Back Pain and Emotional Distress 

Back pain is one of the problems most often seen by health care providers. In fact, four out of five adults will experience an episode of significant back pain sometime during their life. Fortunately, the majority of patients with back pain will successfully overcome their discomfort and return to normal social and work activities within 2-4 months, often without treatment.

It is quite normal to have emotional reactions to acute back pain. These reactions can include fear, anxiety and worry about what the pain means, how long it will last and how much it will interfere with activities of daily living. In fact, pain is a complex experience that includes both physical and psychological factors. Indeed, in 1979, the major professional organization specializing in pain—the International Association for the Study of Pain—introduced the most widely used definition of pain: “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage, or described in terms of such damage.” The emotional or psychological aspect is an integral part of the overall pain experience, and it is normal to avoid activity that causes pain. But taking an active role in managing pain and participating in physician guided activities are key steps in recovery.

 

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