Have you ever stopped to think about how your body responds to emotions? We know various emotions cause different muscle activity in our faces.  You have probably become good at reading emotions like sadness, anger, fear or happiness in a person face.  You also subconsciously read a person’s body language when they are walking. 

Can our emotions have a negative impact on our back muscles when we are just sitting? A study was published in May 2021 looking at this very question.  

The study participants were put in a sitting position and electrodes were placed in the shoulders, mid back and low back to study muscle activity. The participants were then exposed to photos and music that elicited feelings of sadness and feeling of happiness. 

They found that exposure to feelings of happiness did not create any additional muscle activity. Exposure to negative emotions causing sadness created a significant increase in mid back and low back muscle activity.

What is our practical application?

  1. Understand that negative emotions do stress your body and can contribute to your posture and back pain.
  2. You have the ability to look for and dwell on good things. Do something practical like looking at family pictures that make you smile. Do something encouraging for someone else. Positive thinking will not cure all ills but it will have a positive effect on your physical and mental health. 



Scheer C, Kubowitsch S, Dendorfer S, Jansen P. Happy Enough to Relax? How Positive and Negative Emotions Activate Different Muscular Regions in the Back – an Explorative Study. Front Psychol. 2021 May 31;12:511746. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.511746. PMID: 34135791; PMCID: PMC8201496.

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