Back Pain Causes Anger - Here's How To Stop It From Ruining Your Relationships

Anger caused by chronic pain is not just bad for your health, it can destroy your relationships too if you're not careful. So learn how to keep harmony in your household here. 

back pain causes anger

We’ve all been there haven’t we? 

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you feel is the pain in your back. 

It makes even the thought of getting out of bed painful. 

In fact you feel ten years older than you actually are. 

And you know then and there that the day ahead will be a struggle. 

Then your back pain continues nagging away at you on the drive to work. 

And added to that the thought of being on your feet all day, lifting, grafting and climbing up and down ladders with it is filling you with dread. 

So even though it's not even 9am yet your pain has already taken over your body as well as your thoughts. 

And the result of this?

You feel helpless and frustrated. 

And then you get angry. 

This anger follows you throughout your workday and takes all the enjoyment out of working.

And as a consequence your work suffers.

As do your relationships with your fellow workers. 

Because you’re not just in pain, you’re a pain to be around too.

But you can't snap out of it because your pain is just getting worse as the day goes on which makes you even angrier and more frustrated.

So by the time you get home you’ve had a hell of a day and you’re left in a foul mood.

And who bears the brunt of that? Your nearest and dearest of course.

As you take out all this pent up anger and frustration on your partner, family and friends.

And this becomes so common that they end up walking on eggshells around you knowing that even the slightest thing can end with you snapping at them.​

So now your anger has not just ruined your workday, it has also created a toxic atmosphere at home too.

Which results in a foul evening to round off a foul day.​

And as bedtime approaches you may feel glad that this nightmare day is almost over.

However your partner isn’t speaking to you and your back pain isn’t getting any easier.

But tomorrow’s another day right?

Well yes for most people. 

But for people with chronic back pain these days can become a regular occurrence.

And this is a big problem because the pain followed by anger cycle can result in:

  • Higher pain levels.
  • More anger.
  • Relationship breakdowns.
  • Being less able physically which leads to you being less productive and valuable at work.
  • Changes to your personality and increased risks of developing anxiety and depression,
  • A toxic home environment that is just as bad for your families health and well-being as well as your own.

Now I don't want to be another nagging voice here.

In fact I totally get it.

Because I’ve been there.

I’ve lived through that day many, many times over .

But the good news is it doesn't have to be that way.

So what would you say if I told you that by changing how you think about pain you could stop this anger from arising in the first place?

And that by being less angry you will also be in less pain?

Sounds good right?

What if I also told you that being in chronic pain doesn’t have to cause problems in your relationships?

In fact it could even strengthen them.​

And that YOU have the power to make sure that your relationships don’t suffer.

Even better?

Well this is all true and achievable. 

And it’s not just me saying it either as it's been backed up in scientific studies.

So read on and learn how you can make days like the one described above a thing of the past.

Just like I have.

Here's Why Chronic Pain Makes You Angry

anger back pain
"So what you’re saying is that being in constant pain will make me angry? No s**t Sherlock!"

Well yes, it does seem pretty obvious doesn’t it?

However many scientific studies have been undertaken that prove this beyond any doubt (if you had any!).

And becoming angry is also likely to lead to you experiencing more physical pain.

A vicious circle.​

And living with chronic pain has been found to even make calm and laid-back people express more anger because of it.

So the pain doesn't just make you angry it can alter your personality as well.

But why does chronic pain make you angry?

Well let's take a look at the science.​

As a review of studies into anger seen in people with chronic pain was able to highlight three reasons for it (apart from the obvious!) (2).

  • Goal frustration.
  • Blaming the world for your pain.
  • The injustice of chronic pain.

1. Goal Frustration

The first finding was that people became angry when their pain was stopping them from doing the things in life that they wanted to do.

And this is a frustration I'm sure we’ve all experienced right?

Pain can grind you down and leave you frustrated at times.

However this frustration can be even higher when your pain is stopping you from doing something which defines how you identify yourself.

In my case it was not being able to play football anymore which did it for me. 

Before my back problems my life had been defined by playing football.

It was what I was best at, how I thought of myself and it was also how others thought of me too.

So a lot of my self-respect and self-esteem was tied into my ability to play football and I could feel the respect I gained from others for this too. 

So when my pain made it impossible for me to carry on playing I suffered badly.

As I felt frustrated beyond words.

I felt totally helpless.

And I became really angry.

My whole sense of self-worth was tied into this identity as a good football player which I could no longer claim to have.

And when it was taken away from me it left me feeling completely lost.

This loss of identity is common and can apply to so many areas of your life.

For example you might struggle if you are no longer able to do the job that you define yourself by. 

How do you go from being a plumber for 30 years to not being able to do it anymore?

Or maybe you pride yourself on being a hands-on parent and do fun outdoor stuff with the kids.​

How do you cope if your back pain means you are no longer able to be the active parent you define yourself as?

If you can't be the one playing sports or going on hikes or taking them swimming?

