How Your Mood Affects Chronic Pain (and How to Treat It!)
When experiencing chronic aches and pains, the first thing we typically think about is what we can do physically to alleviate them. But have you ever thought about how your mood and mental health may affect your chronic pain? Although it may not be obvious, your mental and physical health are deeply intertwined and when one suffers, so does the other.
How does mental health affect my chronic pain?
If you suffer from chronic pain, it’s not uncommon to also deal with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and more. But why is this? Many of these mental disorders can actually cause physical reactions such as muscle tension, increased blood pressure and heart rate, lack of appetite, headaches, and more. This is from the direct connection between your brain and body--where one is in pain, so is the other! Additionally, many sufferers of chronic pain are actually prone to mental health disorders since it oftentimes interferes with your day to day life. Lack of sleep, frequent doctors visits, the inability to feel comfortable, and more can all have a huge impact on the way that we feel, leading to an increased chance of panic attacks, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and more.
With more than 50 million adults in the U.S. alone suffering from a variety of chronic pain conditions, it’s no surprise that many of these same people are also dealing with a mental health disorder to some capacity. In fact, studies have shown that at least half of people suffering from chronic pain also deal with anxiety and/or depression. The top 8 chronic pain disorders that have been found to be the hardest on our mental health are: migraines, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, pelvic pain, psoriatic arthritis, and complex regional pain syndrome (or CRPS.)
How do I help alleviate pain through my mood?
When dealing with chronic pain, many patients will only share how they’re feeling physically while ignoring their mental feelings. Because of the connection between the mind and body, it is just as important to focus on your mental health as much as your physical. If you suspect that you are suffering from a mental health disorder along with chronic pain, there are quite a few options to help you overcome it.
1. Join a support group. Dealing with chronic pain can be extremely isolating and can leave you feeling hopeless in a world where no one understands what you’re going through. The first thing to remember is that you are not alone and there are millions of others out there in the same exact position. Chronic pain support groups are incredibly helpful for connecting with people going through the same things that you are. With support groups, you’re able to share stories, trade helpful tips, and just talk with people you can relate to. There are a ton of online and in-person chronic pain support groups, just do some research to find the best option for you and your lifestyle!
2. Don’t be afraid to seek out therapy. Many chronic pain patients believe that therapy would only be useful for people whose pain is in their head, and that is far from the truth! No matter what kind of physical pain you’re dealing with, speaking to a professional about what you’re going through mentally may have a huge impact on your overall mental and bodily well being. The right therapist will act as a sounding board that you can vent to but will also provide helpful tips on how to relax at home and get your mind off things. These lifestyle changes may allow you to sleep better, continue participating in the activities you love, and ditch those feelings of depression and anxiety. While most therapists can help with this, it’s recommended to find someone that specializes in chronic pain to receive the best treatment plan.
3. Meditate regularly. Did you know that regular meditation has actually shown a decreased level of pain and stress in most people? In fact, it has been found that meditation and mindfulness can actually shift the structure of the brain resulting in an increase of cortical thickness in the areas of your brain that make you less sensitive to pain. While the effectiveness of meditation on chronic pain is still being widely studied, there have been many cases where acts of mindfulness were shown to decrease both pain and anxiety.
4. Get moving. Participating in physical activities may be the last thing you want to do when suffering from chronic pain but it can actually have a major impact on the way you feel both mentally and physically. When you get your body moving, your brain raises your endorphin levels which is the chemical that produces feelings of being happy. In addition, exercising regularly helps to regulate our circadian rhythm which is essentially our sleep/wake cycle. This means a more solid night of sleep and the ability to fall asleep faster. With this all being said, exercising does not necessarily mean doing activities that are physically demanding. Any way that you can get your body moving is ideal--think yoga, long walks, swimming, and more. Do anything that you enjoy and will make you feel good afterward!
5. Use over-the-counter pain relief. In addition to strengthening your brain health, it’s also ideal to use topical pain relief products at home to alleviate any current aches or pains. Lidocaine patches, like the SINSINPAS Maximum Strength Lidocaine 4% Pain Relieving Patch, are a great option for chronic pain sufferers because they’re long-lasting, super easy to apply, and deliver quick pain relief. Additionally, the SINSINPAS Lidocaine 4% Pain Relieving Patches are made from a super flexible material allowing you to go on with your day without any worries! It’s currently out of stock but the new improved Sinsinpas Lidocaine Patch will be back in stock in 2022!
If you are suffering from chronic pain accompanied by mental health disorder, make sure to talk with your doctor to figure out the right course of action for you.