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Role of stress, depression and anxiety in spinal degeneration – Times of India

Stress, depression, and anxiety can contribute to spinal degeneration through various physiological and behavioral mechanisms. Chronic stress and negative emotional states can lead to muscle tension, poor posture, and decreased physical activity, which can accelerate wear and tear on the spine over time. Additionally, stress hormones such as cortisol can affect bone density and inhibit the body’s ability to repair damaged tissues. Psychological factors such as depression and anxiety can also exacerbate pain perception and reduce resilience to spinal degenerative processes, ultimately affecting spinal health and function.

we spoke with Dr. Nimesh Patel, Senior Neurosurgeon, Bhaial Amin General Hospital, Vadodarato help us understand the various ways stress affects our bone health and contributes to spinal degeneration.

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How does chronic stress influence the physiological changes that lead to spinal degeneration?Dr. Patel: Chronic stress often triggers unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as poor posture and sedentary behaviors, which further strain the spine. Prolonged periods of improper sitting or standing can accelerate degeneration by putting uneven pressure on the vertebrae. Additionally, stress-related habits, such as clenching your jaw or tensing your shoulders, can contribute to musculoskeletal imbalances and affect overall spinal health.

What role do emotional distress and anxiety play in the degradation of intervertebral discs?Dr. Patel: Chronic stress is known to exacerbate spinal degeneration. When the body experiences stress, it releases hormones such as cortisol which, when elevated for prolonged periods, can negatively affect the intervertebral discs. Cortisol promotes inflammation, hindering the discs’ ability to receive essential nutrients. This compromised nutrition contributes to disc degeneration, leading to conditions such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis.

Why is the interconnection of physical and mental well-being crucial to understanding spinal health?Dr. Patel: The mind-body connection plays a crucial role in understanding the link between stress and spinal degeneration. Psychological stress can manifest physically, causing muscle tension and altering movement patterns. These changes can cause increased pressure on the spine, accelerating the degenerative process.

What are the prevalent symptoms associated with cervical degenerative disc disease (CDDD)?Dr. Patel: Chronic neck pain is one of the most common symptoms along with radicular pain in the upper extremities if there is nerve compression. Interscapular pain and pain on neck movement are associated symptoms.


Why is neck pain considered a multifactorial condition?Dr. Patel: Neck pain due to spinal degeneration is a complex process influenced by several factors, and stress plays an important role in its progression. Intervertebral discs, responsible for cushioning the vertebrae, can degenerate due to factors such as aging, genetics and lifestyle.

How is neck pain classified in terms of overall disability and what percentage of the population does it affect?Dr. Patel: Neck pain is the fourth cause of disability with an annual incidence of close to 30% in the population.

What are some common causes of back pain, including those related to mental or emotional distress?Dr. Patel: Disc prolapse, spinal canal stenosis, spinal instability/spondylolisthesis are common conditions that cause back pain.

Can mental or emotional factors contribute to specific back pain conditions, such as herniated discs and osteoarthritis?Dr. Patel: Spinal degeneration is a multifaceted process influenced by several factors, and stress plays an important role in its progression. Understanding the interconnectedness of physical and mental well-being is crucial to addressing spinal health. Implementing stress management techniques and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help maintain a strong and functional spine over time.

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