I am 55 and suffer from chronic back pain. I don't do heavy labor, but it seems like the stress I have at work makes it harder to deal with my back. Is the pain I feel all in my head?

Saying back pain is "all in your head" is one way our society brushes serious issues aside, like the challenges workplaces can put on workers' health. People prefer to think that your backache makes it hard for you to handle your work. But some doctors have suggested the very opposite--that your workplace makes it hard for you to handle your backache.

Research has shown that if you take time off for chronic, disabling back pain, you are less likely to return to work as you get older. There's a reason for this. Studies have shown that stress in the workplace can potentially lead to poor general health among workers. A stressful or unstable work setting can also make back pain even less tolerable. When you already suffer from back pain, a difficult workplace can be like "the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Heavy labor or not, the personality of your workplace can take a toll on your back. You may want to consider other job options. You may also want to work with a physical therapist who can suggest stress-reducing exercises and help you cope with your back pain if the stresses at the workplace stay high.