Depression Linked to Increased Likelihood of Back Pain

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 9, 2016

depression and back pain

New findings out of Australia suggest that individuals with depression are 60 percent more likely than the general population to develop low back pain during their lifetime. Researchers believe this is the first study that suggests depression itself may actually trigger the onset of back pain rather than an acute injury.

For their study, researchers looked at data from 11 different studies that involved more than 23,000 individuals. Researchers looked at self-reported rates of depression along with rates of back pain development. They uncovered that people with symptoms of depression had a much higher risk of developing low back pain in the future compared to those with no signs of depression. They also noted that back pain likelihood also increased with the severity of depression.

“Low back pain is a debilitating condition, particularly when coupled with other health conditions, so I hope this discovery will lead to better treatment in the future,” said researcher Paulo Ferreira.

Different Treatment Approaches

The study sheds light on a few major issues. First, that depression may actually trigger the onset of lumbar back pain, and second, that treating the back pain may not actually address the underlying problem, which is depression. Ferreira said treating patients with pain and mental health issues is much more difficult.

“When patients come to us with both back pain and depression their cases are much more complex,” said Ferreira. “They don’t respond to treatment in the same way as patients who only experience back pain – they take much longer to recover and treatment can be expensive.”

The researchers suggest that depression and back pain shouldn’t be treated independently. Instead, they should be treated simultaneously to ensure all aspects contributing to the pain and being cared for.

What’s the Cause?

As for why depression might lead to an increase in back pain development, researchers stopped short of providing an exact cause, but they suggested that depressed individuals might have lower levels of activity, exercise, and poorer sleep quality, all of which have been shown to contribute to back problems.

So if you visit a doctor’s office in the future because of back problems, don’t be surprised if they ask some questions about your general disposition. If you’ve been feeling down in the dumps or had mood swings, bring these feelings to the attention of the doctor, as they may help them pinpoint exactly what’s going on, and how best to treat all aspects of the condition.

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