How do you adjust to that?

It’s hard.

And it can make you angry.

2. Blaming The World For Your Pain

Blaming other people or situations, events or even fate for your chronic pain will only breed anger and resentment.

It can make you bitter.

It can eat at your insides. 

And it can leave you feeling out of control, helpless and wallowing in self-pity.

Don't play the blame game when it comes to your pain.

It has also been shown that people who blame others for their pain are more likely to suffer emotional distress than those who accept their fate.

And we’ve got enough to deal with already without adding that to our list of woes right?

So don’t do it to yourself.

3. The Injustice Of Chronic Pain

We all know that chronic pain isn’t fair.

In fact not being fair is an understatement.

It's a random sh*tstorm that you are left to deal with everyday of your life mostly through no fault of your own.

So I'm sure we've all asked ourselves the same things:

  • "Why did this have to happen to ME?"
  • "What did I do to deserve this?"
  • "Why do I have to live the rest of my life like this when others don't?"

These are questions that no-one can give us an answer for.

The harsh truth is we’ve just been dealt a duff hand.

But take a look around you. 

Life isn’t fair!

When life gives you lemons don't wallow, give it the finger instead.

People are suffering in many different ways every single day.

In fact they suffer fates far worse than having chronic back pain.

And they still get on with their lives.

So don't go down the 'woe is me' route.​

Because if you allow yourself to stew on your own misfortune then anger will never be far away.

As hanging onto the injustice of the situation has been found to harm the long-term physical and mental health of people with chronic lower back pain.

So you need to find a way to accept your fate and let go if you are going to stop the anger from rising.

So What's The Best Way To Deal With Anger?

anger back pain

​You may think that the best way to get rid of anger is by releasing it.

But I’ve already mentioned how people with chronic pain commonly express that anger by taking it out on those closest to them.

And how this is unhealthy for all concerned.

So what's the answer?

Do you need to hold your anger in instead?

Well, no. 

As studies have found that holding in anger is just as bad for your well-being as letting it out.

Because they both lead to more muscle tension in the lower back area of people with chronic lower back pain.

And this increased muscle tension led to higher pain levels which meant they were less physically active in the hours that followed.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

“So I can’t let my anger out or hold it in without increasing my pain. What the hell am I supposed to do?!”

It's a good question!

And the answer is you need to cut it off at source.

Stop it from developing rather than reacting to it.

And you can do this by changing how you think about your pain experience.

There are 3 proven anger management strategies that will help you to achieve this which are:​

  • Identifying your negative thoughts about pain, challenging them and reframing them in more positive and healthy way.
  • Learning to accept the pain you feel and the negative thoughts that come with it rather than struggling against it.
  • Distracting your attention away from the pain.

These will all help to prevent the anger from rising in the first place.

Which obviously reduces the need to express it or hold it in.

And you can find an article I have written detailing exactly how to carry out these 3 techniques by clicking here.

How To Not Allow Anger To Ruin Your Relationships

​So by now you know why chronic pain can make you angry and how that anger is likely to lead to even more pain.

But the effects of anger on your relationships can be just as severe. 

Now we all know that suffering from chronic pain is tough.

It can be an isolating experience and you can feel like you are struggling all alone at times.

But this is where our friends and family have a massive part to play.​ 

Because we need their love and support to be able to successfully manage our chronic pain.​

So if your relationships start to suffer because of your anger it can really take it's toll on your health.

Because supportive relationships have been shown to be vital for a person with chronic pain’s long-term physical and mental health and well-being.

I mean we all want to feel understood right? 

To have others caring about us and helping us to deal with the tough times that come with our condition?

Especially when we're in pain.​

However the anger that comes from living with chronic pain can drive a wedge between even the strongest relationships.

And studies have shown that the more angry a person with chronic pain becomes the less support they receive from their partner.

And this isn't just bad for your well-being, it's bad for your partner’s well-being too.

As partners of angry people with chronic pain have been found to feel more sad, anxious and angry themselves when they were around their partner.

And not just that, they were also more prone to depression too (4).

​So getting angry is not only likely to lead to more physical pain and less support for you.

It's also going to be damaging to the people you love.

Which makes it an issue that needs addressing sharpish.

Because no-one wants to make their loved ones feel this way right? 

However your anger can take it's toll and lead to resentment from your family and friends.

And you can’t blame them right?

I mean your chronic pain isn’t just affecting your own life is it?

It’s affecting your life as a couple or family too.

As the lifestyle you once enjoyed together will have changed because of your condition.

Because you may not be as active as you once were and maybe can't enjoy the things you used to.

Also the person they fell in love with may have changed into an angry and depressed version of their former selves.

Which isn’t what they signed up for and this can create hostility towards you in your relationship. 

And living in a hostile atmosphere at home has been shown to increase your pain levels.

Because when we feel our partners are being hostile or critical towards us our pain levels increase. 

