Back pain that’s a regular part of your life can affect everything from how you feel when you first wake up in the morning to your ability to participate in your favorite activities. Many people with spine injuries and their healthcare providers focus mainly on the physical aspects of this type of discomfort. However, it’s just as important to consider how mental health is affected. Here’s a closer look at what research on this topic shows.
Researchers conducted an extensive study to identify links between back pain and mental health issues. The study involved nearly 200,000 spine patients in more than 40 countries. Subjects were questioned about stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health factors. The subjects with back pain were twice as likely to report having one of the five mental health issues tracked for the study than individuals in the control group (people without back pain). The following factors were tracked:
• Anxiety • Depression • Stress • Sleep deprivation • Psychosis
Subjects who had chronic spine-related discomfort were three times more likely to report issues with depression and more than two times more likely to have psychotic disorders. These findings suggest chronic back pain can have a more dramatic impact on mental health than injuries that heal fairly quickly. Previous studies involving people with chronic back and neck pain noted a heightened risk of:
• Mood disorders • Alcohol abuse • Anxiety disorders
The connection between back pain and mental health conditions seems to be universal and widespread. Findings in the study were similar for all countries. Subjects’ socioeconomic status also didn’t significantly affect results.
According to researchers, the findings from this large study show back pain has significant mental health implications that could complicate recovery for some patients. Researchers stress the need for healthcare professionals to be aware of this link so patients can have access to appropriate treatment and services. Some back injuries respond well to treatment that primarily focuses on the physical aspects of the problem—including surgical procedures such as alternatives to spinal fusion. Los Angeles residents and spinal patients everywhere should be aware the results from this research suggest doctors and spine specialists should offer a more comprehensive approach to treating spine-related issues that involves:
• Various forms of physical therapy • Exercise and weight loss • Appropriate mental health treatments
Additional treatment options for patients with underlying mental health issues include psychological counseling (“talk therapy”), cognitive behavioral therapy, and techniques such as mindful meditation. There’s no guarantee improved physical symptoms will automatically mean mental health issues will also go away. For this reason, healthcare providers are encouraged to be open to a dual approach to treating back injuries and other sources of chronic spine discomfort—an approach that treats both physical and mental aspects of pain.
As you’re being treated for a spine-related injury or ongoing back pain, take some time to share any concerns that may be affecting your mental health with your Los Angeles spine surgeon. For some patients, simply having a better understanding of what can be expected from treatment efforts can ease related issues with anxiety and depression.
For more information on treating back injuries in a way that prioritizes patients’ overall wellbeing, call on the spine specialists at The Spine Institute. Our industry-leading physicians can determine the best course of action to help you find relief and get back to a pain-free life. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.