Massage therapists are aware of how emotions can be held in the body and sometimes released by the client in session. In new research, investigators found that the intentional suppression of anger results in increased pain and blood pressure.

“Suppression of anger may be linked to heightened pain report and pain behavior during a subsequent painful event among chronic low-back patients,” the researchers noted in an abstract published in

For the study, chronic low-back pain patients were assigned to Suppression or No Suppression conditions for a cooperative computer maze task during which a confederate harassed them.

During baseline and maze task, patients’ lower paraspinal and trapezius muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate were recorded, according to the abstract. After the maze task, patients underwent a structured pain-behavior task.

Results indicated that the subjects who suppressed their anger experienced greater lower paraspinal muscle tension and systolic blood pressure increases during the maze task than did the nonsuppressors.

“Results suggest that suppression-induced lower paraspinal muscle tension and systolic blood pressure increases may link the actual suppression of anger during provocation to signs of clinically relevant pain among chronic low-back pain patients,” the researchers noted.

“Suppression of anger and subsequent pain intensity and behavior among chronic low back pain patients: the role of symptom-specific physiological reactivity” was conducted by researchers at the Department of Behavioral Science, Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, Illinois, and published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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