising regularly are four ways (albeit not always easy) to have a better handle on stress. 

More relaxation can also be a wonderful thing. While there is no one-size-fits-all magic cure to decreasing stress, all we can do is not be afraid to ask for help when we need it and see the solutions through. 

Stress management and spine health: Last thoughts

There are a number of reasons why it’s worth it for all of us to better manage our stress levels, and improving our spine health is one of them. It can be a vicious cycle, considering anxiety could lead to spinal issues, and spinal problems can result in added stress. Oklahoma Interventional Spine & Pain can be there for you when you need us the most. Let’s talk about how we can improve your spine health for the short- and long-term.