Your thoughts can cause neck and back pain during lifting tasks

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Cognitive dissonance, the psychological discomfort we feel when we encounter information that conflicts with our beliefs or actions, can lead to real physical distress.

Recent research has found that this mental strain during lifting and lowering tasks can lead to increased pressure on the neck and lower back.

Unpacking cognitive dissonance

When you believe in something but your actions don’t align with that belief, cognitive dissonance occurs. This mental tension can make you feel uncomfortable or anxious.

New research now suggests that this psychological stress can also cause physical strain on your body, particularly in the neck and lower back.

The research experiment

In a study conducted at Ohio State University, participants performed precision lowering tasks in a laboratory setting. First, the researchers told the participants that they were fine.

However, when the feedback changed and indicated poor performance, the participants’ movements resulted in increased stress on their necks and lower back vertebrae.

The magnitude of this spinal strain was directly related to the level of cognitive dissonance that participants experienced.

This finding suggests that cognitive dissonance may be a previously unidentified risk factor for neck and low back pain, potentially impacting risk prevention strategies in the workplace.

Revealing the mind-body connection

William Marras, executive director of the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University, led this research. For decades, his laboratory has been investigating the effects of everyday living and professional forces on the spine.

Previous studies had already found that psychological stress can affect the biomechanics of the spine.

However, this new research took a different approach and focused on cognitive dissonance. The study involved 17 participants who completed three phases of an experiment.

After initially providing positive feedback, the researchers gradually began to suggest that the participants were performing poorly.

Participants’ cognitive dissonance scores were calculated based on changes in blood pressure and heart rate variability and questionnaire responses.

The higher the value of cognitive dissonance, the higher the load on the spine during the experiment.

The impact on safety at work

The research suggests that cognitive dissonance could have a significant impact on workplace safety.

As Marras explained, “This increased spinal loading occurred under only one condition, and that was at relatively low loading — you can imagine how that would be with more complex tasks or higher loads.”

Further research on cognitive dissonance and its impact on exercise could lead to new strategies to prevent injuries and disorders in the workplace.

Currently, Marras is conducting a multi-institution clinical trial to evaluate different treatments for low back pain.

The role of cognitive dissonance in physical health

The results of this study show that cognitive dissonance is more than just a psychological phenomenon. It can have real, physical effects on our health.

Understanding the interplay between mental and physical health could help improve treatment strategies for various disorders and improve overall well-being.

As Marras puts it, “Just as the entire system has to be right for a car to run properly, we are learning that the spine is the same.”

If you care about pain, please read studies showing that one in three people with chronic pain use marijuana and powerlifting is an effective exercise for chronic low back pain.

Further information on the topic of wellness can be found in current studies Krill oil could improve muscle health in the elderlyAnd Consumption of yogurt is associated with lower frailty in the elderly.

The study was published in ergonomics.

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