Chronic pain does more than just physically hurt you. Pain that won’t go away invades every area of your life, putting a strain on relationships, making your job harder, and keeping you from enjoying activities you used to love. It may not be surprising then that chronic back pain is linked to depression.
A 2004 study that used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey found that those suffering from chronic back pain were considerably more likely to suffer from depression compared to those who were pain free. The researchers estimated that the overall rate for depression among pain-free Canadians was 5.9%, while for those suffering from chronic back pain it was 19.8%. Even after controlling for other variables, chronic back pain was the strongest predictor of depression.
What might be causing this link? Well, on a biological level, chronic pain and depression do have some overlap. They share some of the same neurotransmitters and nerve pathways. However, the link likely goes beyond biology. When pain doesn’t go away, it can create a vicious cycle of pain and depression.
Pain normally evokes emotions. If you experience pain — say you cut yourself while chopping vegetables — it can make you agitated, irritable, and sulky. That’s completely normal. In this example though, it’s also important to note that the pain is acute and short-lived — and so too are the emotions. When you’re in chronic pain, however, this stress response also becomes constant. Instead of rebounding back to your normal baseline mood, feelings of tension, anxiety, and malaise stick around.
Because chronic back pain can often place limitations on your independence and impact many areas of your life, it is even more likely to contribute to depression. The impact of losing the ability to enjoy the basics of life — potentially including relationships, sleep, physical activities, possibly even income — can’t be understated. Again, the cycle of depression and pain makes this worse, as depression can limit your coping ability.
Coupled with depression, chronic back pain can change how you see yourself. Where there once was a happy, healthy, normal person, suffering endlessly from back pain can make you feel victimized and helpless. You don’t have to be a victim, and you aren’t helpless — that happy, healthy person is still there. To take control of your life, you need a physician who sees you as a whole person — a healthy person who’s experiencing pain, not a suffering victim. Dr. Solomon Kamson and the team at the Spine Institute Northwest understand what chronic pain can do to people’s lives, and they work to help patients get back their lives. Take the first step in getting back your life from chronic pain and call the Spine Institute Northwest today at 888-712-0318.