All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Chronic Back Pain Anxiety Symptoms

Chronic back pain symptom description:

Chronic back pain, stiffness, tension, pressure, soreness, spasms, and/or immobility in the back or back muscles. It may be one muscle or group of muscles that are experiencing chronic pain, or it may be many muscles and groups of muscles that are experiencing chronic pain.

Chronic back pain, stiffness, tension, pressure, soreness, spasms, and/or immobility can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently.

This chronic back pain may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

Chronic back pain can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

Chronic back pain can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s very painful one moment and eases off the next.

Chronic back pain can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

How can anxiety cause chronic back pain?

Being anxious activates the body’s stress response. A part of the stress response changes includes causing the body’s muscles to tighten so that they are more resilient to damage when in real danger. The greater the degree of stress response, the more affect it has, including causing the body’s muscles to become extremely tight…even to the point of pain.

In fact, high anxiety and persistently elevated stress can cause muscles to become so tight that they experience chronic pain, stiffness, soreness, and immobility. So, as your anxious behaviors increase, so will your body’s stress and its effects, including causing severely tight muscles in the back that cause chronic back pain.

Moreover, tight muscles are also more susceptible to being strained and damaged, which can also cause short-term and chronic back pain, soreness, tenderness, and even immobility.

Any muscle or group of muscles can be affected, including the muscles and groups of muscles in the upper, mid, and lower back. Any muscle or group of muscles are susceptible to anxiety and stress caused tension and pain. Once the muscles are strained, they can spasm and ‘lock up,’ which can cause even greater pain and immobility, such as that commonly associated with chronic back pain.

Many hospital and doctor visits are a result of chronic back pain due to stress, including the stress that anxiety causes. Many people are surprised to learn just how painful anxiety and stress-caused tight muscles can be, especially with chronic back pain.

Many doctors who specialize in back problems are now seeing a direct correlation between stress (including stress caused by psychological and emotional problems) and chronic back problems. Dr. Sarno is one of the most noteworthy.

If you are experiencing chronic back pain problems, you may want to seek out a doctor or physiotherapist who is familiar with how the negative effects of stress can affect the back. His or her insight may help you more appropriately address your chronic back issues.

How to eliminate anxiety caused back pain and tension

If your chronic pain is caused by being anxious, reducing your anxiety can help alleviate chronic back pain. If you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, reducing your body’s stress can also help alleviate back pain. But it may not diminish quickly, as stress reduction takes time.

The long-term solution to anxiety and stress caused chronic back pain is reducing your anxiety and your body’s stress sufficiently so that your body stops exhibiting chronic back pain symptoms.

There are, however, some short-term remedies that might also help alleviate chronic back pain:

And so on. Again, anything that can help reduce the body’s stress and relax muscles, can help alleviate chronic back pain.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including chronic back pain, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated September 10, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/therapy for problematic anxiety and its symptoms, including the anxiety symptom chronic back pain.