Lower Back pain


The Mind: How Emotions Cause Physical Pain

The Mind: How Emotions Cause Physical Pain

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that if we feel 
pain, something is wrong with our bodies. Particularly with 
,back pain, we assume we’ve pulled a muscle, herniated a disc
or suffered some other injury or condition that’s causing 
Of course, this may be the case. But what we may not 
realize is that sometimes the hidden cause of physical pain can 
,have emotional origins. We can experience too much stress
anxiety, trauma, sadness, anger, and emotional pain, and too 
.little relaxation, stress relief, joy, fun, security, and calm
All of us suffer physically when our emotional lives are in 
upheaval. We often experience physical symptoms of pain or 
discomfort because of anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, or other 
negative emotions. These types of emotional stressors don’t 
need to be catastrophic or provoke mental illness to trigger a 
.chain of events leading to back pain 
It’s important to recognize that in these cases, the pain is 
not imaginary or “in your head.” Instead, the triggering cause 

can be an emotional issue that, if left unchecked, can create

physical conditions in your body that make it highly 
.susceptible to pain—especially back pain 
In fact, an extensive study conducted by Stanford 
University on more than 3,000 employees at the Boeing 
Corporation found that emotions and psychological factors 

.were the biggest indicators of back pain

?How Emotions Act on the Body 

The mind is inextricably connected to the body. You have 
only to imagine stepping off a bridge to feel your stomach fly 
up into your throat and your muscles tense. This mental 
thought can trigger a chain of physical reactions, including 
,dramatic fluctuations in blood pressure, breathing rates
.oxygen levels, and more
Just thinking about a stressful event can cause all this! 
So you can see the effect your mind can have on your 
body, particularly if you’re thinking stressful thoughts many 
times throughout the day. Your muscles tighten and, if you 
remember from the last chapter, tight muscles cause 
problems. They inhibit circulation, constricting blood vessels 
so the blood doesn’t flow through your body like it should 
and creating muscle imbalances. 
Without adequate blood flow, the cells in your body 
become slightly oxygen deprived. Toxins and waste aren’t 
cleaned out as efficiently as they should be and can build up 
in certain parts of your body, creating or reactivating trigger 
points. These knots are often painful to the touch 
,” and, in some cases, can cause muscles to spasm or “lock up
ـــــwhich can pull your spinal column out of alignment
.pinching nerves and causing nerve-based back pain
And if you doubt the effects the mind can have on the 
body, let me tell you about a study that was done in Finland 
.Autopsies were performed on people who had died from nonback-pain-related causes but had reported suffering from back

pain while alive. Researchers were shocked to find that the 
average person with back pain had two arteries to the spine 
completely blocked off. And remember, without fresh blood 
.supplying oxygen and nutrients, it’s nearly impossible to heal
Stress also alters your breathing. Typically, when you’re 
anxious or upset, your breath becomes shallow, reducing 
oxygen flow to the whole body. Oxygen and nutrients don’t 
circulate at optimum levels, again contributing to the buildup 
,of toxins. Stress also can release hormones, such as adrenaline 
which can trigger chronic tension and inflammation in your 
muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Without adequate blood 
flow to remove these hormones from the body, they can 
.linger longer than usual and create more damage
That all these changes have a debilitating effect on the 
back is no surprise. Which muscles do you tend to tense most 
when you’re anxious? Shoulders usually come first, directly 
affecting the spine. The jaw, stomach, and lower back also are 
very common areas. It’s no wonder the back and head are 
.some of the first parts of the body to suffer from stress

Other Ways Emotions Affect Health

Negative emotions can have other detrimental effects on 
.our health—effects that can make back pain worse
Think about an emotionally distressing episode in your 
life. You probably slept too little, depriving your body of its 
primary healing time. Maybe your diet went off kilter 
somehow, so that you either lost your appetite and ate too 
little or reverted to eating too many highly processed, lownutrient foods. You might have skipped your usual exercise 
.routine, moving your body too little and sitting too much
People around you may have commented on your increased 
irritability, or maybe you blew up at someone and later 
.regretted it

All these occasions are like dominoes stacked up against 
your health and well-being. Too little sleep, exercise, and 
calm, along with too much anxiety, bad foods, and inactivity 
all can have profound effects on your body. Back pain, neck 
pain, headaches, jaw pain, and joint soreness all are just 
.around the corner
What makes this especially difficult is that the emotional 
.component of any painful condition often is ignored
Somehow we’re conditioned to believe that any physical 
manifestation of our feelings is a sign of weakness or some 
.mental problem
This is, of course, as silly as thinking that when someone 
yells “Boo!” and startles your mind, it’s abnormal if your heart 
races. On the contrary, it’s quite typical to have a mental 
.burden impact your physical body
As a society, we accept that being diagnosed with cancer or 
suffering a heart attack—even having a baby—can cause 
.emotions like depression, anger, and even guilt 
What we don’t recognize as easily is that the 
communication works both ways—from mind to body and 
from body to mind. Science has proven that the brain’s 
messengers (neurotransmitters) communicate information in 
the brain and throughout the body. Since the mind itself 
operates on physical and chemical reactions, why wouldn’t 
emotions, which are communicated in physical ways inside 
?the body, have very physical outcomes 
The truth is that our thoughts and emotions, and how we 
handle them, all have a very large effect on our everyday 
health and well-being. During periods of stress, they certainly 
.cause or exacerbate physical discomfort or injury

?How Do You Handle Emotions

How we handle our emotions determines how they will 
affect us physically. It’s an unfortunate thing that as children
we’re rarely taught how to deal with our feelings. While we 
ـــــwere learning all about reading, writing, math, and science
unless our parents were especially gifted in teaching us—we 
learned very little about the art of mastering our own 
If we were angry and blew up, most likely we were sent to 
our rooms, or if we were in school, to the principal’s office. If 
we were depressed, many times we were told to snap out of it 
.or to stop feeling sorry for ourselves 
As teens, we were more likely to get lectures and lose 
privileges than have honest conversations about how we were 
Those of us fortunate enough to have received some 
instruction along the way may have avoided the aches and 
pains that come from raging emotions. 
But for many of us, we never learned the art of expressing 
,ourselves without hurting others, or how journaling 
meditating, or “walking off” steam were more healthy 
,approaches to dealing with emotions like anger, resentment
.or sadness
Some of us may not even realize when a powerful emotion 
,has taken hold of us. We just react by yelling, hitting things
.or turning to self-destructive habits like alcohol or drug use
Others grew up learning to be nice and to refrain from 
hurting others’ feelings, repressing emotions until they 
.erupted into medical conditions 
Psychology has shown us that, by far, the most dangerous 
way to handle emotions is to deny or repress them. If we 
don’t learn to express them (in healthy ways), they stay in our 
bodies, sometimes for years, steadily wearing away our 
.resistance to their destructive powers
Learning to properly express and deal with our emotions is 
one of the best things we can do for our overall health, and 
.especially for back pain