Linking Pain & Depression

There was a time when science & medicine failed to acknowledge the relationship between depression and pain. On a regular basis, clients report suffering from chronic pain. Occasionally people’s pain was accompanied by a diagnosis of depression but that would make up the minority of cases I’ve come across. That’s not to say that people aren’t suffering from depression, it just indicates that people (and their doctors) might not think the two events are related. I never really, rationally made that connection myself until I started seeing clients full time.

The first time the idea of a link really hit me was when I overhead a news story saying that doctors were successfully prescribing antidepressant medication to treat pain. I used that lens to observe our patient’s daily moods and how that correlated to their reporting of pain. It was an eye opening comparison to observe. Generally speaking, “bad days” at work or home tended to result in a greater magnitude of pain. Obviously, as an Exercise Physiologist, I am well aware of musculoskeletal issues that directly correlate to pain, like when someone sprains an ankle for example. But there was this clear link between those dull aches and and increase in life-related stressors.

Research evidence supports the practically observed phenomenon linking pain with depression. Although it is very difficult to conclude that pain causes depression or vice versa, there remains a clear relationship between the two conditions in that if you have depression you are more likely to experience chronic pain or the other way around.

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