Chronic Pain and Mental Health
Updated: Sep 21
Three Pain Management Techniques to Aid Treatment
Pain is generally meant to last for a short time – as a quick warning to stop doing whatever you’re doing to avoid harming your body. When we experience chronic pain, or pain that lasts for longer than the normal maximum of three to six months, our overall wellbeing begins to feel the effects. This is especially true for your mental state. Chronic pain continues when it should not, which is both physically and emotionally stressful. Here’s how chronic pain and mental health are related, plus three pain management options to combat both conditions.
What Causes Chronic Pain?
If you’re dealing with chronic pain, you know that it can be a bit mysterious and hard to put your finger on. Since normal, or acute, pain can linger for three to six months, you may not even know exactly when the chronic pain started or if there were any events that led up to it. It may have multiple causes, or there may be just one.
Chronic pain can occur as a result of many factors, including injuries that haven’t healed properly, the normal aging process, and nerve damage. While some chronic pain can be caused by lifestyle factors, like decades of poor posture and sleeping on a bad mattress leading to chronic back pain, disease can also be the underlying cause. Arthritis, carpal tunnel, and fibromyalgia are just a few examples that can cause chronic pain. It’s important to understand what is causing your chronic pain, as the underlying cause will affect not only how you treat the pain, but also how the pain can impact your mental health.
The Effects of Chronic Pain on Mental Health
If you’re experiencing chronic pain and the mental and emotional effects that come along with it, you’re not alone. An estimated 50 million adults in the U.S. deal with chronic pain, with 8% of U.S. adults experiencing high-impact chronic pain that limits them from doing at least one major activity. In comparison to people with no pain, people with chronic pain are four times more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
The mental effects of chronic pain can come from both changes in your behavior as well as changes to the chemicals in your brain and body. Being in constant pain can bring on feelings of hopelessness, which can impact the choices you make. Tammy Searle, a professional speaker from California with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, knows this all too well. “I’ve tried to make the best of my life while dealing with chronic pain. The saddest part is not being able to plan in the future because I don’t know how I’ll feel that day,” she told Healthline. Chronic pain can cause you to change how you make decisions and force you to miss social events. Eventually, you might find yourself feeling isolated because you haven’t been able to see friends and family, which takes a huge toll on your mental state.
There are also physical reactions in the body that show that chronic pain affects your brain. Chronic stress alters the levels of neurochemicals found in the brain and nervous system, as well as stress hormones. With both of these chemical changes, you experience changes in your thinking, mood, and behavior. Since chronic pain offsets the balance of chemicals in your body, depression and anxiety can occur.
These chemical changes can impact your daily life in many ways. Per Mental Health America, you might experience the following due to the combination of pain and altered chemicals in the body:
Struggling to function at home or work
Issues with self-esteem
Struggling to find interest in hobbies or social activities
Issues with sleep disturbance and fatigue
Dealing with chronic pain and trying to find pain relief or pain management is hard enough. When you add on these additional symptoms, your pain and fatigue can increase and your mood can worsen. It’s no wonder that people dealing with chronic pain often experience depression and anxiety when left to deal with all of these negative changes in their lives. The different causes of chronic pain and their unique symptoms tend to be associated with different mental health conditions. For example:
Back and neck pain is associated with a higher risk of major depression and depressive symptoms lasting longer than those without pain.
Arthritis is associated with the limitation of a person’s ability to join in social activities and complete daily tasks, leading to the development of depression.
Fibromyalgia is associated with a higher risk of anxiety disorders, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder, potentially due to the limitations on social functioning, energy, and overall health that the disease causes.
Unfortunately, adding mental health issues on top of chronic pain can actually make the pain even worse and impede recovery. This is why it’s so important to identify and treat mental health issues. By acknowledging mental and emotional struggles, you can begin to find help and treat them in order to also improve your chances of treating your chronic pain.
New Solutions for Chronic Pain Relief
Since chronic pain can be complex, finding a single course of treatment can also be complicated. Ongoing pain can begin to cause psychological effects as well, so treating the pain itself is an important first step, but may not be the only step.
Sonic Relief’s home-use ultrasound is trusted and prescribed by doctors and chiropractors around the world to relieve pain and speed healing. It’s the same as the professional models you see in your doctor’s office, but made smaller and portable so you can get the same great benefits at home. While finding the best forms of pain management and addressing your mental health can feel overwhelming, using Sonic Relief’s home-use ultrasound is an ideal first step. When you address your chronic pain first, you’re addressing the underlying cause of your mental health conditions. By doing so, you can start to feel like the old, pain-free version of yourself.
Additional Resources for Pain Management and Mental Health
Your doctor may recommend treating your chronic pain and mental health conditions separately, although there are some options that can help both conditions. While there’s no magic pill that can help everyone experiencing these issues (if only!) there are some techniques you can apply to manage and address the mental and physical pain you’re experiencing.
Additional Resources for Pain Management and Mental Health Your doctor may recommend treating your chronic pain and mental health conditions separately, although there are some options that can help both conditions. While there’s no magic pill that can help everyone experiencing these issues (if only!) there are some techniques you can apply to manage and address the mental and physical pain you’re experiencing.
Therapy is a wonderful tool that has helped many people with various issues – from relationship issues to more serious mental conditions. Naturally, it can also be incredibly beneficial for people with chronic pain. Finding a therapist or counselor that you trust and being able to verbally discuss how you’re feeling can be a huge relief.
Most pain rehabilitation programs provide you with a team approach to your treatment. With this method, you’ll connect with both medical and psychiatric specialists to determine the best route for your unique situation, with plenty of support along the way.
Choosing a lifestyle that is low stress isn’t always an option – most people have obligations that they must attend to or people that they can’t simply abandon. Choosing activities or techniques that can calm you down and lessen your stress can be helpful. Making space for physical activity and exercise, journaling, meditation, or learning new coping skills can be great for your mental and physical state.
Living with chronic pain can feel demoralizing. With no end in sight and chemical changes happening in your brain and in your body, it makes sense that emotional and mental issues are more common for people living with chronic pain. However, it’s important to fight for your health and search for a treatment that will aid in pain relief or at least pain management. Whether you choose to start with a home-use ultrasound or another technique, your body and your mind will thank you.