It’s well known that stress can impact your physical health in a variety of ways, from tension headaches, weakened immune systems to poor sleep. However, stress may impact your body in ways that you might not attribute to stress. Stress and back pain, for example, often go hand in hand.

When a person is stressed, they often tense their muscles. It leads to headaches and jaw pain and can make a person more susceptible to injury. That same tension can also lead to back pain, especially pain in the lower back, even if a person has never had back pain before. For those people who already suffered from back pain, stress can exacerbate it. Cramping and spasms can result from this tension. This may be why some people develop “nervous ticks.”

Stress can also change the way a person breathes, causing pain in the mid-back. If the shoulders hunch in response to that pain, the upper back and neck pain can soon develop as well. Unfortunately, a person’s mental response to such pain can make it worse. In fact, it can lead to a vicious cycle where back pain leads to stress that, in turn, causes more back pain.

There are two methods to dealing with stress that can lead to back pain. The first is to reduce stress where possible, whether that means stepping back from a project at work, reducing hours spent volunteering, or enlisting help from others.

The second step is to develop coping mechanisms to deal with the stress that cannot be reduced. Mindfulness has proven effective for coping with stress and minimizing the distress caused by troublesome thoughts; it can easily be combined with breathing techniques. Coping mechanisms can also include self-care practices. Other people may benefit from completing the stress response cycle with physical activity or even crying.

When it comes to back pain, massage can relax muscle tension while simultaneously melting emotional stress, and it’s important to include physical stress relief into your plan for improvement. While a person’s thought processes are important, the brain is still another organ that makes up the physical body.

Of course, any effort made to reduce or cope with stress will have a positive impact on the other health effects of stress.