Conflict About Expressing Emotions and Chronic Low Back Pain: Associations With Pain and Anger

James W. Carson, Francis J. Keefe, Kathryn P. Lowry, Laura S. Porter, Veeraindar Goli, Anne Marie Fras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


There has been growing interest among researchers and clinicians in the role of ambivalence over emotional expression (AEE) in adjustment to chronic illness. Because of the salience of anger in chronic low back pain, this condition provides a particularly good model in which to examine the role of AEE. This study examined the relation of AEE to pain and anger in a sample of 61 patients with chronic low back pain. Patients completed standardized measures of AEE, pain, and anger. Correlational analyses showed that patients who had higher AEE scores reported higher levels of evaluative and affective pain as well as higher levels of state and trait anger and the tendency to hold in angry thoughts and feelings. Mediational analyses revealed that most of the associations between AEE and pain, and AEE and anger, were independent of one another. These findings suggest that a potentially important relationship exists between AEE and key aspects of living with persistent pain. Perspective: This preliminary study suggests that there is a relation between ambivalence over emotional expression and pain and anger in patients with chronic low back pain. Patients who report greater conflict with regard to expressing emotions may be experiencing higher pain and anger.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-411
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambivalence over emotional expression
  • anger
  • chronic low back pain
  • pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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