The Link Between Chronic Back Pain and PTSD

Back Pain and PTSD

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems worldwide. It can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. It’s one of the top causes of missed work and it’s one of the most common problems a doctor sees.

The causes of back pain are not fully understood. However, research supports a link between mental health conditions (e.g., depression and anxiety) and back pain. This has also been found true for PTSD and back pain. Pradeep Suri and colleagues (2019) examined longitudinal data for Vietnam-Era twins.

They had specific criteria for the participants. At the start of the study both twins had to have no history of Chronic Back Pain, and only one twin in the pair could met criteria for having current PTSD symptoms

At the 5-year follow-up they found 60% of those with PTSD symptoms had Chronic Back Pain and only 40% of those without PTSD had Chronic Back Pain. This difference was statistically significant. This is study included 91 identical twin pairs, which is important as it controls for genetic factors.

Suri and Team (2019) concluded that PTSD symptoms were associated with an increased incidence of Chronic Back Pain, without confounding by genetic factors or early family environment. Furthermore, they stated that PTSD symptoms may be a modifiable risk factor for prevention of Chronic Back Pain.

At the centre for clinical psychology, we focus on using Cognitive Processing Therapy, for PTSD. This is a best practice trauma-focused treatment that can help people with PTSD to make significant changes in their PTSD. Call our team on 03 9077 0122.


Suri, P., Boyko, E. J., Smith, N. L., Jarvik, J. G., Jarvik, G. P., Williams, F., Williams, R., Haselkorn, J., & Goldberg, J. (2019). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms are Associated With Incident Chronic Back Pain: A Longitudinal Twin Study of Older Male Veterans. Spine44(17), 1220–1227.