Can your mental health be linked to your back pain? This is starting to be a topic that is being investigated by many researchers as chronic back/neck pain affects 1 in 10 people in the world and mental health problems are directly linked. Global burden of disease studies are showing this direct linkage to back pain and mental health problems.
Research is showing that in order to help someone with chronic back/neck pain you also need to address their mental health.
What the Research is Telling us:
A 2016 study in the General Hospital Psychiatry Journal, used information from the World Health Survey (set up by the WHO), and looked at health statistics for 43 low to middle level income countries, including: India, China, Brazil, Russia, Ghana, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, and Kenya. The survey included over 190,500 participants from around the globe and looked at what health problems are occurring in these populations. The study found that there was an average prevalence of 35.1% for back pain and 6.9% for chronic back pain. Some countries had a back pain prevalence of over 50%, including Brazil, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The study found that there where links to an increased risk in back pain including: smoking, alcohol consumption, older age, female sex, low education, low income, and living in an urban setting.
The most striking statistic was the relationship between mental health and back pain. If patients had any type of depression or psychosis, anxiety, or sleeping problems, there was a much higher prevalence of some form of back pain or chronic back pain. In fact, all types of mental ailments were associated with >2 x higher odds for developing some type of back pain.
Other notable findings included:
- the higher a person rated their stress the stronger correlation to back pain
-patients with a psychotic disorder (including Schizophrenia) had a slightly over a 2 fold increase in back pain and chronic back pain
-patients with sleeping disorders also had a two fold increase in the odds of having back pain
-depression is directly linked to chronic back pain rather than acute back pain
What can be Done?
It is very apparent that a practitioner must address a patients mental health along with back and neck pain. This is especially important when dealing with disabling or chronic back pain. However, there are lots of tools that the patient can use to help their own fight against mental health and associated pain.
Back/neck (combined) pain affects slightly over 80% of the population at sometime in their life. It is the number one causes of time off work and contributes to the greatest cause of disability in the world.
Chronic pain naturally makes a person want to be sedentary. Often people have fear that using their back joints and muscles will cause further damage and disability. In the vast majority of cases this is not true. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself to ensure the nervous system, encased by the spine, is safe from harm. Treatment guidelines from the Canadian Chiropractic Association for chronic low back pain, and chronic low back pain with sciatica, states that the most effective treatments include conservative care including home exercises and stretching. Gone are the days of prescribing bed rest for back pain.
Chronic pain can cause a negative cycle where the patient is fearful of exercise, this causes further weakening of the spine, which in turn causes more pain. The best treatment is to find a health care provider that can start you on the correct path of exercises to help combat your chronic pain.
Your mental health:
By age 40, about 50% of the Canadian population will have or have had a mental illness.
Everyone knows someone that has been affected by this. Being active is the number one thing you can do to change your overall health and it is no surprise that it helps your mental health too. Many studies have shown that simple activities such as walking are more effective in treating depression and anxiety than taking conventional medications.
Amazing chemical changes occur in our brain when we exercise. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention, improves mood, and brain circulation. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as medications such as anti-depressants, relaxants, Ritalin and Adderall. Exercise helps balance out these neurotransmitters and give us an overall improved positive attitude.
Exercise also promotes improved circulation and chemical changes in the brain that promote growth of nerve cells. This has direct impact for people with ADHD due to improved memory, mental clarity, and overall mood. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.
Chronic back pain and mental illness are directly linked and need to be co-managed together when treatment occurs. Find a health care provider, like a chiropractor, that can provide you with professional advice on treatment of your spinal pain. The next step is to get active! Keep your spine strong and your mind clear with regular exercise.
Activity Fact: Neepawa hosts the Miles for Mental Health run every year to raise money for local support groups and to raise awareness for mental health.