Your arms hurt every night after a long shift at your job – probably fueled by repetitive lifting and moving of heavy packages at the warehouse where you work. An onsite exercise program during lunch break doesn’t seem to relieve the pain, either, which has gone on now for months. Even worse, you’re experiencing signs of depression. It’s possible you have two conditions simultaneously: chronic pain and depression, with mental health issues driven by physical pain.
Can Chronic Pain Cause Depression?
Everyone experiences pain at some point in their lives. You get hurt at work, get injured in an accident, or have a medical condition that overstimulates the central nervous system and sends pain signals coursing through your body. If you know the cause of the pain, it can often be treated; sometimes, physical discomfort goes away on its own without you doing anything about it. But what we know for sure is that pain isn’t supposed to last forever. When it lingers and becomes chronic pain, there can be other consequences, too – like reduced quality of life, inability to complete daily responsibilities, and mental health issues.
People who experience chronic pain often have a wide range of mental health problems, too, including depression as a result. In one study by the United States National Institute of Mental Health, researchers estimated that the rate of depression in people with chronic pain ranged from “4.7% to 22% in population-based studies and from 5.9% to 46% in primary care studies.”
What is chronic pain?
There are two kinds of physical pain to know about that you can experience at some point in your life. Most people are familiar with acute pain – which often lasts only a few weeks and is caused by “inflammation, tissue damage, injury, illness, or recent surgery.” In many cases, it goes away on its own. But the other type of pain to worry about is the kind that lingers for months, and you don’t know what caused it – this is chronic pain.
What causes chronic pain?
Sometimes it’s obvious what’s caused your chronic pain. It could be driven by a years-long illness such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, or another medical condition. In cases like these, the toll that injury or disease has on your body can make you more sensitive to pain long after you’ve recovered from the initial injury or disease. Common causes of chronic pain include a sprain, a broken bone, or even a short-term infection with lasting physical consequences.
What is depression?
Depression, also called major depressive disorder, is a widespread and serious medical condition that negatively affects your feelings, your thoughts, and how you act. Thankfully, its symptoms can be treated in many ways, including with ketamine therapy. Depression triggers sadness and even a lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy. Left untreated, it can lead to other emotional and physical problems and can negatively affect how you function at home, work, and elsewhere.
What causes depression?
There isn’t a single cause for depression, as it may be triggered by injury, illness, stress, or other factors in your life causing emotional distress. But several things play a factor in people becoming depressed:
- Variations in certain chemicals in the brain, like glutamate, can lead to depression symptoms.
- Family history. People with a blood relative, like a parent or twin sibling, with depression are at greater risk of getting depression at some point in life.
- Personality traits.
- Environmental factors.
How to Manage Chronic Pain and Depression
In many cases, treating symptoms of chronic pain and depression requires a physical examination to see if there’s a medical problem for your condition, and a follow-up psychiatric assessment to understand what’s affecting your mental health. Treatment for either condition can be wide-ranging, involving medicine or different kinds of therapy. But not everyone will agree to use antidepressants or take prescription pain killers. Instead, you could try:
- Mindfulness, tai chi, or meditation
- Deep breathing techniques
- Diet and lifestyle changes, including avoiding foods that cause inflammation or can worsen depression and anxiety
- Light exercise, including stretching, walking, bike riding, or swimming
Find a Specialty Clinic for New Treatment Options
In some cases, symptoms of chronic pain and depression can be treated at the same time. One treatment to ask your healthcare provider about is ketamine therapy through specialty clinics, whose staff has experience providing care for people whose health conditions haven’t responded to medicine or other kinds of treatment.