Chronic lower back pain (LBP) is directly associated with degree of stress, in a recent  study has found.

Pain is considered chronic once it lasts for more than three months and exceeds the body’s natural healing process. Chronic pain in the low back often involves a disc problem, a joint problem, and/or an irritated nerve root.

A low back sprain or strain can happen suddenly, or can develop slowly over time from repetitive movements.

  • Strains occur when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself.
  • Sprains happen when over-stretching and tearing affects ligaments, which connect the bones together.

For practical purposes, it does not matter whether the muscle or ligament is damaged, as the symptoms and treatment are the same.

Common causes of sprain and strain include:

  • Lifting a heavy object, or twisting the spine while lifting
  • Sudden movements that place too much stress on the low back, such as a fall
  • Poor posture over time
  • Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting or large forces of impact

While sprains and strains do not sound serious and do not typically cause long-lasting pain, the acute pain can be quite severe.

Stress Research

Chronic lower back pain (LBP) is directly associated with degree of stress, a recent Korea study has found.

Drawing from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 cycles of the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES), researchers enrolled 8,437 participants, of whom 357 had chronic LBP; the rest were set as controls. Stress was assessed through the following question in KNHANES: “How much stress do you usually feel in your daily life?”

Multivariate regression analysis adjusted for age and sex found a significant link between mild stress and chronic LBP (odds ratio [OR], 1.57; p<0.001), which increased in magnitude when looking at moderate (OR, 2.74; p<0.001) and severe (OR, 3.26; p<0.001) stress.

The significant and increasing correlation remained after additional model adjustments for environmental factors such as obesity, sleep duration, smoking and alcohol consumption, occupation, physical activity, income, education level, and comorbidities.

Severe stress was most strongly associated with chronic LBP (OR, 2.82; p<0.001) when compared with moderate (OR, 2.54; p<0.001) and mild (OR, 1.55; p<0.001) stress, though the latter two remained significant correlates. Stratifying by sex further revealed that the link between chronic LBP and all levels of stress was stronger in men.

“It is necessary to recognize that degree of stress and chronic LBP are related, and clinicians should evaluate the degree of stress when treating patients with chronic LBP,” the researchers said.