What is Stress-Related Back Pain

How is Stress Related to Back Pain

Emotional stress tends to heighten the symptoms of your back pain when you have a preexisting condition. This reason is why so many people are being diagnosed with back pain related to stress. This may mean that it is the psychological and emotional factors that trigger back pain, prolongs back pain and or can be a combination of both.

Origin of the Term

Back pain relating to stress is not a new health condition. It was first discovered as well as diagnosed in the 1820s. This sort of diagnosis is called psycho-physiological or psychosomatic.

Dr. Edward Shorter wrote a book called From Paralysis to Fatigue. It discusses psychosomatic illnesses and it’s history. For example, spinal irritation was a diagnosis made in 19th century that was similar to back pain that was the result of emotional strain. It was a common diagnosis that was used all over the world by medical doctors. Dr. Shorter explains how many patients and doctors in the 19th century believed these results and diagnosis even though there wasn’t any proof of irritation in the spine.

Many physicians would plant symptoms of the condition in their patients’ heads. This increased the fear about rather the disease actually existed. In the early part of the 20th century, Spinal irritation was a common diagnosis. This diagnosis supplied the needs of both patients and doctors. It helped doctors to stay in competition with their peers because they offered treatment for this condition. A diagnosis of this kind also helped patients to stay sane. If there was not a medical reason for spinal irritation, then it could be a psychological problem.

The idea of emotional strain causing back pain was made popular by John Sarno. He decided to call this condition tension myositis syndrome (TMS). Sarno also teaches about medicine as well as rehabilitation at New York University.

The symptoms that you are experiencing, are they real?

So, can pain in the back and body in general be due to emotional stress and are these symptoms real? Some people may start to think that they are just making this all up and will put off going to the doctor. This is not true. A stressful situation can heighten the symptoms when you have an existing back problem.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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