The Link Between Back Pain and Depression, and 6 Ways to Overcome It

Many people with chronic illnesses tend toward depression and constant back pain is no exception.  The pain itself isn’t any fun, and as it progresses people start restricting activities and interaction with others.  They become frustrated because they can’t work and provide for their families or they can no longer do the activities that they love to do.  The longer this continues the more helpless or hopeless they feel which, in turn, leads to depression.  In many cases this becomes a vicious cycle:  people in constant pain become depressed, and depression tends to amplify the pain.

It is estimated that one in ten adults in America suffer from some level of depression, according to the American Psychological Association.  And depression is the most common emotion those who suffer with back pain experience.

What can you do if you or a loved one is in chronic pain?

  • Stay as Active as Possible - Our bodies were designed to move.  When we move, we stretch our muscles, provide oxygen to our bodies and move toxins within our lymphatic system, improving our immunity.  And exercise has been proven to produce endorphins - chemicals in our brain that help with pain and mood.
  • Adopt Stretching Exercises – Start with gentle movements.  Simple stretching is a good way to get the blood flowing, and can be done while standing, sitting or lying down.  Yoga is another good option - there are even classes on “gentle” or chair yoga.  Walking is also an excellent exercise.  Whatever you choose, the important thing is to move!  And, in so doing, you’ll be surprised at how much you can tackle as things will become easier to do.
  • Meditate – Take a few minutes each morning and evening to sit and empty your mind of any thoughts.  Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.  In and out, in and out - that’s all you need to focus on.  If any stray thoughts appear, simply acknowledge them and then refocus on your breathing.  Try to incorporate some deep breaths if at all possible.  Start out meditating for five minutes.  The first time or two will probably seem like an eternity to you, but it will get easier each time!  Soon you will find you can focus rather quickly and twenty minutes will fly by before you know it.
  • Journal – Journaling is a great way to channel your feelings, especially for people who do not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with someone else.  Many times putting your concerns on paper will allow you to step away from the situation, allowing room for ideas on how to better handle your challenges.  It’s also a great tool to reveal hidden lessons from your experience.
  • Join a Support Group – Sometimes it helps to meet with other people going through the same challenges as you are; for many, it’s reassuring to know they are not alone.  These groups can be an invaluable source for good ideas to handle pain and/or related challenges.
  • Seek Alternative Treatments – Acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, biofeedback - all these are great ways to reduce pain and relieve stress.  They can also improve your mood and help you to sleep better.  The more you are rested and the more optimistic you become, the easier it is to deal with pain or disappointment.
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