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Can Chronic Pain Cause Depression?

woman with chronic pain and depression lying down wearing a white jumper

Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition that can take a physical and mental toll on you.

If you are constantly dealing with pain, it can take interfere with your social interactions, work performance, and even diminish your ability to be intimate with someone.

This could be why chronic pain is a major contributor to depression and anxiety, often triggering latent tendencies or exacerbating current symptoms.

But you can mitigate these symptoms with more knowledge about how depression and chronic pain are linked, including how to notice triggers and manage them.

This article will explore the relationship between chronic pain and depression, giving you valuable insights on how they interact with one another so that you can better understand your situation or the people around you who are suffering from chronic pain.

How Does Chronic Pain Cause Depression?

woman with chronic lower back pain

Pain is a physical sensation, but it often provokes an emotional response. If you are hurt, it is easy to feel anxious and agitated. However, once it subsides, the negative emotions usually go away with it.

Pain that persists long after the original injury or health problem can be overwhelming for any individual. It can lower your energy level and cause mood disorders.

Over time, the stress of living with pain can lead to many other problems, including

  • anger
  • chronic anxiety
  • lower self-esteem
  • sleep disturbances
  • decrease libido or interest in sex
  • isolation from friends, family, & peers
  • financial troubles due to exorbitant costs of care or loss of work.

All these risk factors create the perfect storm to stir up depression.

The Overlap Between Chronic Pain and Depression

depressed man with hands on head

Chronic pain and depression are more closely linked than you might think. They are thought to share multiple common neurotransmitters, our brain’s chemical messengers, which may include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. They also share some nerve pathways in the spinal cord and the brain. Given this information, it is easy to see how pain can lead to depression, making the pain worse.

In many cases, the two health problems are treated together. In fact, certain medications have been proven to improve both pain and depression However there are risks of taking some of these medications with SSRIs used to treat depression, so be sure to discuss potential contraindications with your doctor.

A Cycle of Chronic Pain and Depression

cycle of depression and chronic pain infographic in blue and green

Conditions that cause chronic pain are hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. For example, people with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue often have trouble getting a diagnosis or even treated seriously by Western medicine in some regions.

Some people even give up looking for the cause altogether and decide to just live with it. However, the more pain you feel, the weaker your body will get. The weaker it gets, the more susceptible it is to pain. It is not uncommon for people with chronic pain to start hurting in parts that were not problematic before. The more this pain affects your quality of life, the more likely it is for psychological effects to take over.

It does not take long before despair sets in.

Depression changes the game significantly. It can magnify the pain and make life even more difficult than it already is. 


Treatment Options for Chronic Pain and Depression

If pain and depression are intertwined, it is best to treat both simultaneously. How is this possible? As mentioned before, depression and pain share some of the same chemical messengers in the brain. This could be why other antidepressants can lessen the body’s perception of pain.

Some of the more known medications with this capability are certain

  • norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
  • anticonvulsant medications

They are highly effective for herniated disks, migraines, and other neuropathic or spinal nerve-related pain.

Aside from medication management, it is important to engage in some form of physical activity. Sure, it is quite tempting to avoid exercise if you have chronic pain, but doing so will leave you out of shape and vulnerable to even more pain.

The key is to design an exercise plan that is both safe and effective. This is where XRHealth comes in.

Using XRHealth for Chronic Conditions

doctor on smartphone, Virtual reality on laptop

XRHealth is a telehealth clinic offering personalized therapy for chronic conditions alongside virtual reality (VR). We use the latest VR technology to help you access healthcare solutions without leaving the safety and comfort of your homes.

We have dedicated therapists who will customize care plans for each individual with a combination of conventional physical or occupational therapy techniques like stretching and strengthening exercises and mental health techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) alongside VR therapy. 

Our therapists use a combination of video calls to meet clients where they are and in-app messaging to support clients in between sessions when they may need extra support.

Aside from physical therapy, we offer various options for chronic pain therapy and depression management together. We also provide cognitive therapy that can help you recognize the “automatic thoughts” surrounding chronic pain to change the thought patterns and feel better.

XRHealth offers a holistic approach for treating both chronic pain and depression effectively.

Take Away

  • Chronic pain can often trigger or exacerbate depression symptoms
  • Lifestyle changes like exercises and medication management can alleviate symptoms
  • Online therapy combined with VR applications can change the way you think and respond to your pain and associated depression

 

Concerned that your pain might be leading to depression and/or other psychological discomforts? Feel free to reach out to discuss your options. 

To speak with a team member, call us at 857-990-6111 Ext. 1 or register for an appointment


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