Arousal of Negative Emotions and Symptom-Specific Reactivity in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients

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Anger may have greater effects on chronic pain severity than other negative emotions and may do so by increasing muscle tension near the site of injury (symptom-specific reactivity). For patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP), relevant muscles are lower paraspinals (LP). Ninety-four CLBP patients and 79 controls underwent anger and sadness recall interviews. EMG and cardiovascular activity were recorded. Patients exhibited greater LP tension increases during anger and slower recovery than controls. Only patients showed greater LP reactivity during anger than sadness. For both groups, trapezius reactivity during anger and sadness did not differ. LP reactivity to anger correlated with everyday pain severity for patients. Anger-induced symptom-specific LP reactivity may be linked to chronic pain aggravation among CLBP patients.

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