And the more signs of pain we outwardly show whether through anger, moaning, or sulking, the more our partner will be hostile towards us.

Nightmare right?

So how can you break this vicious circle?

And how can you maintain a healthy and happy relationship and home environment despite being in constant pain?

It's Good To Talk


Photo credit: Simon Huggins

Now I’ve told you the bad news let me tell you the good news.

Which is that while chronic pain can put a strain on even the best of relationships it doesn’t have to be that way.

And the really good news?

You can make the difference!

Let me explain.

We expect a lot from our partners, close friends and family but they’re not mind readers. 

So how can you expect someone who has never experienced what it feels like to live with chronic pain to understand exactly what you are going through?

I mean think back to before your problem began.

Could you have imagined what it was going to be like back then?

I know I couldn't.

So how can you get angry and frustrated at your loved ones for not understanding if you don't explain it to them?!

Now I know that coping with chronic pain is hard.

It can be a mental and physical struggle to get through each day and it’s a struggle that never ends.

And it can feel like an intensely personal struggle at times.

It’s our problem and we’ll deal with it right?

But the way some people deal with it is by pushing it to one side. Ignoring it. Burying it.

And if this is you then the last thing you probably want to do when you get home from a tough day at work is to talk about your pain with your partner right? 

But communication really is the key to creating a harmonious home environment.

Because by sharing what you are going through and the struggles you are experiencing you are giving your loved ones an insight into exactly what it is that you are dealing with.

And this is gold.

Because rather than isolating yourself and them you are including them in your pain battle.​

So rather than cutting them out and becoming angry at them for interfering or not understanding.

Let them know how you are feeling!

And don't worry I'm not saying you need to get into deep, emotional conversations here.

But by just explaining that you may be feeling in more pain than usual that day.

By apologising in advance if you are a bit grumpy and letting them know your bad mood is because of your pain not because of anything they have done.

Suggesting you do something together to take your mind off the pain.

Letting them know how important they are and that their support is vital to you.

You are including them in your battle.

And taking on the problem together can strengthen your relationships rather than putting a strain on them.

Because by gaining an understanding into what you are going through your loved ones will also find it far easier to show empathy and tolerance towards you on your bad days.

And it has been shown that when people with chronic pain feel that their spouse is being empathetic and understanding towards them they feel less pain.

So it's worth learning how to communicate properly.​

This will help your overall well-being and the health of your relationship.

Not to mention how much happier your partner and family will be as well.

So remember that chronic pain is not only tough on you.

It's also hard on your loved ones.

So we need to be able to support each other and it all boils down to good communication.

Don't Forget To Have A Laugh Too!

​Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

And a little humour can go a long way.

For instance a study on married couples (one with chronic lower back pain) looked at how their interactions with each other affected how satisfied they were with their marriages.

And also the amount of pain that the partner with chronic pain felt.

Well as you’d expect interactions involving anger, contempt and sadness made both partners dissatisfied in their marriage.

But it also increased the pain levels felt by the partners with chronic pain.

And even made their partners show signs of depression in some cases.

However it was found that humorous interactions led to both partners feeling more satisfied in their marriage.

But there’s a kicker.

This was only the case when the humour was instigated by the partner with chronic pain. 

Because when it was instigated by their partner it actually led to more anger and pain in the person with chronic pain.

As it seems that the partner with chronic pain was perceiving their partners attempts at light-hearted humour as a sign that they weren’t taking them or their pain seriously enough!

And I'm sure we can all relate to that.

I know I can get a little touchy about my pain at times!.

However when the humour originated from the partner with chronic pain this was turned on its head. 

And it made both partners happier as it eased the tension of a difficult situation and made it easier for the partner to feel able to offer their support.

So yet again it’s down to us to take the initiative.

But by being open and honest with your partners, friends and family.

Including them in your pain battle and allowing them to help you.

And having a little laugh along the way.

You will not only improve and maintain your relationships.

You will also improve the mental and physical well-being of both yourself and your loved ones.

And that’s not a bad thing to have in your control is it?

Rounding Up

As people with chronic pain we are more in danger of becoming angry than others.

Because being in pain makes you feel frustrated and causes anger.

However by becoming angry you are only causing yourself more pain.

And outwardly expressing this anger or holding it in only increases pain levels and can alienate your family and friends.

Leaving you without a support network which is vital for your well-being.

And this can become a vicious circle that needs to be broken.

As your anger can also make your loved ones depressed and anxious. 

However through good communication and by including them in your pain battle you can make it easier for them to support you.

And this is good for their well-being too.

So I hope you now have a greater understanding of what happens when these episodes of pain and anger occur.

And hopefully some of the ideas here will prove helpful to you in creating and maintaining a healthy and happy home environment.

Let me know in the comments box if you have any experiences of this yourself or if there is anything you'd like to add.​

And good luck!

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I'm a Painter and Decorator, psychology graduate, and veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help my fellow construction workers to fight back against persistent back pain like I have.

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