Depression and Chronic Pain - a chicken and egg scenario

Is your health getting you down?

The link between chronic pain and depression is one that is fairly obvious, in fact people with chronic lower back pain are 3 – 4 times more likely to suffer from major depression (Sullivan et al. 1992).

If your pain means you can’t take part in your normal daily activities, golf, tennis or even moving about your house or the supermarket comfortably, then this brings you down even further (Williamson and Schulz, 1992). In fact, limited mobility is the strongest factor associated with depression.

Chicken and Egg

People with depression are more likely to have a poor surgical outcome. Which we know often leads to chronic pain.

Does depression cause the pain or does the pain cause the depression?

One study suggests that patients with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis experience far greater pain levels if they are also suffering from depression.

Do patients with depression feel pain more intensely?

You’re not making it up

One of the terms we use when talking about chronic pain is “central sensitisation”.

This means that your entire nervous system becomes super sensitive to the tiniest possible pain signal – you quite literally feel more pain.

Resolving this is the key difference between a good result and ongoing issues.

So what do I do?

  1. Get help early – try and resolve the issue before it becomes chronic.
  2. Remember that Pain is personal. And you have your own personal pain level. You aren’t making it up!
  3. Think of your whole body and your whole history and share that with your practitioner – if pain messages are long term they get confused, so where you feel pain might not be the original cause. Plus your entire body is connected!
  4. Support and treat the nervous system where these long term pain message get “stuck”.
  5. Don’t get lost in the medical jargon – some of the terms can sound scary until you understand what they really mean. Do your research and never be afraid to get a second opinion.

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