Could Marital Arguments Lead To Back Pain?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: June 6, 2016

marital arguments and back pain

You’ve probably heard that getting angry can cause your blood pressure to increase, but can other emotions cause harmful effects inside our bodies? Researchers at Northwestern University recently put that theory to the test.

The Study

For their study, researchers examined 20 years of data on married couples, controlling for factors such as age, exercise, smoking and dietary habits. They examined how husbands and wives responded during the first 15 minutes of a disagreement. Researchers were able to compare those reactions to future health problems to determine how the two were related.

“We looked at marital-conflict conversations that lasted just 15 minutes and could predict the development of health problems over 20 years for husbands based on the emotional behaviors that they showed during these 15 minutes,” said study lead author Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University.

Arguments, Emotions and Your Back

After comparing the data, here is what researchers found:

  • The link between emotions and health outcomes was most pronounced for husbands, although wives showed similar correlations to a lesser extent.
  • Spouses who “stonewalled” their partner, with actions like avoiding eye contact or barely speaking, were more likely to develop back pain, stiff necks or general spine soreness.
  • Spouses who “flew off the handle more easily” were at a greater risk for developing chest pain, high blood pressure and heart issues over time.
  • Emotions like fear and sadness did not correlate to any significant health conditions.

“For years, we’ve known that negative emotions are associated with negative health outcomes, but this study dug deeper to find that specific emotions are linked to specific health problems,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study. “This is one of the many ways that our emotions provide a window for glimpsing important qualities of our future lives.”

The Researchers pointed out that the study is only correlative and does not show causal effect between negative emotional responses and a higher number of reported negative health issues. However, if you feel that you have frequent back pain, consult your spine specialist.

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