Psychological Factors That Contribute to Back Discomfort

Psychological Factors That Contribute to Back Discomfort


Around 60-80% of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Of those, 30-40% have chronic pain. It’s tough to treat since it can come from different causes.

Scientists recently found that psychology plays a big role in back pain. Nearly one-third of cases are only psychological, and the other two-thirds are a mix of physical and psychological.

This article will look at how psychology affects back pain and what you can do to handle it.


Stress is a psychological factor that can cause back pain. It can lead to tense muscles in the back and shoulders, causing physical discomfort. Also, if we stress too much, our posture can change as we try to cope, which can also give us back pain.

It’s important to understand how stress can cause or worsen back pain, so we can try to tackle the issue.

Physiological and Psychological Effects of Stress

Stress, whether psychological or physical, has a connection to various aspects of mental and physical health. It can cause long-term changes in perception and thought. When psychological distress accumulates over time, it can lead to more back pain due to muscle tension. It also lowers endorphins that usually reduce pain, and hormonally affects the tissues near the spine.

Studies have looked at how this stress affects muscles. Acute stress can cause increased muscle tension and trigger points in the muscles. This can stop normal joint movement and reduce joint mobility.

Chronic stress has been linked to increased tenderness in the myofascial points in the back muscles. Adrenaline and cortisol hormones released during emotional distress can also cause muscle tightening, leading to back discomfort.

It is hard to understand the relationship between stress and muscle function. Further research is needed to link emotional states to the musculoskeletal activity causing persistent back pain.

Stress and Back Pain

Stress and back pain have a complex relationship. When your body is stressed, hormones like cortisol cause muscles in the neck, shoulders, and trunk to tense. This causes stiffness and pain in your back.

The fight-or-flight system can produce stress chemicals that make your muscles too tight. This can cause tendinitis or tendonopathy.

Anxiety can also become a problem and lead to physical pain in your back.

You can reduce stress with self-talk and lifestyle changes like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. These help reduce mental chatter and ease discomfort.


Anxiety and back pain can have a major connection. People who have anxiety are more likely to have increased levels of back pain. Stress can also cause tension in the back muscles, showing that anxiety and physical pain can be related.

Let’s investigate this link further:

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common psychological factor that can lead to back pain. It usually causes feelings of fear, unease, or distress in certain situations. However, it can also cause physical symptoms.

These physical symptoms might be:

  • Muscle tension and aches, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back.
  • Headaches.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Stomach issues like nausea and itching.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Trouble concentrating and focusing.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Shortness of breath and tightness in the chest area.
  • Sweating palms, flushed face, and cold hands and feet.

Anxiety and Back Pain

Anxiety is a fearful, apprehensive feeling. It can also cause physical symptoms like pain and tension. Those with anxiety are more likely to have back pain that won’t go away.

The reason for this could be physical changes in the body. For example, tense muscles can cause neck or back pain. Stress can also lead to bad posture, which causes back problems.

Living with chronic back pain brings depression and hopelessness. These make anxiety worse, causing a cycle of distress. To manage anxiety and back pain, it’s important to seek help.


Mental health and back discomfort have a close connection. Depression can impact both the mental and physical state of a person. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can affect how someone perceives and tackles their back pain. This part will explore how depression can be linked to back ache and how to cope with it.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression can bring feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. It is diagnosed when these symptoms take over everyday life. Other signs include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • low energy
  • changes in appetite/weight
  • trouble concentrating
  • physical aches
  • thoughts of death/suicide.

Those with depression may struggle to do simple things like bathe or get dressed. It can be hard for them to form good relationships with loved ones. Activities like taking a walk may no longer bring pleasure. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, it’s time to talk to a mental health expert.

Depression and Back Pain

Depression and chronic back pain are linked. Musculoskeletal pain, like tension in the shoulders, neck, back and hips, is often a symptom of depression. Studies show that chronic pain can also increase the risk of developing depression and worsen symptoms.

Depression can affect a person’s ability to cope with physical pain. Symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, reduced motivation and reduced appetite can impact healing from chronic back pain.

Depression can cause secondary muscle aches, insomnia and headaches. Stress can also contribute to chronic back pain, by tightening muscles in the neck and lower back. Stress has been linked to a decrease in neural control over bodily functions, which can reduce biomechanical stability. This can lead to further injury or discomfort.

Individuals with both depression and chronic back pain should seek medical attention. They need treatment for both mental and physical health. Diet, lifestyle choices and medication should all be considered to manage the conditions. Self-care is important, to ensure the conditions don’t spiral out of control. Compassion, care and a positive attitude are key to progress.


To wrap it up, psychological aspects can affect back pain in several ways. Stress, sadness, fear, and how a person interpreces life events may all have an effect on the pain. So, it’s important to recognize these psychological elements to find the source of the problem.

It’s also essential to get help from experts when struggling with back pain due to mental factors. Combining physical therapy and psychotherapy is usually successful in treating the main cause of bodily issues such as back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What psychological factors contribute to back discomfort?

Some psychological factors that can contribute to back discomfort include stress, anxiety, depression, and poor coping skills.

2. How does stress affect back discomfort?

Stress can cause tension in the muscles and increase sensitivity to pain, which can lead to back discomfort. It can also lead to poor posture, which can exacerbate existing back problems or lead to new ones.

3. Can anxiety cause back discomfort?

Yes, anxiety can cause muscle tension and contribute to back discomfort. It can also cause hyperventilation, which can lead to chest and back pain.

4. Can depression cause back discomfort?

Yes, depression can cause physical symptoms such as back discomfort. It can also lead to decreased activity levels and poor posture, which can contribute to back problems.

5. Can poor coping skills contribute to back discomfort?

Yes, poor coping skills such as avoiding activity, engaging in negative self-talk, or catastrophizing pain can increase sensitivity to pain and lead to ongoing back discomfort.

6. What can be done to address the psychological factors that contribute to back discomfort?

Treatment approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and stress management skills can help individuals reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, improve coping skills, and prevent ongoing back discomfort.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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