We all experience pain of some kind from time to time – we stub our toe, pull a muscle, suffer with a headache, etc. But the American Chronic Pain Association estimates that one in three Americans (over 50 million people) suffers from some type of chronic pain1. Chronic pain is described as ongoing or recurrent pain which lasts beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury and adversely affects an individual’s well-being. Simply put, chronic pain is pain that continues when it should not. It may present as pain in the lower back, abdominal region, joints, neck, and even headaches, depending on the individual. Pain may be felt as aching, burning, shooting, or electrical and can affect sleep, cause fatigue and weaken the immune system. Beyond the physical discomfort and stress upon the body, chronic pain also affects thought, mood and behavior, and can lead to isolation, immobility and drug dependence. If those symptoms sound familiar, it may be because there are many similarities and connections between chronic pain and depression.
Pain is a depressing experience, and depression can cause and/or intensify pain. In fact, over 66% of individuals diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) also suffer from chronic pain2, and depressed patients are three times more likely to develop chronic pain3. Depression can cause a variety of physical symptoms even including affecting the body’s natural sleep cycle. This minimizes the amount of restorative sleep realized each night and exacerbates both chronic pain and depression symptoms. With 80% of depressed individuals complaining of insomnia4 or general body fatigue, it’s no surprise that this accumulation of stress on the body contributes to chronic pain.