For a significant number of people, chronic physical pain can bring on depression. Chronic pain is not the same as the pain you may experience after stubbing your toe on the bed frame or banging your arm against the wall. In most cases, an over-the-counter pain reliever can get rid of that problem in a matter of minutes, and the aftereffects last only a few days. But ongoing pain from a chronic condition is a whole different story.

Why should chronic pain and depression be linked? As many athletes and coaches can tell you, the connection between the mind and body is well established. A positive mental state can make you feel better physically, and physical vitality can put you in a good mood. But the opposite is also true: When your body feels bad, your emotional outlook suffers. Since pain may cause physical impairment and prevent you from participating in enjoyable activities, your mood may, understandably, plummet. And when you're depressed, any pain you experience is likely to impair you even further than if you weren't depressed. The depression-pain link is a vicious cycle.

Pain certainly can bring on an episode of depression in those who have a history of it, but it also can wear down even the hardiest, most upbeat of souls. According to information published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, chronic pain may alter brain chemistry to the point that a sufferer becomes more susceptible to mood disorders. Research shows that anywhere from 30 percent to 80 percent of chronic pain sufferers are depressed.

Fortunately, help is available for chronic pain and its linked depression. Obviously, painkillers can help you deal with the discomfort you experience on a daily basis, but they may not be enough. And painkillers can have side effects you may not want. Other options? Certain prescription medications such as antidepressants can alter mood and pain pathways, providing relief in both areas. Psychotherapy can help you deal with your pain by changing your mindset or exploring emotional issues that may be prolonging your pain. And stress management techniques such as meditation, hypnosis or relaxation exercises can help distract you and minimize your reactions to any pain you may be feeling. You may need to try a combination of therapies before you find out what works best for you.


Source: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts,