Cause of Back Pain: Psychological

Whether we like it or not, our emotional state of being may affect how we feel physically, in terms of the severity of pain that we feel as a result of a physical problem with our backs. This means that the way we feel and cope with problems in our bodies may play a role in whether we feel more or less pain as a result of a mechanical (physical) problem. Our psychological state of being may even play a primary role in causing muscle spasms and back pain.

Now I know what a large number of people in our media audience are thinking, "Why are you mentioning psychology or my state of mind when I have accessed this site for a physical problem?" While are not challenging people with back pain to "just get over it" or suggesting that the problem "is all in your head" there in fact is ample evidence in the medical literature that emotions and copying skills, or lack thereof, can play a large role in how much pain you feel and in the treatment of your condition. Here are some things that we do know:
  • The majority of people with fibromyalgia, which is a systemic disease that causes global muscle pain, have a history of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress.
  • Patients with a history of depression and anxiety have reduced immune system functioning, which leads to more cases of cold and flu, than in the general population.
  • Patients with a history of depression and anxiety have a higher percentage of arthritis and pain syndromes, than in the general population.
  • Though we may think that the cause of back pain may be easily linked to one particular part of the spine or supporting muscles, many medical journal articles cast doubt on this theory. Take the average patient, who presents with lower back pain. Many patients assume that the cause of their back pain is simply due to wear and tear of the discs in their backs. Subsequent trips to the doctor and medical imaging results often confirm the presence of herniated discs in many patients. Case closed right? Actually many patients with lower back pain due have herniated discs. On the other hand, several studies done on subject populations with no history of back pain also have roughly the same percentage of herniated discs in their backs, based on MRI results, as those who have back pain. These research studies point to the fact that though mechanical problems may be found in the back for patients with low back pain, the mechanical problems may actually not be the cause of the problem. Other factors may be involved, due to muscle imbalances, stretching of the ligaments due to years of bad posture, and in some cases, muscle tension brought on by fear and anxiety.


Cause of Back Pain: Psychological: Thus far, we hoped to have made a good case for at least considering your emotional state of being as it pertains to your overall health and the health of your physical body.

One mental condition that may result in psychological back pain is a conversion reaction. A conversion reaction is a mechanism for transforming anxiety or other emotions into a physical dysfunction. This is a condition where a person may actually transfer physical pain and anxiety to manifest as a physical problem. As a result, that person may actually begin to experience less fear and anxiety, and more pain in another area of their body, such as their low back. The person with the conversion reaction may unconsciously accept the physical pain that they begin to endure over the alternative of anxiety or depression.