You wake up from yet another restless night, and your pain is the first thing that greets you in the morning.
The thought of getting out of bed seems daunting, so you have no idea how you’re going to make it through a full day of work and caring for your family. You want to just pull the covers over your head and stay in bed but you know the pain won’t let you relax so even a day in bed doesn’t seem enticing. Your family doesn’t understand why you’re always so cranky and irritable in the morning. You don’t want to snap at them the way you do, but the biting pain and lack of sleep leave you nothing more than a bag of raw nerves. Work is usually the same. Your co-workers steer clear of your uninviting attitude, and the pain muddles your brain so much it’s hard to focus on your work. You worry about your boss noticing your poor work quality, you stress about losing your job if the pain becomes too much for you to manage and the anxiety intensifies. You leave work and make it through dinner just barely while silently coping with the chronic pain that stays with you every second of the day. Finally, it’s time to crawl into bed and hurt for the rest of the night so, you can start it all over again in the morning.
If you can relate to days like this, you’re probably one of the 100 million Americans coping with chronic pain. Chronic pain seeps into every corner of your life. While you search for effective treatment for your condition and a balance of pain management that actually gives you some relief, you suffer silently as you try to maintain some semblance of normalcy. The weight of grappling with chronic pain can be unbearable and because most conditions that cause chronic pain are “invisible” to the people around you, dealing with chronic pain is a lonely business. You can see why depression and chronic pain often come as a packaged deal.
Chronic Pain & Depression
Chronic pain restricts your activity mentally and physically causing rapid and significant changes in your life. The pain depletes your energy and raises your stress levels leaving you prone to mood swings. The irritability and anxiety make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with your loved ones. It’s no surprise that approximately 50% of people with chronic pain soon find themselves battling depression as well but the onset of depression is also biological. Prolonged chronic pain not only makes you more sensitive to pain, but it also alters the chemical balance of the brain. Because chronic pain affects some of the same neurotransmitters and nerve pathways as depression, the chemical imbalance can trigger depression.
Depending on your level of pain and your condition, your depression could be magnified if you are facing immobility or inability to care for yourself. Loss of independence and the inability to care for others like your children or spouse leaves many suffering from chronic pain feeling hopeless and inadequate.
Depression linked to chronic pain often goes undiagnosed because the cause of your chronic pain takes priority with your doctor. It’s important to be able to identify symptoms of depression and some triggers that can put you at risk so you can get the help you need early. If you find yourself sleeping noticeably less or more and have difficulty concentrating on your tasks these could be early signs of depression. Loss of energy and appetite could be another signal that it may be time to have a serious talk with your doctor. If you find yourself feeling sad, hopeless and anxious more often or if you have any thoughts of harming yourself don’t hesitate to get in to see someone as soon as possible. Keeping a journal of your feelings each day is a great way to identify an issue. If you think you may be presenting symptoms of depression, take a few minutes to jot down your feelings each day and take the journal in when you see your doctor. Keeping a record of your mood will help your doctor to identify the best treatment options for you.
There are a few things you can do to manage your depression while coping with chronic illness. There are some antidepressant medications available that treat both depression and chronic pain and your doctor will be able to identify the best prescription for you if you choose to take medication for the condition. Probably the best thing you can do initially if you think you may have depression is talk to someone. You want to go to someone you trust to be empathetic and understanding, but most importantly you want to talk with someone who can help you take the next steps to getting help. This person may be family or a friend, or you may choose to make an appointment with your doctor or a specialist.
If you’re interested in easing your depression without medication try exercise. If your chronic pain allows, exercise can be a great way of releasing healthy neurotransmitters in the brain that can counteract chemicals that cause depression. You may find that immersing yourself in calming music or images can lift your depression symptoms and lower your stress levels. Spending time in direct sunlight has been proven to lessen the effects of depression as well as the regular practice of yoga and meditation. Changes in your diet to eliminate red meat, sugar and processed foods may also help to lift your spirits and help you function better with depression. If your chronic pain is related to a degenerative or orthopedic condition explore stem cell therapy treatments for a long-lasting, effective answer to your pain. Stem cell therapy could be the treatment you need to eliminate your pain and get your life back on track.