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How Emotions Can Impact Back Pain

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It’s been over 25 years now, but I can still picture it as clear as day: my Dad lying down on the living room floor every single night performing a series of exercises that a local physician told him would strengthen his back and relieve his ongoing back pain.

One of the more visually memorable ones involved him pulling his legs up to his chest and holding them there for several minutes, so if I walked in the room at just the right time and angle my Dad’s pajama-ed patoot would be the first thing I’d see.

My poor Dad. In spite of the daily routine of exercises his lower back pain never went away. Another doctor told him to take up swimming, which he tried to no avail. It seemed he was always looking for a solution to and relief from the chronic lower back pain. By the time I was a young adult he seemed almost resigned that the pain would never go away and he would have to learn to live with it.

In addition to his constant backache, my Dad also seemed to be pretty depressed a lot of the time. When I was younger I didn’t understand what was bothering him but now that I’m older I know that he was profoundly unhappy in his marriage, dealing with a nasty mother (she was a wonderful Grandma to me but a pain in the rear to him), and stressed out at work. These issues, combined with what I believe is his inherent way of seeing life as “half empty” probably caused his sadness. And interestingly, they also may have caused his back problems.

From what I have been reading, my Grandma was probably more of a pain in the back to my Dad than a pain in the rear. My Dad is now getting up in years, and has been divorced for some time from my Mom. He is long retired so job stress is gone, and sadly, my Grandma passed away about a dozen years ago. And guess what? He no longer complains of back pain like he used to.

According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, a fantastic book filled with natural remedies for just about every ailment you can think of, “most cases of back pain also have an important psychological component, usually a deep-seated emotional or stress-related problem.” Isn’t that something? The book goes on to say that one theory suggests that backache may be caused by repressed rage. A quick Google search of “backache emotional reasons” brought up scores of websites devoted to this topic.

Of course, there are also numerous physical causes of back ache, like lifting something that is too heavy, disk problems in the back, and/or kidney issues. If you suffer from back pain, please know that you are not alone; Prescription for Nutritional Healing estimates that around 80 percent of adults have back pain at some point in their lives.

So if you are one of the millions of people complaining about a sore back, by all means get in to see your doctor to make sure there is not a serious underlying physical issue going on. But at the same time, please take a hard look at your stress level and how happy you are. If you’ve been feeling depressed, chances are this might be a factor too, and it should be acknowledged and addressed.

Do you suffer from chronic back pain? If so, do you believe the emotional component theory has merit? Or do you think it’s more of a “chicken and egg” situation, with the backache leading to the gloominess? I welcome your comments!

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EmpowHER Guest

Back pain is very debilitating. With that in mind, how could your emotions not get involved. You need to also break the chronic pain cycle of the nervous system as well. I have found hula hooping as a tool with my patients to be valuable. www.hoopforlowerbackexercises.com

October 17, 2009 - 6:16am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Nancy Drew Fan -
Thanks for the personal look at back pain, an issue for millions of people. The discussions on whether chronic back pain is from emotional causes, or physical causes, or a combination of the two are compelling. I hope EmpowHer members will seize your challenge to discuss the topic and let us know their thoughts.
Take good care,

October 16, 2009 - 5:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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