Physical Symptoms
Fact Checked

How Anxiety Causes Back Pain: And How to Stop It

Wendy M Yoder, Ph.D.
How Anxiety Causes Back Pain: And How to Stop It

Pain is extremely disruptive, with back pain easily one of the most common types of pains to experience. If you're prone to anxiety, then it's possible that you've been suffering with regular back pain for years as a result of it.

Back pain from anxiety is common, and while it is certainly not the main cause of back pain, it is a reason that some people end up getting help for their anxiety. So what causes back pain, and what can be done about it? We explore these thoughts in this article.

Causes of Anxiety Related Back Pain

There are many different issues that can lead to back pain, and it is helpful to speak with a doctor to determine what your cause may be. When anxiety contributes to back pain, it is believed thatthe cause of back pain from anxiety is mostly secondary - meaning that anxiety isn't literally causing back pain, but anxiety is causing behaviors that lead to back pain. 

There are many theories that describe a situation where back pain may be directly caused by anxiety. The most common is theory is that anxiety, which causes muscle tension, may be tensing muscles in the upper or lower back, and that that muscle tension causes pain in anxiety sufferers. 

Massage therapists will tell you that their most stressed clients often have knots in their muscles, especially in their shoulder and upper back, so anxiety-related back pain really does exist.

But anxiety may also be causing separate issues that simply lead to back pain. These include:

Anxiety isn’t believed to cause severe back pain. But it’s also important to remember that there is often a back pain cycle. Those with greater perceived back pain (either because the back pain is severe or because they are hypersensitive to the pain) are more likely to over-adjust in an attempt to avoid the pain. Chiropractors see this often. A patient with mild back pain will make their back pain worse because they're constantly walking, sitting, or twisting in ways that are unnatural in an attempt to reduce that back pain.

So while anxiety may not cause severe back pain on its own, a person’s reaction to their anxiety related back pain could potentially be contributing to more severe pain.

Similarly, some people experience further anxiety as a result of their back pain, regardless of whether the initial back pain was caused by anxiety. Since anxiety can cause back pain because of muscle tension, posture changes, etc., this may also make the back pain worse. While it may not have been initially caused by anxiety, anxiety contributed to the back pain cycle.

How to Stop Anxiety From Causing Further Back Pain

Under the assumption that your back pain is caused by anxiety, treating that back pain does require a focus on the pain itself. Unfortunately, while treating anxiety can reduce your back pain in the long term (more on this later), breaking the cycle of back pain depends in large part on your ability to also fight the back pain itself. Consider the following tips:

These are all traditional ways to deal with back pain unrelated to anxiety, but they're still effective because once back pain starts, it needs to be stopped using traditional methods.

But of course, controlling your back pain is only step one. You will still need to learn ways to cope with anxiety so that you can stop your anxiety back pain from occurring again.

Share Rate this article:
Anxiety is Often the Cause of Delusions
Mental-Cognitive Symptoms

Anxiety is Often the Cause of Delusions

How Anxiety Can Cause Delirium
Mental-Cognitive Symptoms

How Anxiety Can Cause Delirium

We’d like your feedback
Was this article helpful?
Yes No