Over 80% of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. The most common reasons for lower back pain include sciatica, disc injuries and lifting heavy objects as part of your everyday job.
Even though back pain is very common, everyone responds to pain differently. These different responses are due to people’s different psychological outlook.
Even when your lower back pain is being treated by medical professionals, it is also important to understand the psychological factors of the pain too, as the two are connected a lot more than you would first think.
How Is Back Pain And Mental Health Connected?
When your movement is limited due to back pain, this can cause mental health issues as your brain will feel distressed from the lack of movement and in return can worsen the pain.
A recent study from the World Mental Health Survey found that chronic back or neck pain was often connected with increased risk for mood disorders, alcohol abuse, and anxiety disorders.
Your personal thoughts and outlook can actually influence your physical pain, for example, if you're prone to anxiety and usually expect the worst, this can, in fact, make the physical pain a lot worse too.
This is because your psychological outlook can actually change your brain and therefore intensify the pain.
It is not just pre-existing psychological thoughts that can worsen back pain, people who are in constant pain may worry that they will not be able to go to work or join in with their usual daily activities and this will make people understandably feel depressed, anxious and irritable.
The pain itself can actually rewire your brain from “pain” and switches to “emotions”. That’s why emotions like anxiety often are the most common when people experience back pain.
Who Can Help?
People experiencing chronic back pain and mental health problems are usually treated together. Some of these treatments include:
A physical therapist can help improve mobility, reduce the pain and increase mood by introducing helpful exercises and muscle relaxation movements.
It is important to have regular therapy sessions with a therapist trained in cognitive behavioural therapy.
Talking to a therapist can help you address anxiousness, negative thinking patterns and teach you coping mechanisms which will help reduce both the symptoms, pain and depression.
They can also work with the persons’ families to help them get a better understanding of chronic pain and depression.
A physician can provide the patient with a thorough examination and give you a diagnosis and if needed can prescribe you both pain and psychiatric medication.
Maintaining physical fitness is extremely important for reducing pain and increasing function. It is Fitness can improve not only your physical health but also your mental health.
Of course, when you’re in pain the only thing you probably would like to do it go to bed, however, this is one of the worst things you can do. In the long run, the fitter you are, the better you will feel and the more you will be able to do with your loved ones.
You will need some advice before you start exercising as carrying out the wrong exercises can increase the pain and most patients require a slow and gradual increase in activities to prevent overdoing it or worsening symptoms.
Fitness is usually associated with weight management too. Many studies have shown that obesity is associated with chronic pain. Weight loss is very difficult, but with commercial weight loss programs that provide food guidance along with support.
About the author
Jack works for Back Pain Online, an online video treatment platform for Sciatica Pain Relief at Home. The founders, Graeme and Toby have over 30+ years of experience and provide over 100 tailored videos to members providing great value for money.