Many people who experience chronic pain often report that they struggle with anxiety and depression as well. This often leads to the question, “are chronic pain and depression related?”
The answer is, that they can be.
The Pain and Depression Connection
There have been several studies that explore the relationship between chronic pain and mental health issues, specifically anxiety and depression. Both pain and depression cause neuroplasticity changes. Research shows that chronic pain can damage the systems in the brain that manage the production of dopamine and serotonin – the “feel good” hormones that help keep the mood stable.
One study showed that as many as 85% of patients in the study who had chronic pain also experienced severe depression. What’s more, the patients who experienced depression that was the result of chronic pain had a poorer prognosis than the patients who had chronic pain with no symptoms of depression.
A Vicious Cycle
Just as pain can make a person feel depressed and anxious, depression and anxiety can increase a person’s perception of pain. They feel increased pain or more intense pain.
Chronic pain causes the body to produce stress hormones at levels that are unusually high. This increases the body’s sensitivity to pain. This leads to more pain, more intense pain, and feelings of anxiety and depression, which can cause other stress symptoms such as sleep problems, digestion issues, hair loss, skin problems, low energy levels, and more.
This is because the decreased production of serotonin and dopamine can also cause the natural analgesic properties that are associated with these hormones to be suppressed. This in turn increases pain perception. The pain then leads to more depression and anxiety. It is a very vicious cycle.
Focused Treatment Can Help
Chronic pain and depression are difficult to live with, but there are things you can do to help.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced, healthy diet, getting good quality sleep, and exercising regularly by doing activities that are appropriate for your mobility level.
Regular chiropractic care is also a very effective treatment for chronic pain with plenty of research to back it. It is a safe, non-invasive, drug-free solution for pain that is recommended by most doctors.
A common misconception is that chiropractors only treat back pain. The truth is, chiropractic care is effective in treating headaches, shoulder or arm pain, hip pain, pain in the legs, ankles, and feet, and more.
Since pain and depression often occur together, treating the mental health side can usually help with the pain as well. Neurofeedback is a drug-free, non-invasive treatment for many brain-based issues, including anxiety and depression. The safe, painless treatments help to essentially “rewire” that patient’s brain and help them get relief.