The link between depression and back pain

When it comes to depression, we seem to spend a lot of time, collectively, trying to figure out the cause. But there is a group of patients for whom the cause might readily be identified – those with chronic back pain.

Depression is easily the most common emotion associated with back pain. In fact, research has shown that depression and chronic pain are the two most common conditions presenting to health professionals, and the rate of major depression increases in a linear fashion with pain severity. This should make the treatment of chronic back pain a high priority, both for the individual and society at large.

It’s not so difficult to see how this relationship is being mediated, when you consider the many symptoms often experienced by patients who present with chronic back, or other spine-related, pain. These can predispose to feelings of hopelessness, despair and other symptoms of clinical depression. They might include:

  • Difficulty with sleeping at night, leading to tiredness and irritability during the day
  • Restricted movement, which may lead patients to stop participating in social activities
  • Inability to work, leading to isolation and financial difficulties
  • Gastrointestinal problems caused by anti-inflammatory medications, as well as mental dullness from pain medications
  • Mental distraction, leading to memory and concentration difficulties

The consequences on family life can also be significant. Physical limitation hampers parents’ ability to take care of children, perform necessary household chores and engage in family leisure activities. Stress and strain in family relationships can then contribute to a growing depression.

At 96 Harley Psychotherapy, we are well equipped to treat patients seeking relief from back pain as well as depression, be it endogenous or directly caused by pain.

Physiotherapist John Rutherford is a leading practitioner in the treatment of back pain, and works alongside our mental health team to provide relief for those chronically afflicted. With over 25,000 back treatments to his name, there are few who can offer such expert diagnosis and equally few who can so rapidly pinpoint a course of treatment designed for a return to functional mobility. You can read more about him here.

With depression being so very prevalent, it makes sense to eliminate that which can be relatively easily treated. Allowing back pain to continue is to run the risk of feeding a downward emotional spiral which can ultimately lead the patient to feel it is impossible to change the situation.

Do you have hands-on experience of depression linked to chronic back pain? Perhaps you’ve experienced a dramatic turnaround with the resolution of your own symptoms? If you have any reflections on this topic, please comment – we’d love to hear from you.

Written by Jacqui Hogan