Back Pain, Anxiety, Depression: How They’re All Connected

If you are experiencing increased anxiety or depression and also have back pain, you may be surprised to learn that it could be related. Research about the connection between back pain, anxiety, and depression isn’t conclusive about what causes what. Does back pain cause anxiety and depression? Or, do anxiety and depression cause back pain? It can go both ways, making it difficult for people to cope with their condition and find treatments that alleviate their pain.

Fortunately, an experienced back and spine specialist at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery can evaluate your condition to learn whether your back pain is due to a structural problem and offer treatments to provide relief.

The Connection Between Back Pain and Anxiety

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (AADA) reports that those with anxiety disorders are more likely to have back pain than those who do not struggle with anxiety. The AADA also reports that those with an anxiety disorder are sometimes more sensitive to pain than others. However, back pain can also increase anxiety. This often occurs because of the fear of movement that may worsen symptoms.

People who deal with chronic back pain tend to avoid movement that causes more pain. Yet, moving around and walking is inevitable during the course of the day. The fear of pain when walking or engaging in other movements can create anxiety for people. Lack of exercise and movement because of anxiety further contributes to back pain, creating a vicious cycle for those who struggle with chronic back pain.

The Connection Between Back Pain and Depression

Chronic back pain and depression are strongly correlated. Those who face major depression often experience body aches in their back and throughout their body. Similar to anxiety, severe depression can increase the intensity of pain. However, chronic back pain can also lead to depression. Back pain makes it difficult for people to exercise and engage in the activities they love.

People who do not get enough physical activity or social interaction face added stress on their joints, vertebrae, and overall mental health, potentially making them more vulnerable to back pain and injuries. This, once again, creates a cycle where back pain contributes to depression. Depression often makes it difficult to move and engage in any physical activity that might help the pain.

Why Exercise Doesn’t Always Help

If you’ve been dealing with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or some combination of the three, you’ve probably heard you need to exercise. General practitioners and well-meaning friends and family have probably encouraged you to work out or at least go for a daily walk. Exercise is especially helpful for mental health, but research shows it doesn’t always help those who also suffer from chronic back pain. 

Doctors suggest exercise doesn’t help when back pain comes from a structural or mechanical problem with the spinal column. For example, consider someone who has spinal stenosis—a condition in which the spaces in the spine narrow and put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Exercise, painkillers, or any other non-invasive treatment for back pain or mental health cannot do much to eliminate pain. In fact, excess movement could lead to more pain, more fear of pain, or worsening mental health conditions.

Contact the Experienced Back and Spine Specialists at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery Today

Physical pain can be debilitating, along with any co-occurring potential mental health consequences. However, you don’t have to live in pain and deal with depression and anxiety alone. You can work to increase your quality of life by finding a way to alleviate or eliminate your back pain.

The experienced back and spine specialists at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery offer various treatments to help patients with back pain. Some patients find success with non-invasive treatments like pain medication and injections. Others undergo minimally invasive spinal procedures. We work with various insurance carriers and our specialists are trailblazers in orthopedics, who are world-renowned for their surgical techniques. Contact us online or at  (855) 853-6542 today to learn more about how we can help.

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