• Can Emotional Stress Cause Lower Back Pain?


    Recently a new patient walked into my clinic with a story about lower back pain that was triggered and made worse by stress. Rene is a young, energetic and outgoing person. He is a Marketing Consultant whose creative talents are sought by major companies, so much so, that Rene has to refuse work.

    So what’s the problem?  Lower back pain began creeping into his life. It was becoming progressively worse, interfering with his training and making it more difficult to sleep and just go about his daily life.

    Rene was able to give me a very precise description of his lower back pain, its location and character. He also remarked that stress made it worse. I made a point, as I usually do, of getting as much detailed information as I could to appreciate the ‘Whole Picture’.  Then, we proceeded to the physical exam and treatment.

    Everything was going fine when towards the end of the treatment, (as is often the case) Rene causally mentioned, “My father is dying of cancer and this is really stressing me out.”

    His eyes welled up with tears as he described what was happening to his beloved father. At the end of the treatment, I advised him to put his work on hold for a while and just be with his father. We shook hands as Rene left my office with watery eyes.

    Fast Forward 1 week

    I was greeted with a big smile. Rene exclaimed, “My lower back pain is almost completely gone! After my last treatment, I got into my car, and cried my eyes out for a half hour. Is this crazy or what?” Well, it wasn’t crazy to me, and a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. Rene decided to take one week off work to be with his father.

    This was just what the doctor ordered. Interestingly, as I was treating Rene the first time, I noticed that the physical findings in Rene’s case didn’t correspond to the intensity of his lower back pain. Rene was in good shape and I suspected that other factors were at play.  Therefore, I focused his treatment on Somato-Emotional Technique which allowed his pent up emotions to be released. Near the end of our session, those ‘other factors’ surfaced.

    The following week Rene retuned to my clinic. The first thing he said to me was “I know that stress is the biggest part of my pain.  It’s so clear to me, that whenever I am stressed out, my lower back pain comes back.”

    “And how are you feeling?’ I asked with a big grin. ‘I’m feeling great.” He responded.  Rene then showed me his MRI results which we discussed and I treated him for issues that still needed attention.  Bravo Rene!

    In some cases the emotional cause of physical pain can be traced back to something specific. Other times it’s more insidious and requires some work to get to the source of it and make the necessary changes.  Always get a medical opinion for chronic pain to rule out any serious pathology.  Then, if the symptoms are far greater than the findings suggest there well may be an emotional or unconscious element in your pain. Here then is my recommendation.

    Learn to distress and put yourself on the right track. You’ll be amazed at what you can discover about yourself. Get into exercise, do Yoga, meditation and/or Bio-feedback training such as emWave. This is a great place to start. But start you must because if you don’t, things won’t get any better. For many people who lead extremely busy lives, I have advocated using Bio-feedback as a great way to get started managing stress because it is easy, convenient and very do able by virtually anyone.  Besides, it’s fun.


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