Chronic Pain: A Multidisciplinary Approach

Chronic pain and mental health disorders often occur together, and as a result, can contribute to and exacerbate each other.

According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million adults in the United States are dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis. And, an estimated 19.6 million of these adults experience chronic pain that interferes with their daily life, including their ability to work.

Of the millions dealing with chronic pain, it is estimated that a significant portion of them, also deal with mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.

In fact, according to research published in the article “Pain and Psychology—A Reciprocal Relationship” which is available here -Among patients with chronic pain, 30%-45% experience depression.

The article goes on to suggest that depression, therefore, can be a positive predictor of the development of chronic pain. And of course, the inverse has also been found to be true- chronic pain can be a predictor of the development of depression.

According to research published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), chronic pain is also a common symptom among people with an anxiety disorder. This is particularly true when it comes to generalized anxiety disorder.

So what kind of pain do people with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders commonly experience?

Some of the most common chronic pain syndromes that can coexist with mental health disorders are:

– fibromyalgia
– migraine headaches
– low-back pain
– irritable bowel syndrome
– neuropathic pain

In the past chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, lower back pain, and neuropathic pain, were treated with opioid painkillers. However, as opioid addiction and abuse have become a national crisis, this is no longer advisable as a first line of treatment.

What is advised is to treat the pain with a multidisciplinary approach. This approach can include cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation techniques, and psychiatric medications.

There is also evidence to suggest that alternative treatments can be complementary to these other treatment approaches. These include yoga, acupuncture, and massage.

Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, good nutrition, and sufficient sleep, can also be helpful for both managing pain and improving mental health symptoms.

When it comes to using medication to help treat chronic pain in people with an anxiety disorder or depression, there are medications that can treat the symptoms of both conditions.

In our next article, we will take a deeper look into what these medications are, and who might benefit from them.

In the meantime, if you are dealing with mental health issues that coexist with chronic pain, please feel free to call us and set up an appointment. Together we can develop a treatment plan that can work for you.

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