Imagine this scenario: Rose, a woman in her early 50s goes to her local park to enjoy a tennis match with a friend. Playing tennis is a hobby she picked up in adulthood and it has been a great way to connect with people and get much-needed physical activity in her week. What she did not expect is that she would leave the court that day in a stretcher. Her friend had to call an ambulance after a bad fall left Rose unable to move.

Two surgeries later and many weeks later and Rose still does not feel better. In fact, she’s in constant pain, something she has worked to address with her doctor. She is worried about becoming addicted to pain medication so she hasn’t been taking the maximum dose. This doesn’t help in the way of pain management and her doctor tells her the condition might be chronic given that it has not ceased, even 3 months after her surgeries.

Rose finds herself becoming more and more depressed as she realizes that she may never be able to enjoy physical activities, such as tennis, as she had before. She loses interest in most of the things she used to enjoy as the pain slowly takes over her entire life. 

Rose is an example of someone who is caught up in the vicious pain-depression cycle, where pain can cause depression, which then worsens the feelings of pain. Sadly this is a reality for many people. At least 116 million people battle chronic pain in the United States, with more than 200,000 new cases each year. There is no cure for chronic pain, which is defined as pain lasting longer than 3-6 months. Over time, pain starts to wear a person down, affecting their mood, and leading to other problems including depression, trouble sleeping, and stress. 

If this is the situation you find yourself in, you may need separate treatments for both conditions. There are treatments, however, that can address both problems. 

  • Some antidepressant medications can relieve both pain and depression because of shared chemical messengers in the brain.
  • Therapy can be effective in treating both conditions. When patients use skills learned through cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies, they can better self-manage their conditions.
  • Lifestyle changes including stress-reduction techniques, physical activity, exercise, meditation, journaling, learning coping skills and others can help.
  • Programs at centers like Generation Health that take an integrated approach to health care, with doctors collaborating to address both medical and psychiatric aspects of pain care. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic pain and depression, don’t let these conditions hold you back from living. Make an appointment to speak with a provider today.

Health is just one appointment away. Take the next step today.