You can eat a healthy diet, exercise religiously, and follow every single one of your doctor's recommendations -- but no matter how healthy or well-conditioned your body may be, at some point, your lower back is almost destined to cause you problems.
For most people, low back pain is just a minor annoyance that emerges once in awhile, sticks around for a couple of days, then goes away. For other people, there's no break from the pain.
When pain becomes chronic, it goes far beyond a physical sensation. It can impact your emotions, too. "The back pain can become a black hole for all of life's bumps in the road. Everything is blamed on the back pain. If the back pain were better, everything would be better," says Jerome Schofferman, MD, head of the Rehabilitation, Interventional, and Medical Spine Care (RIMS) Section of the North American Spine Society, and director of Research and Education for SpineCare Medical Group in San Francisco and Daly City, Calif.
How well you cope with your low back pain, and whether you get the right treatment for the physical and emotional impacts of it, will determine whether you control your pain -- or it controls you.
The Pain-Emotion Connection
Low back pain can be more than just physical. It can have a profound effect on your mood, and just about every other part of your life. "Chronic pain is something that interferes with every aspect of daily living. You can't concentrate -- you can't remember things as well. It affects your appetite, it affects your sleep," says Robert N. Jamison, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Anesthesia and Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.
People who are in constant pain may worry that they won't be able to work or go about their daily activities. With all of that stress, "It makes sense that people get depressed, anxious, and irritable," Jamison says.
Pain is more than just unpleasant sensations traveling through your nervous system. It also involves your perception, feelings, and thoughts. The worse you think your pain will be -- the worse it feels.