We all experience pain at some point; however, for those who suffer from anxiety and depression, the pain can be intense and particularly hard to treat. Often, severe pain wears a person down, preventing them from eating, sleeping, being active hence adding to their stress. Such an experience is likely to take a toll on a person’s emotional wellbeing.
Those who get back pain from car wrecks and those with chronic and disabling pain syndromes like fibromyalgia, low back pain, and nerve pain are most likely to be affected by either anxiety or depression, sometimes even both. These symptoms can last for days, sometimes weeks on end, without letting up. Medication used to help with back pain can also contribute to these depression symptoms.
Back Pain and Anxiety Disorders
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (AADA), people with mood and anxiety disorders have a higher chance of having back pain. Some of the symptoms associated with this include persistent aches, sharp, localized pain in the upper or lower back or the neck, especially after engaging in strenuous activities, stiffness along the spine, and chronic pain in the middle and lower back, especially after standing or sitting for extended periods.
Pain along with an anxiety disorder can be hard to treat. Those with both may have a low tolerance for pain. People with anxiety disorders can be more sensitive to side effects from medications or be more fearful than the side effects. They might also have a higher fear or pain compared to someone who has pain without anxiety.
Back Pain and Depression
The Spine Health Institute observed that although back pain can lead to depression, depression can also cause back pain. Body aches are a common symptom of depression. Like those with anxiety, people with severe depression feel pain more intensely than those without. Some believe that depression can cause increased pain and inflammation.
Depression can also cause fatigue that can prevent those who have it from exercising. The lack of exercise can put added stress on the discs and joints in their backs, making them more susceptible to low back pain, injuries, and muscle strains.
The chemical processes and physical effects connected with clinical depression can add to the presence and severity of a person’s back pain. From this standpoint, depression can also trigger back pain. William Deardorff, Ph.D., discusses at length the relationship between depression and chronic back pain.
Getting the right treatment for patients suffering from back pain that overlaps with depression and/or anxiety can be challenging. This is because a doctor will need to consider all three factors. Focusing on pain can hide the psychiatric disorder underneath, and even when all the problems are diagnosed correctly, the correct treatment can still be hard to find.
There are, however, a combination of treatments that can be used to treat all three in the same patient. Psychotherapies can be used to treat pain on their own, or they can be combined with drug treatments to take care of back pain, anxiety, and depression.
Here are viable treatment options:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is an established treatment used to treat anxiety and depression, and it is also a form of psychotherapy treatment for pain. CBT is founded on the school of thought that thoughts, feelings, and sensations are related. Therapists use this treatment to help patients develop skills that can help them cope and manage their pain.
- Relaxation training: Various techniques help people relax and reduce their stress response. Stress can exacerbate pain and anxiety, and depression symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness help relieve back pain, anxiety, and depression.
- Exercise: Exercise seems like the go-to cure-all, and that is because regular physical activity can alleviate anxiety. A study done by the Cochrane Collaboration showed that aerobic exercise, when performed at the recommended intensity for maintaining respiratory and heart fitness, improved a patients’ overall wellbeing and physical functions, gradually eliminating chronic pain. Exercises meant to build muscle strength may also improve pain and alleviate moods.
- Psychotherapy: An article published by Harvard Health Publishing showed that patients with anxiety or depression find complete relief by combining psychotherapy and medication.
- Chiropractic care: Chiropractic care focuses on improving physical symptoms to promote mental health. It is a safe and natural approach to whole-body health with profound effects on issues such as depression and anxiety.
In a nutshell, when pain overlaps with depression and anxiety, it becomes challenging to treat it. Correctly diagnosing the three problems and how they interact with each other is the first step towards healing.
At Swann Medical, we are your leading injury chiropractors in Tampa. We offer comprehensive injury chiropractic services that relieve back and body pain. Our professionals specialize in patient-focused care to help you rediscover a pain-free existence. Sign up today for a free evaluation and learn more about our services.