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Stress aggravates backache

Special Correspondent


Bangalore: Chronic backache has many physiological causes. But the symptoms can get aggravated by work-related stress or even by harbouring too many negative emotions. "It is known now that a cheerful attitude encourages secretion of certain hormones that inhibit physical pain. A normally cheerful person can get over spasms faster... `It's all in the mind' is not empty rhetoric," says psychotherapist Sunanda Murthy.

Studies in medical research organisations in the U.S. and Europe have shown, though some medical professionals question the claim, that backache can also be triggered by underlying psychological turmoil in an individual, she says.

"Backache symptoms can be especially severe in those with the so-called Type A behaviour pattern: persons who are aggressive, result-driven and perfectionists. They are frustrated by a not-too-perfect world and people around them," says Dr. Murthy.

Often such people can do little about the imperfections in those around them but are furious and seething deep inside. "This anger, anxiety and frustration can make their subconscious mind actually take to pain. The autonomous nervous system sends certain signals to the muscles and ligaments in the back and they in turn send back strong signals of pain to the brain," she says.

While it may be difficult for all to become more tolerant and accept the faults of others, many of us can learn to control chronic backache by easier methods.

"The first thing is not to panic even if a sudden and severe backache hits you... in less than one per cent of cases such pain is related to serious injury. Even a passing muscle spasm can trigger pain, and anxiety can make it feel worse," says chiropractic specialist Usha Vasudeva. She treats sports-related injuries.

In the first stage of sudden backache, ice compresses work better, she says. Only if the pain persists for two or more days is a hot water bottle or other heat treatment recommended.

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