Chronic pain and depression are so closely linked that a viscous cycle can easily set in if one does not honestly address and treat any underlying depression. Studies show that patients with chronic pain have lower levels of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine compared to patients not in pain. Lower levels of these hormones are known to lead to depression and anxiety. Combine these physiological lower levels of hormones with the frustration patient’s feel regarding their lower quality of life and limitations from their pain and you have a set up for patients to fall into a feeling of hopelessness.
The first step toward finding your ‘cure’ and treating pain is to work to attack depression directly. Depression is a medical condition that should be treated with a multimodality approach. We work with our patients on setting up successful coping skills and techniques to improve their outlook on pain and depression. For a good amount of patients, working with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist will also be a valuable member of a patient’s pain fighting team. There are prescription medications that not only treat depression related issues but also have FDA indications for pain. Cymbalta is one example, it has FDA indications for Fibromyalgia, Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, chronic low back pain as well as anxiety and depression.
For patients that want to avoid traditional pharmacological medications, supplements like Magnesium have been used to treat stress and are an excellent smooth muscle relaxant. If you want to avoid pills all together, meditation and exercise are two successful strategies that every patient would benefit from. Both meditation and exercise boost endorphin levels, decrease stress hormone levels and give patients an improved outlook on life.
Finally, anyone with depression issues need to find someone to talk with, whether that be a support group, licensed professional, or a close friend. Releasing stress through the power of conversation is vital in helping patients gain both insight and learn tools to better cope with pain and depression.