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Burying Your Anger

“Chronic musculoskeletal pain, especially lower back and neck pain, is often related to repressed anger,” says Dr. Gross. The mechanism isn’t understood, but “I see it again and again in my practice, especially with women,” he says. In a recent study at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers found that when people with chronic low-back pain were told to suppress their anger during an aggravating task, they experienced greater muscle tension in their lower backs and greater pain behaviors that increased their pain severity than nonsuppressors did.

Solution: Jot down brief statements about what makes you angry or frustrated in your life, suggests Dr. Gross. “The idea is to bring anger to your consciousness, not to necessarily act on it.” Researchers at Pennsylvania State University had chronic pain sufferers express their anger either constructively in writing or by drafting their goals in an unemotional way; over nine weeks, the group that wrote about anger experienced greater improvements in pain control and pain severity than the other group did.

(Credit: Daniel Laflor/The agency collection/Getty Images)
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