How your Emotions and Mindset can influence Back Pain

In today’s blog I am going to explain why there is a strong link between emotions, mindset and back pain. Over the years in my clinical practice I have seen a strong correlation between a client’s mindset, daily habits, behaviours and their level of pain. To support my own discovery, copious amounts of research has and continues to be released. Let’s look at why they are all related…..

The mind - body connection

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you will know recently I attended an excellent conference on Neuroscience with Dr Norman Doidge. He as well as many other neuroscience experts are producing evidence to show the strong link between the brain and body. As a Somatics educator, this is something we have long understood. Dr Thomas Hanna, the creator of the health modality, Somatics explained this strong connection decades ago. He termed the mind and body as the 'soma.' The mind heavily influences our body and likewise our body heavily influences our mind. So let us consider why back pain can be worse for some compared with others and notice the emotional and psychological aspect to it.

Back pain

The New England Journal of Medicine reported a study showing the vast majority of people with healthy, pain free backs had some form of structural defect or change, for instance a herniated disc. Interestingly others suffering with chronic back pain showed no structural abnormalities. This led physicians and researchers to conclude that a structural defect is not necessarily a cause for concern - even if they had suffered an injury and healed quickly.

My next statement will sound obvious and we don’t have to be Einstein to conclude this. From the research it appears that the majority of chronic back pain cases are due to muscle tension and spasm, not spinal problems. Yet the back pain industry is booming with special devices, lotions, straps and chairs. If they don’t work, surgery may be suggested. If surgery occurs, it may open another can of worms, so to speak, as the patient heals and becomes more nervous and hesitant about moving freely in case their ‘back goes out’ again.

Don’t get me wrong, back pain is extremely miserable and consumes your thoughts and affects your emotional health, which only adds to the problem. Why?

Muscle tension can be caused by emotional stress and trauma. The emotional tension can be anger, fear, exhaustion, trying to prove yourself to someone or something, denial, unable to forgive or sadness and trauma.

The late Professor John Sarno specialised in rehabilitation medicine at New York University School of Medicine. He recognised with his research that emotions and muscle tension reflected each other. For instance when you clench your jaw, swallow and hold back the tears, you automatically tighten your stomach, back and clench your buttocks. These are physical actions to control your emotional response. Do this action long enough and physical symptoms will arise as a result of repressed emotional tension. If you cannot release, are unsure how to, do not acknowledge that emotional tension is there, then you will find it very hard to release it from your body.

This links heavily into the area of back pain. If you have read my previous blogs over time, you will know I talk about the subconscious mind. Here are a few of them….

Finding light at the end of the tunnel

How to Reduce Stress with Somatic Breathing

Back Pain - the 21st Century Epidemic

The Link between Stress, Mindfulness and Your Health

Why developing a Positive Mindset is crucial for your Health and Well being

Are you In tune with your mind and body?

Pain, Perception and Plasticity

Can Physical Symptoms and Habitual Behavioural Responses be due to be Repressed Emotions?

The Power Your Mind has over Your Body

You are What You Think

Once again I will refer to the effects of the subconscious mind on our body! When we are stressed or holding long term anxiety or emotional issues, chronic back pain can occur because our fight or flight stress response kicks in. The fight or flight stress response is a protective mechanism to help us out with short term stress, such as sitting an exam or delivering a presentation; not years of ongoing stress. The stress response subconsciously or unconsciously tightens certain muscles to deal with the challenging or emotional situation. Unfortunately if we are unable to switch off the stress response because we are unaware of how to do it, we will continue to live and be held captive in a very tight body, which creates pain and adds further turmoil to our emotional and mental health.

Dr Siegel, Dr Urdang and Dr Johnson wrote the book Back sense and stated this,

“When we are under psychological stress, our muscles become tense. Eventually this tension leads either to muscle spasms which are intensely painful or to dull aches. When such back pain persists, we may be frustrated or angry. These feelings further tighten muscles, leading to more pain and the cycle is off and running.”

Life pressures and stress have a cumulative effect on our mind and body, or soma. This gradual ‘drip drip’ effect starts to wear down our resilience. An episode or time period which created shock or emotional distress and trauma becomes stored in your tissues. Do you remember a stressful time in your life? Do you remember if your neck or lower back suddenly tightened up on you? This is the powerful link between your mind and body relationship. You may feel you ‘got over’ that trial. Years later a similar stress occurs, maybe with the same or greater intensity. That emotional event ‘layers’ further tension in your muscles and tissues. This pattern continues until one day a relatively minor stress event or action triggers a severe back spasm or pain. This reaction is a direct link with the ‘layers’ of emotional and psychological pain you have held subconsciously for years.

Total Somatics and Back Pain

Due to the strong link with emotion and back pain plus seeing it in my clients over the years, I decided to create Total Somatics for everybody. If you have muscles, love to move and want to enjoy a greater quality of life, the Total Somatics online program can complement your life beautifully!

My online program covers the area of mindset, mindfulness and somatic movement. I always say to my clients that somatics is not just a mechanical exercise. It is a lifestyle change. Once you join the online program and listen to my video series on Mindset and mindfulness, you will understand that they all have to work together in order to gain the results. I often say to clients that drinking a diet coke, eating cake and talking about exercising will not help you loose weight. Likewise I cannot go to the gym and get fit for you! The same can be said with Somatics. If you want to reduce pain, improve your posture, increase your mobility and enjoy a better quality of life, you have to adopt The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness. This includes somatic movement, developing mindfulness skills and looking at areas of your life which need an overhaul of your mindset and beliefs around pain, behaviour and actions. Also I can facilitate you with your Total Somatics practise, but In order to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life, you have to put the effort in. I cannot do Somatics for you to reduce your pain! You have to take ownership and make time for your current and future health.

Notice the comments of one of my clients and how mindfulness with Total Somatics has been paramount to her overall health and well being.

“I have been doing Total Somatics now for over a year with Heidi and I love it. I find it not only benefits my posture but I always come away from class feeling relaxed and calm. I love the mindfulness aspect of it.

I started Total Somatics on the recommendation of a friend after I injured my Achilles. Although it feels like I am not exercising hard, as it is done at a slow and mindful pace, I can see the benefits after each session for my whole body, as I am standing straighter and more evenly balanced than before.

I would highly recommend Total Somatics for everyone - you don’t have to have an injury to benefit. We all have tight muscles and postures that will benefit from Total Somatics. The mindfulness aspect adds another dimension and to me is like a meditation. Heidi is a patient teacher who explains things clearly and will guide you through the process.”

Would you like to reduce the amount of influence your emotions hold over your physical health? Would you like to reduce pain, improve your posture, increase your mobility and live a better quality of life? Would you like to learn how to develop mindfulness skills? Would you like to know how to switch your mindset which will directly influence your overall or somatic health for the better?

JOIN ME TODAY! Allow me to Teach you these skills with The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program at You can learn these skills in the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you. You have access to the program for 6 months and periodically I add new material to the program. You are receiving the very latest in Somatic Health and Wellness.

See you online!
Take care,
Heidi Hadley xx

Share this post