How Thinking and Feeling Can Affect Your Back Pain

You may or may not be able to think yourself into having back pain, but the way you breath and the way you feel can affect how much pain you feel. The rate and depth of your breathing, and your emotional state has actually been discovered to have a direct connection with certain pain centers of your brain. The human spine, has thirty one nerves that branch from the spinal cord, and millions more nerves branch outwards from these nerves to nearly all of the tissues of the body. When we become scared of angry or hyperventilate, the electrical activity in the nervous system tends to increase, triggering a rapid firing of some of the nerves responsible for sending out pain signals towards the brain, or away from the brain and back to the body. The increase in the electrical activity in the nervous system may run in both directions: a rapid breathing rate may increase the electrical activity of the nervous system increasing the firing of electrical signals towards the brain and spinal cord, and an anxious state may cause a rapid firing of nerves towards your body tissues that are responsible for sending out pain signals.

How thinking and feeling can affect your pain


When you are experiencing strong emotions, particularly negative emotions such as anger and anxiety, your brain automatically increases your sensitivity to pain. If you already have a pre-existing condition, or if you are already in pain, what would normally feel bad feels even worse. Thoughts and emotions that can increase the amount of electrical activity in your nervous system include stress, depression, illness, fatigue, anxiety, and anger.

Conversely, by learning how to keep your breathing steady in stressful situations, and training yourself to replace negative imagery with positive imagery, you may be able to decrease your pain levels.

Negative thoughts and imagery may increase your sensitivity to pain in different ways. Negative thoughts may also cause pain by increasing muscle tension. Worry and nervousness, among other negative emotions, may increase muscle tension around your head and shoulders, and along the length of the spine. This continued muscle tension crams joints together and overworks your muscles, escalating your pain.

The way you feel may also affect the way you move and carry yourself. Anxiety and depression often causes a slumped posture. If you are depressed, you may find yourself sitting and walking with your head down, shoulders slumped, and leaning your body to far forward. These types of postural positions may add painful compression and strain to your system.

Overcoming negative thoughts may not be easy, but you can at least try to modify some of the negative behavioral consequences during some tough times. You may not always be able to stop all of the negative thoughts from coming in, but you can consciously infuse some good thoughts and imagery into the mix. If you are stuck at that desk and suffering from lower back pain, take a few moments each hour to be thankful for some of the good things in your life, and some pretty places that you may get to visit one day, when you have a vacation available. Positive thoughts will cause the nerves involved in pain to fire at a slower rate, and may help to keep you in a more healthy posture so that your discs and muscles of the back don't get overworked.