Depression and Back Pain

The way that we feel emotionally affects the way we feel physically. Conversely, our physical experiences affect our moods, especially when we suffer from pain levels that interfere with our jobs, relationships, and home life. This mind-body connection has been long understood in eastern health sciences; and this connection is becoming clearer in Western medicine. When we are anxious and depressed, our muscles become tense and our nervous becomes wired differently.

Our human nervous system is a network of nerves, which include large ones at the exit points of the spine that become smaller ones as they radiate further from their point of origin and branch off of one another. These nerves are sensitive to structural changes in the body and inflammatory chemicals that are released by the cells of tissues that become damages. These nerves respond to structural damage and these chemicals transmitting pain signals towards the brain. As a result of psychological factors such as irritability, frustration, and depression, pain signals that were transmitted by these nerves may be amplified. It is a fact that pain may either originate as a result of depression, and may make our pain experiences as a result of real musculoskeletal systems worse. Here, we will take a closer look at the relationship between depression and back pain and what we know about psychology that we can use to experience pain relief.



In our lives, most of us are happy when we have stability in our jobs and personal lives, and when we are in good physical health. When we suffer from pain and the symptoms of disease, we may become depressed, frustrated, and irritable. It feels bad to be in pain and it feels bad when we are not fully in control of our lives. Depression, frustration, and irritability may cause hormonal changes in our body and amplify pain signals to the brain. We feel depressed because we are in pain, and the pain that we experience may cause more discomfort and disability. In order to reverse this self-defeating disability spiral, people must find activities or exercises that bring them comfort and relaxation or they should seek the help of a psychologist. Psychologists may help patients to control pain in individual treatment sessions or group therapy.

Patients may think that there is a one for one relationship between the amount of damage that our bodies sustain and the amount of pain that we experience. That is simply not the case. Let us explain. Imagine that an injury to a structure in the back is rates a 4 on a 1-10 scale, with a ten being the worst type of damage. Will most of these people report pain levels of 4s on a 1-10 scale to mirror the amount of damage sustained to the body. The answer is an unequivocal no. there are brain centers that receive pain signals from the central and peripheral nerves.

These same brain centers also receive other sources of information which are initiated by feelings of comfort, relaxation, and happiness. These signals may compete with or perhaps even override that pain responses triggered from injuries and degenerative body changes. For this reason, it is important for people in pain to find various activities that make them feel good or coping mechanisms for dealing with pain. A therapist or psychologist may help people to do these things.

A pain management program is not only about painkilling medications, physical therapy, and surgery. A patient must also have psychological resources available to him or her if he or she needs them. There are professionals available, known as pain psychologists that may provide evaluations of pain patients. These pain psychologists may provide a psychological pain assessment to determine how much a person's emotional stress levels are affecting their physical experiences. This evaluation may affect the treatment program that is created for patients, to help patients to cope with their pain as they are rehabilitating their injuries.

Following the pain assessment, the psychologist will determine if the patient's depression symptoms are secondary to their physical injury, or if their depression pre-existed before the changes occurred in their body. Regardless of whether or not the depression existed before the physical injury, the patient's treatment program will involve getting patients the treatment they need to address these psychological factors.