Psychological Triggers of Back Pain

Psychological Back Pain Triggers

If you overdo it at the gym or rearrange the furniture, any related back pain probably has a clear physical connection. Some back pain, however, is triggered by emotional issues such as stress-related muscle tension. In fact, certain psychological triggers may have more of an impact on back pain than you may realize.

Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Back pain described as “psychological” isn’t simply a reference to imaginary pain that doesn’t exist. In most cases, the back pain is very real. However, the pain experienced by patients can be aggravated by stress, anxiety or depression, which can also slow the healing process.

Fear of More Pain or Further Injury

Individuals with back pain can get into a cycle where pain is unintentionally made worse by fear of further injury. Friends and family members may warn a loved one not to overdo it or the person may develop irrational fears in regards to certain activities because they don’t want to sustain another injury or make their back pain worse. However, spinal physicians note that inactivity may actually make back pain worse due to muscle weakness and can even result in new injuries.

Counteracting Psychological Back Pain Triggers

There are some ways in which psychological back pain triggers can be minimized, such as:

  • Stress reduction

    (yoga, biofeedback training to regulate the “fight or flight” response that sometimes makes pain worse)

  • Beneficial encouragement

    (partnering with a friend, or even a physical therapist, who can safely push you to stay active and offer support to calm fears)

  • Setting realistic goals

    (keep expectations realistic to avoid disappointments that may spur a defeatist attitude)

Diagnostic procedures only show physical causes of back pain, such as a herniated disc or joint inflammation. When it comes to how back pain is felt, however, everybody experiences and expresses their pain differently. What one patient might describe as minor back pain could be described by someone else as moderate-to-severe pain, making a case for the need for patients and doctors to establish solid communications with one another.

To learn more about your specific case of back pain, schedule an in-person consultation with The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration by calling 310-828-7757. Our trusted spine specialists and surgeons can help identify the source of your pain and provide you with appropriate treatment options.