Work factors
Stress

It is nearly impossible not to experience any stress in the modern western world. It is part of normal life however if the stress is sustained for a long time, your body can start to suffer. Read the download for more detailed information. 

 

 

 

 

How to address stress? 

There is no simple answer because everyone will prefer a different method. However any activity that will make you feel more relaxed is the one for you. It could be one of the following: 

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness

  • Deep breathing

  • Listening to relaxing music

  • Making a gratitude list

  • Going to church

  • Singing or playing an instrument

  • Reading

  • Cooking

  • Having a bath

  • Or anything else that you will enjoy and it will relax you

Working is good for our health. However what if you don't enjoy your job, what if you hate your boss, what if it's not fulfilling, what if you don't get on with your co-workers, what if you are overloaded with work, what if you don't have time for your family, what if you want to be doing something else?

These are only some of the factors that can create tension, low satisfaction, stress and hate. All of these factors can have an effect on your health!

 

Here are the main factors that predict chronic back pain:

  • Low job satisfaction

  • Low job support

  • Low decision control

  • Work stress

  • High demands

  • Poor relationship with boss and colleagues

 

Look at the job-strain model here

 

How to address these?

It may be difficult to directly address these factors unless you quit your job but that is often not possible. 

Therefore actually becoming aware of the things that you dislike and asking yourself more about these could bring up some answers. Realising that you may have some stored stress or tension is half of the success. Then you either need to change the environment (harder and longer option) or change how you look at the situation (good and easier short-term option).

Our minds become cluttered with all sorts of thoughts about the past, present and future. We are constantly thinking and processing information, perceiving and behaving on that basis.

 

If we think negatively, these thoughts can contribute towards our feelings of pressure and stress. Therefore, performing mental hygiene aims to get rid of negative unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. Why think them if they don’t do you any good? Try to shift your focus, practice selected attention. What do you think most of the time? Good thoughts or bad thoughts? What do you feel when you experience these opposing thoughts?

 

There is an established link between thoughts and emotions and behaviour. Thus we could argue that this is all important for thinking about painful experiences. Do you think about all the things you cannot do and aren’t able to do because of your back pain? This thinking is unlikely to lead you to beneficial actions that could reduce your pain. So just think about what you think. Assimilate all the information, filter it and try to use only the most positive and beneficial thoughts you can find. 

 

What can I learn from this? De-clutter your mind and your thoughts. Take control over what you think and feel. Of course it’s not always possible but just by realising the impact it can have you will become more aware and make small changes day by day. This can add up and lead to a cleaner focus, brighter attention and happier thinking. So practice your mental hygiene, whenever and wherever you can. No one will know. 

Have you ever seen a happy person with back pain? 

People with back pain (or really we could say any unpleasant pain) display emotional distress although it often comes as a consequence of the pain and disability. 

The question is, can pre-existing distress be a risk factors for developing back pain? 

There have been many attempts to answer this cause and effect relationship. Indeed, there is some evidence that psychological distress can be a predictor of back pain however the effects are small and increases the risk only by about 5-10%. It may be that with increased distress, people are more likely to report symptoms and pain. Mental stress has been shown to predict non-specific back pain and not spinal pathology such as disk prolapse. So we could look at this positively and argue that since the vast majority (95%) of

back pain is “non-specific” and is not explained purely by physical factors, it is mainly the psychosocial factors that play a key role and may even be the strongest predictors in this group of people. In summary, emotional distress appears to be a risk factor although it seems likely that this influences how people react to pain and psychological factors influence sickness absence and the development of chronic pain. 

So what can you learn from this? In today’s evolving medical world it is easy to forget about the significance of our emotions and distress. Where the conventional medical approach is unable to provide a definite cause, we must acknowledge the impact of our individual emotional distress. Did we notice this before our pain started? Or has it developed as a consequence and now it drives the stress-pain relationship even further? Does stress make your pain worse? If so, would it be worth it trying to reduce the stress and see how this impacts on your pain? 

 

Mental hygiene
Emotional distress

Addressing co-factors

 

 

Anxiety and depression
Lifestyle balance

If you have tried all the conventional physical treatments and you are still experiencing pain, then we can look deeper into the psychological and social influences. Therefore, the focus here will be all about your lifestyle. It is difficult for me to write personalised advice for each one of you but please read with an open mind and really ask yourself, which factors resonate with you and which ones are relevant to you. The aim is to give you control over your health because despite what biological markers we have in our bodies, they are likely to stay there, but what is empowering, is knowing that all those other factors (and believe there are many) are all under your control and your decision-making! 

 

 Numerous scientific papers speak about the Biopsychosocial model. This attempts to explain how physical and psychological processes interact. The main clinical elements are: physical dysfunction, beliefs and coping, distress, illness behaviour and social interactions. This model is more proof that back pain is not purely a physical phenomenon and that we must look deeper at the other factors such as:

  • Total lifestyle balance (stress vs relaxation)

  • Work

  • Emotional distress

  • Exercise and activities

  • Relaxation and mindfulness

  • Diet

  • Mental hygiene

Anxiety and depression are common predisposing factors for long-term back pain and disability. 

 

There is a link between depression and physical symptoms. In fact quite often physical aches and pains are the symptoms one can present with in depression and it can be difficult to diagnose depression for this reason.  

 

Physical pain and depression have a biological link: the neurotransmitters which influence pain and mood are very often deregulated in these conditions. That is why anti-depressants are prescribed as they work on these neurotransmitters. Read more below:

 

 

Involvement in litigation
Recommended reading

When it comes to pain, it is never the same for each person and it is rarely ever just due to one physical factor. Therefore it is important to identify what is going on in your life also emotionally and whether some stressful issues need to be deal with. It is a normal part of life to have stresses and problems but it is much more important to deal with them correctly.

Being involved in litigation can also be a risk factor for developing chronic pain. Why? This can happen for several reasons. If you had a traumatic accident, then it is difficult to forget about it and move on when you constantly have to recall the negative past experience. You can be in a constant state of fear/anxiety or other unpleasant emotions mentally and physically. Also being involved in litigation is stressful for most people. Questions going on through your mind can include: Will they believe me? Won't they think I am making it up? Will I get the compensation I deserve? How do I prove to them how much I am suffering? You are likely to seek justice for all the right reasons however this process can take years until the case is closed and by then, your body might be habituated to a constant feeling of stress, fear or depression.

 

So what is the solution? 

Well if you are involved in the medico-legal process, do your best to not take it personally! Let the solicitors deal with this while you make time for yourself and focus on getting better because that is the most important thing.