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Stress and Back Pain: How to Use Relaxation to Control Pain

Stress and Back Pain: How to Use Relaxation to Control Pain

Krystal Chambers, MD

One thing that I try to do each day is relax. However, that’s easier said than done. As a mom and busy physician, it seems like time is flying by faster each year, making managing all that daily stress difficult. A 2010 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association even determined that excessive stress is becoming a public health crisis!

We have known for a long time that stress isn’t just about our mental health; it can affect our physical bodies as well, often being associated with conditions like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, headaches and even gastrointestinal problems. In my practice, I see how stress affects my patient’s neck and back pain daily, often exacerbating their symptoms. Below, you can find some tips on how you can use relaxation as a pain control method to combat stress and back pain.

Relaxation Techniques

If you’re like me, sometimes just looking for more ways to relax can stress me out! The truth is that there’s no one perfect way to relax; different techniques will work better for different people. Your favorite hobby could be a good way to relax, whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, going for a hike or just sitting down to watch a movie.

While those are all great ways to relax, they don’t work for everyone. Here are a few more active methods of relaxation you can use to reduce your stress levels:

Breathing Exercises

This technique has been used for thousands of years to slow the heart rate and get your body to physically relax. Take a deep breath, hold it for four counts, then exhale for four. Repeat this ten times, and your heart rate will slow down, helping you feel less stressed.

Guided Imagery

Go to your happy place; mine is the beach! With guided imagery, you imagine scenery that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Try to be as vivid as possible while you breathe slowly and deeply. You should feel more relaxed after a few minutes in your happy place. For me, thinking of a long walk on the beach, warm sunshine on my face and hearing the waves hit the sand helps me relax.


For centuries, yogis and monks have used meditation to attain inner peace. To see if meditation will work for you, try this method. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing; try your best to push out any thoughts or pain that are bothering you and continue to focus on your breathing.

Take as long as you need; meditation can take a half hour or more, but you’re bound to feel less stressed when you’re done.

Relaxation as a Pain Control Method

I have found that when patients have learned how to actively relax, they can control physical pain naturally without using pain medications. Not only can relaxation reduce tension in your muscles that cause pain, but it also reduces levels of stress hormones in your bloodstream that make you more acutely aware of pain.

Of course, not all pain can be conquered using the power of the mind, and if you’re feeling pain, it’s usually a sign that something else could be wrong. If you’re experiencing acute pain, it’s best to speak to a doctor about it before you rely on meditation and breathing exercises. If your pain isn’t caused by something more serious, ask your doctor if relaxation techniques could work for you. Chances are, they’ll tell you that it never hurts to relax. I hope you can do your best not to worry so much; you might find that a little relaxation is all you need. If your pain continues to persist, the physicians at Resurgens Spine Center are here to help you get back to doing what you love!

Krystal W. Chambers, M.D., received her medical degree from Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. She completed her residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her Fellowship in Selective Spinal Injections and Non-operative Spine Care at Georgia Pain Physicians, P.C. in Marietta, Georgia. Dr. Chambers is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and currently serves as the Co-Medical Director of Resurgens Spine Center. Additionally, she is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Physiatric Association of Spine, Sports and Occupational Medicine. Dr. Chambers practices at the Resurgens St. Joseph’s/Sandy Springs location.

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