Are Your Emotions Causing Your Back Pain

Mar 10, 2020 7:00:00 AM / by Dr. Todd Sinett

Patients come into my office often complaining of neck and/or back pain, and many are certain there is some structural cause.  When patients take my structural, digestive, and emotional assessments, they frequently find there is no structural cause, but rather, the pain is caused by stress.   Stress causes muscles to tighten, which can cause serious back and neck pain and also can lead to poor posture.

Stress Can Cause Your Back Pain

It isn’t surprising that the highest number of heart attacks occur on Monday mornings.  People physically respond to the thought of the weekend being over and the start of the workweek.  Similarly, I have seen many examples of patients who have suffered back pain caused by internal and emotional conflict and share two stories below.

Stressed Out Male

Ken, an active 26-year old who had been coming for his chiropractic adjustment once a month, had been under my care for a year for mild structural pain.  One day, he called me and said he could barely get out of bed due to severe back pain. He wanted to fire me! I encouraged him to come in, but I couldn’t find a structural explanation.  I started asking him about stress in his life, and he had an “aha” moment. He said he was getting married in two weeks and had been having second thoughts about tying the knot. I encouraged him to do what he needed to resolve his feelings, and hence his pain.  Unfortunately for his bride-to-be (but fortunately for Ken), he called off his wedding and hasn’t had back pain since!  

A second patient, who was bent over with lower back pain so severe she had trouble getting on the exam table, mentioned her father had died a year ago last summer.  As summer and the anniversary of her father’s death approached, it was triggering a negative stress response and causing her back pain. She had no other structural issues.  Fleeting moments cause most stress, and many who suffer from chronic stress (long-term illness, dead-end job, poor relationship, etc.) can suffer from chronic neck and back pain.


The Emotional Assessment

My full emotional assessment can be found in 3 Weeks to A Better Back, or you can find your score by taking the assessment here (along with the structural and digestive assessments).  Listed below are a few questions that will help you start to assess if emotions are contributing to your back pain:

  • Would you describe your current stress level as moderate to high?
  • Have you recently had any financial problems?
  • Has there recently been a change in your relationships with your family members and friends?
  • Do you seem to carry your stress in your upper body? More specifically, have you had headaches, tight neck, shoulder tension, or lower back pain?

Depending on the answers to these questions, you will fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. You have excellent stress management skills, and your back pain probably doesn’t have an emotional source.
  2. Stress is a moderate contributor to your back pain. 
  3. Your back pain is definitely stemming from, or impacted by, your emotions.  You need to make serious changes to manage your stress reactions.

Tips For Reducing Stress and Getting Back and Neck Pain Relief

Although many people are often reluctant to admit there is an emotional cause for their back pain, you must be open-minded about this cause.   Stress is a major contributor to back pain. If you visit a doctor who is taking a wholistic approach to your pain, and recognizes the connection between emotions and back pain, he/she will help you manage and eliminate your pain.  Unfortunately, most doctors don’t connect emotions to back pain. I am here to help you.


Once you know that your emotions are a source of your back pain, listed below are a few things you can do to fix it:

  • Music - Studies have shown that listening to soothing music 25 minutes per day can lower your stress hormone levels up to 25%, and cut your risk of back pain by 50%.  
  • Exercise - Another study had 500 people exercise daily and their risk of having back pain also dropped by 50%.  
  • Relaxation and stretching time - Breathing techniques, meditation, or dedicated flexibility time with your Backbridge back stretch device can put you on a path to a low-stress mind and relaxed muscles.  
  • Specialists -  If you need more advanced therapy, you can find help with a counselor, therapist, biofeedback specialist, and in more advanced cases, even a psychiatrist.

Tags: Assessments, Symptoms, Exercise and Tips, Emotional & Stress

Dr. Todd Sinett

Written by Dr. Todd Sinett

Dr. Todd Sinett is a well-known New York City-based Chiropractor and Applied Kinesiologist, the Backbridge inventor, and author. His unique, integrative approach has helped thousands of patients lead healthier, pain-free lives.