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Pain Relief Blog

Chronic Pain & Depression

About one-half of individuals suffering from chronic pain also suffer from depression. This is an incredibly important issue because the successful treatment of depression can also relieve significant amounts of pain and suffering.

People with chronic pain know very well that being in chronic pain can, among other things, lead to stress, loss of sleep, strained or failed relationships, feelings of anger, and decreased motivation for exercise, socializing, and working. When something seemingly beyond a person’s control has caused so many negative changes, it is only natural that it may also lead to depression.

Research has compared patients with chronic pain without depression to those who have both and found that patient’s suffering from both conditions feel more intense pain, have less healthy coping strategies for their pain, and feel less control over their lives. These attributes of chronic pain patients with depression make them less likely to be able to make significant progress without first and/or concurrently treating their depression.

Self-help strategies

Self-help strategies for trying to deal with depression include:

  • learning relaxation techniques
  • decreasing or discontinuing things that could make depression worse (including alcohol and drugs)
  • eatig well
  • staying active
  • decreasing or discontinuing things that could make depression worse (including alcohol and drugs)
  • planning and spending time doing some of the things that they enjoy
  • talking to friends
  • joining a support group
  • learning positive coping strategies
  • setting small and obtainable goals (and continuing to make new goals)
  • developing healthy sleep habits
  • exercising regularly
  • keeping a healthy diet

Take time to notice that these strategies all require active planning and participation on the part of the patient.

The patient’s role

While some of these strategies can be supported by a physician or medical professional, the patient must buy in and make these efforts for them to have benefit. Unfortunately part of being depressed is also having low motivation. Successfully treating depression through self-help is possible but often people need a boost toward performing some of these strategies. Asking family and friends for help is one way to take action. Certain antidepressants that are also used for neuropathic pain may be very helpful for both pain and depression; these include nortriptyline, amitriptyline, Cymbalta, and Effexor.

The most studied form of talk therapy/strategy for depression and pain is called “cognitive behavioral therapy.” The key to this therapy is for a person to recognize their automatic negative thoughts surrounding their pain and how it affects them and to recognize whether they are really true. Often these thoughts are very disruptive for recovery and realizing that part or all of these thoughts may be false can help improve mood, activity level, and pain perception.

Chronic pain and depression have taken control of the lives of millions of Americans. Taking that control back, regardless of ongoing pain, is possible. It requires a willing patient, a willing doctor, time, effort, commitment, and a solid but adaptable plan. Are you ready to take control of your life back?

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