Chronic pain and depression – what’s the link?
A recent study on mice, conducted by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, found that chronic neuropathic pain (pain from nerve injury) can induce genetic changes in areas of the brain that are correlated with depression and anxiety. Nearly 40 genes were identified with significantly higher or lower activity in those with chronic pain than in those without. This is an interesting development, particularly as it may lead to better pharmacological development to address chronic pain, which is a complex condition characterized by a variety of symptoms that can affect a person’s entire being.
Those who have experienced or are currently experiencing chronic pain will not necessarily be surprised by this study. If you suffer from hypersensitivity to touch, or a never-ending pain to an area of your body, or altered sensation to heat and cold, you may be well aware of how this type of chronic condition is debilitating not only physically but also to your motivation and mood.
In our practice, we hear from many clients who suffer psychological effects along with a physical condition such as chronic pain. The science around pain medicine and therapies is still evolving, but this doesn’t mean there is no hope! It is important to speak to your physician about chronic pain and whether resources such as a coordinated pain clinic, pain medications or injections, a conditioning and strength training exercise program, or nutritional adjustments can help. However, it is equally to consider and discuss with your physician whether psychological counselling can be of benefit, to address loss and frustration, to help restore your mental and social well-being, and to provide strategies on how to adapt to your “new normal”. Addressing your mental and emotional state is a significant part of a rehabilitation plan after trauma and injury, and we are here to help.
Descalzi G, Mitsi V, Purushothaman I, Gaspari S, Avarampou K, Loh YH, Shen L, Zachariou V. Neuropathic pain promotes adaptive changes in gene expression in brain networks involved in stress and depression. Sci. Signal. 2017 Mar 21;10(471):eaaj1549.