The mental cost of chronic pain
Health. Healing. Hope for the future. If you suffer from chronic pain, hearing these words can cause a sudden shift in your mindset, transporting you from a state of depression and despair to one of optimism and enthusiasm. This holds especially true for those coping with chronic neck pain or chronic back pain, and whose search for relief comes with a cost they didn’t count on — a decline in their mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is common among people who struggle with chronic pain and illnesses. And research suggests if people have a chronic illness along with depression, the symptoms of both conditions are more extreme.
By the time most patients get to the root of what’s causing their painful symptoms, they’ve likely spent weeks, months or even years trying to fix it themselves. Conservative therapies such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture can soon advance to steroid injections and pain medication. And all that time spent seeking a solution and not finding it, can contribute to a defeated disposition and withdrawal from the activities and people that once brought them joy.
“I think it’s very easy for people to lose hope, to give up or even become bitter,” said Dr. Jon Kimball, an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at Laser Spine Institute. “When you’re in that circumstance, you become desperate and it changes you.”
While it’s common to feel mildly discouraged or sad after experiencing a setback with your health, ongoing sadness for more than a couple of weeks could mean something more. In fact, it could be a sign of depression.
Some symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad, irritable or anxious
- Feeling empty, hopeless, guilty or worthless
- Loss of pleasure in usually enjoyed hobbies or activities
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Eating too much or not wanting to eat at all, with unplanned weight gain or weight loss
Dr. Kimball has seen firsthand the emotional toll chronic pain can take on the patients he’s treated.
“Desperation, anxiety and chronic pain changes people,” said Kimball. “It affects every type of relationship they have, with their spouses, their children, with members of their families, their ability to work. Their whole identities are affected by this.”
And when Dr. Kimball helps them find lasting relief with Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive procedures, “The change,” he says, “is miraculous.”
“You can see the veil’s been lifted and the pain has been taken away. There are often tears of joy, a smile that their families and loved ones haven’t seen. To be able to help those people who have been told that there is no hope for improvement in their pain … that, to me, is the most rewarding part of my job.”
To learn more about how Dr. Kimball helps patients, click here.
If chronic neck or back pain is affecting your ability to cope and conservative therapies haven’t helped you find relief, contact Laser Spine Institute and take back your life.