Chronic Pain + Mental Health: What Should You Know?
10 Dec, 2019
Chronic pain is a significant source of stress for millions of Americans. It can rob a person of energy, motivation and joy. It can interfere with work, relationships, travel, family time and hobbies. Unsurprisingly, chronic pain is also associated with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Effective pain management is a huge part of maintaining both your physical and your mental health.
This month, Pain Treatment Centers of America is exploring some of the ways chronic pain can impact your mental health--and what you can do to get back to living.
Chronic Pain Increases Risk of Depression--and Vice Versa
Individuals who are diagnosed with depression are three times more likely to suffer from chronic pain than the average person.
Similarly, people with chronic pain are more likely to develop anxiety and mood disorders.
Why are depression and chronic pain linked?
Research shows that individuals suffering from chronic pain can experience changes in the areas of the brain that control the cognitive and emotional modulation of pain.
Additionally, being in pain can limit a person’s ability to take part in activities that improve mental health.
For instance, when a person is in pain, they limit their physical movement and often isolate themselves from the outside world. Lack of physical movement can exacerbate the physical symptoms of pain. Isolation can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression surrounding relationships, work and leisure.
As physical pain worsens, depression often worsens, too.
In fact, depression and physical pain are so intertwined that the presence of one often makes it difficult to diagnose the other. Individuals who visit their primary care doctor to seek treatment for pain often report only the physical symptoms of their condition. As a result, treatment is often unsuccessful.
Depression Can Make Pain Worse
Aches and pains are some of the key physical symptoms of depression. In fact, one study showed that a depressed mental state can make physical pain more noticeable and more unpleasant.
In that study, respondents who reported severe physical pain were often more depressed than those who reported average levels of pain.
Certain Pain Conditions Have a Higher Risk of Depression
Individuals suffering from chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia or neuropathy are more likely to experience depressive symptoms.
Fibromyalgia , in particular, heightens the risk of becoming depressed. Researchers have found that fibromyalgia and depression share a similar pathophysiology and cause similar symptoms, including sleep disturbances, digestive problems, and physical pain.
Neuropathy also shares pathogenic mechanisms with depression and anxiety.
Treating Chronic Pain and Depression
A number of treatments can help individuals suffering from both chronic pain and depression:
SSRI Antidepressant Medications - Antidepressants have been shown to provide pain relief for pain caused by arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia and other diseases.
Tricyclic Antidepressant Medications - This type of antidepressant works especially well on neuropathic pain.
Physical Therapy - Regular, light-to-moderate physical activity improves range of motion, flexibility, strength and balance. Specialized physical therapy can help individuals learn how to exercise efficiently and to target areas of the body that are weak or inflexible. Physical therapy can also relieve chronic pain and allow people to return to the hobbies and activities that they love.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Used together with additional pain management techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy can help improve symptoms of depression over time.
If you suffer from chronic pain and are concerned about your mental health, it’s important to visit a comprehensive pain specialist.
PTCOA: Comprehensive Pain Management
Effective pain management requires more than just medication. Comprehensive pain management considers all aspects of a person’s pain, including physical, mental, and emotional factors.
Pain Treatment Centers of America can help you establish a pain treatment plan that provides relief and helps you get back to living.
Contact us today to learn more or to schedule your appointment.