Chronic Pain and Depression

At some point in your life, you will experience depression – the sad, melancholy, lonely feelings; the feeling like you're both unloved and unlovable; the fatigue. Depression is normal – no one can be happy and upbeat every minute of their life; what matters is how long the depressive episode lasts, and what its underlying cause may be.

Chronic Pain and Depression | Causes | Ways to Overcome

A clinical depression is when the feelings of depression linger for long periods of time, and a clinical depression requires treatment. It is not physically possible for someone to "snap out of" a clinical depression. You can pull yourself out of a normal period of the blues, but when it gets to the clinical stage, you need help.

Causes of Depression

Depression has many causes, and some are not very well understood. Stress, lack of sleep, constant running to get through a day are all causes of clinical depression. One of the major causes of clinical depression is chronic pain, and this is due to the depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for the body's ability to cope with pain, and a constant, chronic pain depletes the body's stores rather rapidly. There are both allopathic and alternative methods of treating depression, and both work on the serotonin reuptake inhibitors, to prevent the body from using serotonin faster than it can be produced. The allopathic world has had tri-cyclic antidepressants for years, and they are effective. The newer generations of these drugs are easier to take than the first tri-cyclic; the side effects of the newer drugs are less severe, and there are now tri-cyclic operating on different chemical formulations, producing less of the grogginess, low energy, and hangover-like symptoms of something like Elavil. Tri-cyclic are started with the newer, milder, forms and progression up the tri-cyclic ladder occurs when the current drug ceases to function for the patient.

The alternative world starts with St. John's Wort as its antidepressant of choice.St. John's Wort functions in a similar manner to the tri-cyclic, but it doesn't have the list of side effects the tri-cyclic brings to the table. Most cases of mild clinical depression respond very well to St. John's Wort; more severe cases require other remedies.

Causes of Chronic Pain

Many things cause chronic pain - illness, injury, stress, overwork - these are all causes of pain, and the pain can become chronic if the source is chronic. We've all coped with the immediate pain of an injury, or the pain associated with an illness; what most of us don't experience is the long-term effects of chronic pain due to an illness, or as the result of an injury. Chronic pain is unremitting; it's with you when you wake up in the morning, and it goes to bed with you every night, and does its best to keep you from sleeping, which in turn aggravates your pain level as you become sleep-deprived.

How to Overcome Depression and Chronic Pain?

Dealing with chronic pain, and the depression it causes, is difficult, to say the least. We all reach the point where we just want to lay the burden down and watch it walk away, but we never get to this goal, unless we're really, really lucky. There are techniques for coping with the pain and depression caused by your illness or injury; what you can actually do is limited by the actual disease or injury you have.


This is one of the best ways to deal with pain and depression, but your ability to exercise may be limited by your condition. Do what you can, as often as you can. Exercise stimulates endorphin production; endorphins are your natural pain relievers. Successfully exercising can produce elevated moods and diminished pain, so do the best you can.


Diet is a great way to battle your condition. There are foods that elevate your mood, and there are foods that help with pain relief. Find a good nutritionist, or start researching the internet for dietary advice, and plan a diet for your lifestyle; one that will help you defeat your depression.

Mind-Body Techniques

These are things like yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, relaxation techniques, visualization techniques, and Tai Chi. All of these help you work with your body, stimulating your natural defenses, and giving you the resources to cope.

Supplements and Remedies

Herbal supplements and remedies are great weapons in this battle. Nature provides numerous plants, herbs, and spices to help us as we go through life. Find someone who can help you navigate the herbal world, like a naturopath, a holistic physician, or a knowledgeable lay person. In addition, find yourself a good source for quality supplements. Some supplements, such as St. John's Wort, CoQ10, and fish oils have become common enough to be marketed by big box retailers, grocery stores, and pharmacies as over-the-counter medications. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with these products, but they won't be as high-quality as the ones you get from a good health food store, and may not be as effective. So, if you start with something from Wal-Mart, and it doesn't seem to be helping, try the same supplement from a different manufacturer, and from a health food store.


Chronic pain and depression are realities for many of us in this world. Learning how to take charge of your condition empowers you, and helps you cope with your disabilities as you go through your daily life. It doesn't have to be a losing battle - arm yourself with the weapons mentioned here, and, as Shakespeare said, "Once more into the breach, dear friends!" You'll be surprised as to the outcome – you, on the winning side.

Research References:

Tartakovsky, M. (2013). Living with Chronic Pain and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 9, 2014, from

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. (2006, May 24). Listening To Music Can Reduce Chronic Pain And Depression By Up To A Quarter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 9, 2014 from

D. M. Cairns, R. H. Adkins, and M. D. Scott, "Pain and depression in acute traumatic spinal cord injury: origins of chronic problematic pain?," Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Vol.77, No.4, April 1996, pp. 329-335.

L.M. McCracken, S.D. Faber, and A.S. Janeck,. "Pain- related anxiety predicts non-specific physical complaints in persons with chronic pain." Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol.36, No.6, June 1998, pp. 621-630.


, MA in English literature.

Last Modified On: June 24, 2014

Kelly Everson

Kelly Everson is an American author and MA in English literature. She is a health article writer who has written numerous articles/online journals on joint pain problems, sleep disorders & stretch marks.

Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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