When you suffer from chronic back pain, it can affect every aspect of your life, every single day. Constant discomfort can cause you to become less active and less social, avoiding opportunities to go out or interact with friends and family. For many people with chronic back pain, these symptoms can lead to depression, a condition which in turn can cause you to become even less social and actively involved in life.

Multiple studies have shown the link between chronic pain and depressive symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness and sadness, trouble sleeping, feeling agitated or excessively tired, problems with memory and clear thought processes, as well aslowered interest in sex and other activities. According to one study, patients with chronic back pain are about four times as likely to experience depression as people who do not have the condition. Another study revealed that those who suffer from both back pain and depression have greater levels of disability than those who have back pain alone.

While surgery and other treatments are available to treat chronic back pain, treating underlying depression is also important, not just for improved quality of life, but also because depression can disrupt the healing process, making recovery more difficult or causing treatments to be less effective.

If you’re suffering from depression, it’s important to find a counselor who can help you manage your symptoms so you can get the most from your back pain treatment. In addition, there are a couple of things you can do on your own to help you cope:

  • First, get exercise. Studies have linked regular exercise with a lessening of depression, in part because regular exercise causes the body to release “feel good” chemicals that help keep depression at bay. Ask your doctor about exercises that won’t exacerbate your back pain.
  • Second, find a support group. Many hospitals offer support groups for people with chronic pain and/or depression, and there are plenty of online support communities as well.

Above all, be sure to discuss not only your chronic back pain symptoms but also your feelings with your doctor. Depression can have devastating effects on your life, and getting the help you need is critical to healing and happiness. Talk openly with your doctor about treatment options and then take action.