The Connection Between Depression and Chronic Pain

Shaun Kondamuri, MD

Depression and Chronic PainDepression and chronic pain are closely related, and it is not uncommon for people with chronic pain to also experience symptoms of depression. The relationship between the two can be complex and bidirectional, meaning that chronic pain can contribute to the development of depression, and vice versa.

Research has shown that depression can intensify the experience of chronic pain, making it feel more severe and difficult to manage. This is because depression can alter the way the brain processes pain signals, making them more intense and persistent. Additionally, depression can also cause physical changes in the body that can worsen chronic pain, such as muscle tension, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Depression can also make it harder for individuals with chronic pain to cope with their symptoms. Depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness, which can make it difficult for individuals to maintain the motivation and energy needed to manage their pain effectively. Depression can also cause individuals to withdraw from social activities and relationships, which can further exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Conversely, chronic pain can also contribute to the development of depression. Chronic pain can be debilitating and can interfere with daily activities, causing frustration, anger, and feelings of helplessness. Chronic pain can also cause individuals to feel like they have lost control over their lives, which can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Treatment options for depression and chronic pain may involve a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Some of these options include:

  1. Antidepressant medication: Certain types of antidepressant medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), can help alleviate symptoms of both depression and chronic pain.
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This form of therapy can help individuals with chronic pain and depression learn new coping strategies and change negative thought patterns.
  3. Mindfulness-based therapies: Practices like meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help individuals manage chronic pain and improve symptoms of depression.
  4. Physical therapy: This type of therapy can help individuals with chronic pain learn techniques to manage pain, such as exercise and stretching.
  5. Lifestyle changes: Making healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep, can help improve symptoms of both chronic pain and depression.

It’s important for individuals with chronic pain and depression to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both conditions. With proper treatment, individuals can improve their quality of life and better manage their symptoms.

At MISS we recognize that our patients may be suffering from some level of depression and we take this into account when we suggest treatment.

If you are interested, please request a copy of our book Victory Over Pain, in which we discuss the lifestyle changes that one can make to reduce depression and chronic pain.


Midwest Interventional Spine Specialists (M.I.S.S.) is committed to patient education. We hope our videos and articles provide you with some foundational information to help you determine what questions you need to ask your medical providers and to select the best treatment option for you. To schedule an appointment with one of our spine and pain management specialists, please call 219-836-7246. To see the full list of all of our educational videos, CLICK HERE. Please also review our Disclaimers and Terms of Use.