Can Stress be causing your body Physical Pain or Injury?

Posted on: Sep 25th, 2017 by The Physio Movement | Categories: Sports Medicine & Nutrition


At TPM, our multidisciplinary team of Allied Health professionals are always considering the whole person when assessing the myriad of musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) seen at the clinic, therefore Mental Health is an aspect we often ask our clients about.  Some additional risk factors for MSIs include things like posture, biomechanics, training loads, muscle imbalances, training surfaces and equipment.


In the workplace some additional factors such as lifting heavy or awkward loads, high task repetition or duration and mechanical vibration are some of the key physical characteristics that contribute to MSIs.  There are also individual factors (those risk factors that are specific to each individual) such as gender, age, genetic predisposition, medical conditions, medications and previous history of a similar injury that also influence the development and management of injuries.


However, there is now growing body of evidence that suggests that psychosocial factors such as stress, mental health conditions (depression, anxiety), job satisfaction and conflict are just as much to blame for MSIs as the physical risk factors mentioned earlier.  So, what does this really mean?  Is mental stress (distress) causing my neck pain, or back pain or is it the reason why my ITB friction syndrome won’t settle down (even though I’m doing all of my exercises and I’ve modified my training and even bought some new shoes!!).


Well, it appears that the answer is yes!  Studies show that job insecurity significantly increased the risk of developing lower back disorders and others have demonstrated that high stress (distress) and depressive mood are also high risk factors for chronic lower back pain in the workplace.  When we consider sports injuries, there was much research conducted in the late 80s and 90s that demonstrated a relationship between stress and athletic injuries, for example, athletes who experienced “life events” were at a greater risk of developing injuries.  Some of the theories are that high stress levels have an effect on our coping resources which may increase our susceptibility to fatigue, injury and illness.


Perhaps more importantly we know that managing stress can reduce the frequency of injury and illness developing in athletes.  Good news right!! So now all we need to do is manage our stress levels.  Sometimes it’s worth going back to basics when contemplating how to tackle high stress.  Things like getting good quality sleep (there is a whole body of evidence that deals with quantity and quality of sleep and its impact on injuries), eating healthy and ensuring that you are well hydrated, will all go a long way to reducing stress levels.  Being conscious of unhealthy habits developing during times of high stress are also worth taking note of – for example, alcohol consumption often increases during periods of higher stress which has the double (negative) effect of interrupting sleep and increasing dehydration.


Of course, there are also times when seeking professional help from a counsellor or GP will be an important element to managing stress and therefore assisting recovery from injury.


So, the next time you come in to see one of our team for advice on chronic knee pain or heel pain or shoulder pain, don’t be surprised when we ask you about your mental health strategies and what you have in place to manage it.


Thank you Podiatrist Chris for her insight

Physiotherapy Townsville - The Physio Movement


     517 Flinders Street
Townsville City Qld 4810
     1300 TPM FIT or 4740 4516
Book Now
Book Now