When you’re living with back pain, you may think that your pain is only affected by whatever the underlying cause of your pain is, but this isn’t the case. The pain you experience, and the intensity at which you experience it is also tied to your mental health. Understanding these factors can give you a better understanding of the role your brain plays in processing pain and how to deal with it.
Back Pain and Mental Health
Not only does back pain affect your mental health, but mental health can also affect your back pain. Research has shown that chronic pain, anxiety, and depression trigger similar parts of your brain. Studies have also shown that when untreated, depression can worsen physical symptoms, lower your pain threshold, and even escalate the intensity of your pain.
Specifically, research pertaining to spine issues has shown that people with a history of depression, stress, anxiety, or catastrophic thinking around pain tend to be more sensitive to pain.
How Your Brain Makes Your Pain Worse
As we all know, everyone’s response to pain, even the same level of pain, is very different, and this is partly a result of the brain. We all have different psychological attitudes and outlooks about pain, and the way we think about pain can greatly affect how we feel pain.
Mental health can be worsened by limited physical movement, which can lead to psychological distress, which then may worsen pain. This causes a cycle of pain. Because of this, your personal beliefs and coping mechanisms can have an influence on your level of discomfort as well as the course of your pain.
As mentioned before, being anxiety-prone, pessimistic, and having catastrophic thinking will make any pain you feel worse than it may actually be. This may be due to the fact that if you have these beliefs and attitudes, your brain is also likely to have irregularities in its chemistry, such as the production of dopamine as well as disruptions in emotional control, anxiety, and attention. These issues can cause any feeling of pain to be intensified because you may not be able to control your distress, anxiety, or focus on anything other than your pain.
However, it’s not only back pain is not only worsened by pre-existing attitudes. The pain you feel can actually have an effect of rewiring your brain, changing how it functions.
For example, when your back pain begins, the circuits of your brain pertaining to pain-sensitivity are impacted. But if your back pain is long-lasting, such as in the case of chronic back pain, your brain may switch activity relating to pain away from pain-sensitivity circuits to emotion processing circuits. This is part of why chronic pain can take such a strong toll on your mental health and is also why living with chronic back pain can make being in control of your emotions difficult.
How to Manage Mental Health and Back Pain
In a small study, it was found that patients who had mental health issues or who suffered from chronic pain (not back pain) were three times more likely to develop low back pain than patients with chronic pain who had strong, healthy coping skills. In fact, about 75% of people treated for depression report suffering from physical pain as well.
Unfortunately, pain leads to greater mental health issues, and mental health issues lead to worsened pain, turning into a cycle that can seem inescapable when you’re stuck inside of it. Therapy can help manage this by lessening any vulnerabilities you may have to back pain due to your beliefs or attitudes, changing how you perceive pain, and helping you manage issues such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
Come See Us At The Spine Institute Northwest!
Finding a solution for back pain that may be exasperating feelings of depression or anxiety is another way to cope with this issue, and Spine Institute Northwest is here to provide you with that solution. Conveniently located in the Seattle area, our team of dedicated surgeons is here to help you get your life back.
Contact us today at (888) 712-0318, or visit our site to set an appointment for a free MRI review. We offer a total care package that allows us to make a personalized plan to help you get back to living a life that doesn’t revolve around your pain.
Don’t Wait, Get Back Your Life! Call the Spine Institute!