Depression and Back Pain

Depression from Back Pain

It’s under­stand­able to have depres­sion from back pain. Espe­cial­ly chron­ic, long-stand­ing back pain.

Of course you’d get depressed if your low back was nag­ging you all the time, you couldn’t enjoy ordi­nary dai­ly activ­i­ties, you were tak­ing a lot of pain pills to dead­en your feel­ings, and you had fear for what the future would bring.

What’s also becom­ing clear is that it works in reverse, too.  Depres­sion can start first and then cause back pain.

Back Pain from Depression

Lin­da Car­roll and oth­ers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta pub­lished an impor­tant research paper on this top­ic in the jour­nal Pain in 2004.  Sure enough, they found that peo­ple with depres­sion had a high risk of devel­op­ing trou­bling back prob­lems in the future.

What does this mean for you?

  • If your back is both­er­ing you, and par­tic­u­lar­ly if it’s been a prob­lem for a long time, you need to find a solu­tion that improves the mus­cles, joints, and discs of the low back, but that helps lift your mood too.
  • You may ben­e­fit from a sim­ple screen­ing test for the symp­toms of depres­sion.  I’m not a psy­chother­a­pist.  But send me an e-mail and I’ll for­ward to you a copy of the basic ques­tion­naire that’s com­mon­ly used to screen for cas­es of depres­sion.  If you score high on the ques­tion­naire, you should con­sult a physi­cian or psy­chother­a­pist.
  • Even if you’re not a can­di­date to see a ther­a­pist or take anti-depres­sant med­ica­tion, know­ing that your emo­tion­al life ties in to the state of your low back can guide you in your recov­ery.  For one thing, don’t have an unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tion that pas­sive treat­ment only (such as heat treat­ment, med­ica­tion, mas­sage, or dozens of chi­ro­prac­tic adjust­ments) is enough to get you back on your feet.  You need to re-acti­vate your body.
  • The reverse is also true.  If you’re feel­ing depressed, talk­ing about your feel­ings or tak­ing mood-sta­bi­liz­ing drugs may not be enough to restore you to robust health.  If you can get help for your back pain, some of your low feel­ings will begin to lift.  And you’ll be able to exer­cise more, which is a known cure for depres­sion.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Are anti­de­pres­sants effec­tive?

Exer­cise treat­ment for depres­sion


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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2 Responses to Depression and Back Pain

  1. Tim says:

    I have nev­er had any back prob­lems bofree but right after an auto acci­dent I have been hav­ing per­sis­tent low­er back pain. Pain that affects the way I move, how long I sit, lift­ing 10+ pounds, etc. I had a MRI done which showed mild arthri­tis infla­ma­tion, oth­er than that MRI is nor­mal­ly. They are refer­ring me to pain man­age­ment b/c the pain is intense, I usu­al­ly lose 1 to 3 days a week from the pain. This doesn’t seem right to me, why would I just start hurt­ing like this? Thanks.Also, my entire low­er back is ten­der to the touch, if some­one hugs me and their fin­gers touch cer­tain spots of my low­er back very painful!!!

    • Hi Tim — sor­ry for the delay in get­ting back to you. I’m unable to com­ment specif­i­cal­ly on your sit­u­a­tion, but I wel­come your phone call at 609–497-1944. Per­haps I can offer you some help­ful infor­ma­tion.

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