Back pain hurts, it’s inconvenient, and it negatively impacts your life and activities – but did you know it is also linked to depression?

In fact, depression can cause physical pain, such as back pain so the relationship goes both ways. The mind and body are interconnected, and the cyclical relationship between pain and depression can have a major effect on your life.

Depression is very common among people with chronic back pain. Depression can worsen pain, and pain can cause depression. Even mild depression can affect your daily life and activities, and how you manage pain.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, anger, worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Low energy
  • Less interest in doing things, or less pleasure
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts

Impact of Stress on Depression and Pain

Stress is another factor in both pain and depression. Stress impacts our bodies emotionally and physically – it can cause muscle tension and high blood pressure. Stress can also add to the emotional burden of depression.

Exploring the Link Between Pain and Depression

According to a study from the University of Alberta, depression is a risk factor for the onset of severe neck and low back pain. A random sample of 800 adults without neck and lower back pain were followed for this study. Over time, the study found that people suffering from depression were four times as likely to develop intense or disabling pain in their neck or lower back.

“Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain,” says the Mayo Clinic. The problem is cyclical: pain can wear you down emotionally and affect your mood. Chronic pain causes issues like stress and insomnia, which can lead to depression.

Another study from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders focused on neck pain, and found that, “The higher the neck pain level, the more attention should be paid to psychosocial distress as a related burden.” A study in Annals of Rehabilitative Medicine also found that, “Clinicians managing chronic low back pain should consider risk factors for depressive symptoms.” Both of these studies are recommending that physicians be aware of the possibility of depressive symptoms in their neck and back pain patients.


Counseling, stress-reducing techniques, or possibly anti-depressant medications can help lessen depression, which may reduce pain. If back pain continues, it’s important to see a physician. It is important to find out the root cause of back pain and treat it, whether it’sosteoarthritis, a herniated disc or something else altogether.

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, contact us. Or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.