Chronic Back Pain and Depression – the link

There are several research studies to show that there is a connection between low back pain and depression. Chronic back pain can cause depression and at the same time, depression can also cause low back pain. It is a well-known fact that people with depression feel their low back pain more intensely than others. Backache is a common symptom in depression. 6 out of 10 people who suffer from depression are more likely to develop low back pain.

Is there a link between chronic back pain and depression?

Chronic back pain and depression are related. Pain can cause depression and depression in turn can make you find it difficult to cope with the back pain. This creates a vicious cycle as the chronic low back pain worsens the symptoms of depression and the depression worsens the effect of the pain.

Can chronic back pain affect your daily life?

Chronic low back pain can affect you emotionally if it bothers you over a long period of time. You have to deal with the stress of the pain and the inability of not able to do the things that you would like to do. Not knowing when the pain. Will improve will cause anxiety and will gradually lead to depression, anger and mood swings.

What are the early symptoms of depression in chronic low back pain?

Depression is a very common emotion associated with chronic back pain. It is very important to identify the early signs of depression. These are usually lack of good quality sleep, feeling agitated or restless, low energy or sluggish, feeling of worthlessness or guilt, poor appetite and wishing to be dead. Major depression is considered to be four times greater in people with chronic back pain than in the general population.

How exactly does chronic back pain affect you?

DIFFICULTY IN SLEEP: Chronic back pain often makes it difficult for you to sleep. This can lead to fatigue and irritability during the day.

SOCIAL ISOLATION: As you have difficulty in moving around, you tend to spend most of your time at home away from others. This leads to social isolation and with no activities that you enjoy.

FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES: As it is difficult to get to work, there may also be financial difficulties that begin to impact the entire family.

MEDICATIONS: Most pain relief medications cause irritation of the linings of your tummy. This can cause stomach cramps, and feeling of vomiting. There is a general feeling of mental dullness from the pain medications.

How does chronic back pain make you anxious?

There is a worry about your long-suffering back pain, its cause, treatment, and your future. Most us will tend to worry if we would end up in a wheelchair either without or with treatment. But the chances of this are extremely small! People who suffer from anxiety and worry in their lives anyway, suffer more with these symptoms when they get back pain.

Why do anxious patients feel the back pain worse than others?

This is because the back pain is felt by the pain centre in your brain. One part of your brain affects other parts and if one part of your brain is anxious, it influences your brain as to how you feel the pain.

What eventually happens with time?

Chronic back pain can lead to a lack of interest to engage in a variety of day to day activities. This can then lead a downward physical and emotional spiral with a feeling of loss of control over life. This can lead to depression.  Usually there is a feeling of getting ‘stuck in a rut’.

How do you avoid getting into this situation?

Chronic low back pain and the depression must be treated simultaneously. The treatment of clinical depression or anxiety includes psychological interventions like counselling, relaxation techniques, talk therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise and anti-depressant medications. This is done alongside chronic pain management with physical rehabilitation aimed at restoration of function and appropriate pain management. This method of multi-disciplinary treatment will ultimately give you more sense of control over your pain. This leads to physical and mental re-conditioning.

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