Back Pain And Depression – The Signs And What You Can Do To Fight It Off

Back Pain

Is it any wonder that back pain and depression are so closely linked? Unlike a broken limb or a sprained ankle for instance where you can immobilize the affected area and wait for it to heal, back pain is all-encompassing, all-of-the-time. In a chronic situation there can be lifestyle, income and social changes that have to be dealt with also and these can greatly contribute to the onset of depression.

When battling with pain, depression can often sneak up on us without us even knowing. Certainly in my case it was my partner that first noticed the changes. Sure, I felt down about everything but I thought I was coping ok and it wasn’t until I sat down and spoke about how I was feeling that I realized that I wasn’t doing all that well at all. I urge you to take very seriously the things that people close to you are saying about you in this situation!

So what are the signs we need to look out for and what can be done about feeling depressed when back pain is ruling your life?

Back Pain

The Signs To Look Out For

First and foremost, if you are feeling depressed to the point of thinking about self-harm or inflicting harm on others you MUST SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. Call emergency services or have someone take you to the nearest hospital WITHOUT DELAY. You certainly don’t have to feel this way and there will be plenty of help available to get you through it.

Below is a check-list put together by the National Institute Of Mental Health to aid in the diagnosis of depression. I would like you to read (and/or print out) the list and make a note of each symptom that you are experiencing.

  • I am really sad most of the time
  • I don’t enjoy doing the things I’ve always enjoyed doing
  • I have difficulty sleeping at night
  • I often feel fatigued
  • Getting up in the morning is challenging
  • I feel better as the day goes on compared to when I first awoke
  • My eating habits have changed: Generally, I eat more than usual or I eat less than usual
  • I have very little, if any, sexual energy
  • I am very forgetful throughout the day
  • I find it hard to focus on the simple things in life. Even counting change has become challenging
  • I often feel angry
  • I feel anxious and fearful for no apparent reason
  • I prefer to stay alone rather than socialize
  • I feel pessimistic about life in general and am not sure I want to continue living
  • I feel disappointed in myself
  • I feel bad (physically and emotionally) most of the time
  • I have thoughts about my death
  • I think about how I might kill myself

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is time to call your doctor and discuss these results.

Back Pain

What Help Is Available?

While you may see your back pain as the cause or trigger of your depression and think that you will be depressed as long as your back pain is around, it is important to keep in mind that they are two totally different conditions and can be treated (and cured) independently of each other.

There are two main areas of treatment for depression – medicine and counseling.


There are many different types of anti-depressants available and their use is widespread in today’s society. Before starting on anti-depressants it is important to know that there may be unwanted side effects and I know from my experiences you have to be ‘weaned’ off some types if you decide you no longer want to take them.

Also, your doctor may have to try a few different types of anti-depressants before the best one is found for you. Like any medication, be sure to discuss all of the pro’s and con’s with your doctor before making any decisions.


Ah yes, the one us guys are usually reluctant to try! From my own point of view, the hardest thing was to admit that I needed help and to actually say those words to my doctor. From there on in it was all easy going and without a doubt talking to a psychologist about how I was feeling was the best thing I have done since my back problems first started many moons ago. A person trained in the field of counseling and psychology will be able to help you change the way you think, feel and behave to support you in feeling better.

The two types of ‘talk therapy’ that have been known to help with depression are cognitive and interpersonal therapy, or a combination of the two. Cognitive therapy focuses on thought patterns, feelings and behaviors while interpersonal therapy focuses on challenges in relationships.

What Can I Do Myself To Feel Better?

Below is a list of tips for day to day living while moving through a depression and dealing with pain. This list was compiled by Dr. Margaret McCraw in her article Does Back Pain Have You Feeling Depressed? I think they are all excellent tips for dealing with pain and doing what you can to stay positive.

  1. 1. Set reasonable goals for yourself.
  2. 2. Set priorities and do what you can.
  3. 3. Break large tasks into small ones.
  4. 4. Take everything at your own pace.
  5. 5. Stay connected with others through phone conversations and activities that are appropriate for your health.
  6. 6. Walk, walk, walk if acceptable to your physician. Walk at your own pace. Short, easy walks may help change your body chemistry to support you in feeling better. Try engaging in any mild exercise that has been approved by your physician.
  7. 7. Remember that feeling better is a process and it takes time. Be patient with yourself.
  8. 8. Practice the art of forgiving. Release judgment of yourself and others. Stop seeing things as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘black’ or ‘white’. Release the ‘shoulds’ in your life and be inspired into action.
  9. 9. Shift pessimistic thinking to hopeful thoughts. Ask friends and family who you trust to help you look at situations optimistically.
  10. 10. Remember to focus on the good things in life and practice seeing every situation from love rather than fear.

And finally, a tip from me. Every night before you go to bed if you haven’t already got something lined up to do the next day think of something that you would enjoy doing but may challenge you a bit from either a mental or physical sense (within reason of course) and plan to do it.

The key here is that you must follow through with your plan the next day and even if you only get halfway through it doesn’t matter, as long as you start. I have found that doing these little ‘mini-challenges’ each day has given me a new sense of hope and finally I have something more than just back pain to look forward to when I wake up!

Just to give you an example, and you might find it a bit odd that I derived so much pleasure out of this but there was a mango tree in our back yard that was rotting and desperately needed to be cut down. So I thought “stuff it!”, I’m going to chop that tree down and last week I did.

Ok, I didn’t exactly ‘chop’ it down, I have a little electric chainsaw but it was still damn hard work! It took me all day and although the limbs are still lying all over the back yard waiting to be loaded onto the trailer and be taken away (possibly this week’s challenge) there is now a nice, clear space where that tree used to be.

Yes my doc would have gone crazy if she knew what I was doing (probably not as much as my wife did but that’s another story) but being able to accomplish that when I shouldn’t have even been thinking about doing such a thing was awesome and did a lot to lift my spirits.

Obviously I’m not saying you should go and chop down the nearest tree but if you set yourself goals that you know you have a good chance of achieving without pushing yourself too hard think of how you will feel if you do complete them. On top of the world is how you will feel, I can almost guarantee that!

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2 responses to “Back Pain And Depression – The Signs And What You Can Do To Fight It Off”

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