When dealing with back pain, it’s not just the pain that has to be dealt with. It is stress, anxiety, and depression that can make coping even harder. Learn how to manage pain and mental health. Dealing with chronic back pain is difficult for anyone.
All-around mental distress can exacerbate pain and worsen the stress you are already experiencing creating a vicious cycle. There are treatments available for mental health and chronic back pain that can help get a handle on both at the same time. What you should know about the connection, along with the therapies that can help.
Dealing with Chronic Back Pain and Mental Health
Back pain is very common and it is estimated that about 90% of Americans will experience back pain. A small portion will develop chronic back pain or pain that continues more than 12 weeks. Chronic back pain can be caused by a variety of medical problems. Injuries to illness are all are pathways to chronic pain. Pain is different for everyone, depending on the cause, the area affected and the individual. For some, the pain might feel like a mild, persistent ache. While others, the pain could be a continual throbbing.
One factor of chronic back pain is the emotional response that happens when it presents. If you stress or fixate on the pain, you are perceiving it to be much worse. This can lead to more stress, and:
- Appetite changes
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
These problems then feedback into the pain and together significantly affect relationships, work, ability to function and your quality of life. The single step to take is to reach out to a doctor. They can check for mental health issues, begin treatment for your psychological/physical issues and refer you to specialists.
There are many approaches to treating chronic back pain and the psychological issues that come with it. Not every treatment regimen works for everybody. The best approach is usually a combination of techniques. Psychotherapy, specifically the talking therapy can help treat both physical and emotional pain. One of the most-researched forms is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
During a session, you learn how to identify negative reactions and work to change them into positive thoughts and actions. The idea is to alter the initial response to better manage how the pain affects you. This therapy is directed by a therapist and can be done individually or in a group.
For many medications are an effective way to manage mental health issues and some can help relieve the pain itself.
While these drugs can be helpful, many can come with side effects. Antidepressants can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Bathroom issues
Chronic pain rehabilitation programs are another option. With rehab, a team of doctors/physical therapists from different areas of medicine, work together addressing the medical, physical and mental issues that come with the pain. Every treatment program is customized to the patient, and while treatments are usually conducted at a medical clinic, they can also be done online.
Pain rehab includes:
- Addressing any underlying conditions
- Improving physical function
- Reducing reliance on pain medication
- Helping you cope with stress, anxiety, and more
Alternative health approaches can help control back pain and ease the mind. Research has shown that certain alternative practices do work to relieve pain. There is evidence that the following therapies can help reduce chronic back pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:
- Low-level laser therapy
- Mindfulness-based stress breathing exercises and imagery
- Muscle relaxation
- Tai chi
Electromyography biofeedback is a therapy where low-level electric signals are used to help gain control over muscle movement. Some patients find journaling, massage, prayer and other relaxation techniques to be helpful in coping. Speak with your doctor if you have questions or health issues before beginning complementary treatments.
A most effective and widely recommended method for relieving stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain improving physical function is regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Low-impact workouts like:
These all are helpful for people with chronic back issues. Talk with a doctor about physical exercises that are safe. Proper sleep can help, like poor sleep and sleep deprivation increase stress, which leads to more pain. Adults should go for 7 to 9 hours regularly, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every night and turn off electronic devices.
Eating healthy can boost mood and help relieve back pain by promoting weight loss. Enjoy complete meals full of lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables while limiting the intake of processed foods, added sugars, and saturated fats. Avoid excess alcohol and smoking, as both are linked to chronic back pain. Learning and dealing with chronic back pain along with re-searching successful treatment options can be a long and frustrating process. Understanding the condition and cutting yourself plenty of slack can go a long way to helping you feel better.
Depression and Chronic Pain