People who suffer from certain chronic conditions or injuries can tell you that chronic pain is no joke. There are some conditions that cause severe pain every day, and almost every minute. When the root cause of the pain cannot be resolved, many look to pain management for relief.
Chronic pain can have more than just physical effects, it can also affect your mental wellness and your overall quality of life.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is long lasting, constant pain. Some medical professionals define chronic pain as pain that lasts 3 months or more after onset. Other professionals set this time frame at 6 months or more. Chronic back pain is fairly common, but people experience chronic pain in other parts of their bodies as well.
Most chronic pain is caused by nerve damage from an injury or a disease state eroding the nerve health. Nerves grow and can repair themselves, but this happens very slowly. If the cause of the injury cannot be resolved, like in the case of a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis or a broken vertebra from an accident, the pain may continue indefinitely.
Chronic Pain and Depression
There can be a strong relationship between chronic pain and depression. When you are constantly in pain and there seems to be no way of resolving it, you might lose hope for a comfortable future.
Chronic pain is not always the cause of this relationship, though. Depression can cause chronic pain in otherwise physically healthy individuals. Some people who suffer from depression develop unexplained physical symptoms like back aches or headaches. It is difficult to resolve pain when its origin is unknown.
The chronic pain caused by depression can create a downward spiral that promotes the development of depression or worsens already present symptoms.
Chronic pain that originates from physical causes also can promote the development or worsening of depression. Chronic pain and depression often exist in a cycle that can be hard to break and becomes very destructive. Often, to resolve both the depression and the related chronic pain, these problems must be treated concurrently
Tips for Dealing with Chronic Pain
Understanding the relationship between chronic pain and depression will help you limit both issues before the cycle of pain gets out of control:
- Identify triggers - Chronic pain and depression are both exacerbated by stress. Figure out what type of stress triggers your symptoms and work toward eliminating those. There are a number of stress reduction techniques that you can try to help reduce stress in your life.
- Pay attention to how it affects your mental state - If you are suffering from chronic pain, you may be more vulnerable to developing symptoms of depression. Recognize these symptoms of depression: constant bad mood, sleep pattern changes, lack of motivation or appetite, feelings of hopelessness, weight increase. Do not ignore these signs that you could be developing depression.
- Treat pain and depression together – Consider both chronic pain and depression as threats to your physical and mental health. Since they often occur together, a simultaneous treatment plan is best. Pain can feed into depression and vice versa, so work toward managing symptoms of both at the same time.
- Talk about your depression - Whether you think it is a problem or not, be sure to mention your mental health to your pain doctor. You should not assume depression will go away when the pain is under control. By that time, the depression could be serious enough to require a more focused treatment plan.
Chronic pain and depression are both conditions that are easier to treat from the beginning. When ignored or not properly addressed, pain and depression can intensify on their own.
Depression and chronic pain can be debilitating, but remember there is always another avenue to explore when it comes to pain management and treatment for depression. Talk to your doctor about treating both your chronic pain and your depression concurrently.