Dealing With Chronic Pain And Depression: The Best Treatment Options, Explained

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 06/24/2022

When it comes to dealing with chronic pain and depression, this can be approached in a number of different ways. There is also evidence to indicate that there may be a connection between chronic pain, depression, and the way it should be treated. This article will explain chronic pain, depression, and some treatment options. 

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pain that affects a person for many weeks at a time. It is thought to be chronic after it is experienced for a few months. This pain can be caused by an injury or may occur after someone has surgery.  Moreover, it can be due to a physical ailment that a person is experiencing. People with chronic pain may face difficulty when it comes to completing simple tasks, such as exercising or even being able to move around to complete chores.

If you experience pain and it is not chronic, the information discussed in this article may still be able to help you.


Depression is a disorder where a person experiences a period of low energy, accompanied by feelings of sadness, guilt, inadequacy, or being overwhelmed with the world. It can also cause symptoms that affect a person’s daily routine, where they change the amount they sleep, eat, and the way they act. One symptom that is significant to consider is that some people experience depression pains. In other words, they have pain due to their depression. This pain can come in headaches, body aches, or other pain that has no obvious cause.

The Link Between Depression And Pain

There are a few things that pain and depression have in common.  Both conditions are quite common. Another thing to keep in mind is that chronic pain may cause someone to experience depression. For instance, if a person has been in pain for quite a long time, this may cause them to develop depression. When a person doesn’t see relief and has no reason to believe that their pain will be relieved, they can feel depressed.

Both depression and pain can also cause the same types of drawbacks in someone’s life. They each have the capacity to negatively impact established routines, keep them from being able to work and cause them to be unable to make decisions or control their emotions.

Chronic pain also includes ailments, such as headaches or migraines. Migraines and depression are connected because if someone has migraines and they are severe, they may feel depressed. This may be because some people cannot get relief from their migraines, which can affect their moods. When a person experiences severe migraines, it can affect their thinking, actions, and even getting out of bed. Imagine if you could not get out of bed for an extended amount of time; would this cause you to feel depressed? If you answered yes, you can understand the connection between these two serious conditions. Neural Plasticity published a study that explains that when people are affected with chronic pain, this can bring about depression for them as well.

Moreover, there is thought to be a link between inflammation and depression. Inflammation may cause chronic pain in some people, depending on the physical ailment they are experiencing. This is a topic that is discussed in a study in Frontiers in Immunology. It also explains more about how the immune system may play a part in inflammation. This might be an additional link when it comes to determining what the connection is between chronic pain and depression. Additionally, there is thought to be a connection between the two regarding how they should be treated.


If you are experiencing depression, consider taking this depression test to learn more about this condition and possible treatment options.


Numerous types of medicines can be utilized when it comes to the treatment of both depression and chronic pain. Some studies discuss the overlap in the treatment of these two disorders if a person experiences them simultaneously. The same article found in Neural Plasticity also describes what medicines can be used to treat pain-related depression. Certain medicines can treat both conditions, which can be a boon for you if you experience both. This is thought to be because depression and pain may use similar neurotransmitters in the brain. You should discuss all potential medication options with your doctor including side effects.


Another treatment strategy when it comes to treating depression and pain is psychotherapy. With this type of therapy, a person can learn coping strategies for either of these conditions, helping them manage their symptoms. This method may take a while to see results, however. This is why psychotherapy may be used in conjunction with medicines.

You can talk to your doctor or mental health professional about what is working and what is not working for getting treatment that is best suited for your purposes.

Physical Activity

Another treatment option that can be recommended is physical activity. Even just exercising a little bit can make a big difference in elevating your mood and improving your mobility. Your doctor or therapist may recommend certain low impact activities that you can try, depending on your pain level. For instance, one low impact activity that may be beneficial is walking outside.

Lifestyle Changes

There are a few lifestyle changes that you can also incorporate into your life to see if they can lessen how your depression hurts you. These won’t work for everyone, but they may work well in conjunction with the other treatment strategies you are taking advantage of.

Seek Help Early

Once you are aware that you have a problem with depression, pain, or both, you need to reach out for the support that you need. Whether this is in the form of medical care, mental health care, or a combination of each of these, it doesn’t matter. You should try your best to make good decisions for your health as soon as you can. Also, once a doctor recommends a certain treatment plan, you should follow it. This is a decision that may be able to lessen some of your most severe symptoms, which will only happen if you stick with the program laid out for you.

Get A Massage

You need to take time out to treat yourself occasionally as well. Both depression and pain might make you feel worse when you are under stress, so consider getting a massage when you can. This may help you relieve some of your pain and relax your muscles.


Besides just massages, you should try to relax in any way you can. Whether this means taking a few minutes to yourself when you are having a bad day or curling up and watching your favorite show when you don’t feel like doing anything else, find something that works for you and makes you feel better. This may be able to improve your mood.

Get Adequate Sleep

You should also try to get the proper amount of sleep each night. This is easier said than done, but there are a few things you can do to keep your bed and your room comfortable during the night. One is that you should make sure that your bedroom is cool and dark. This will give you the best chance of having an uninterrupted sleep each night. You should also try your best to stay away from devices and screens for at least an hour before bed. If you need to unwind before you go to sleep, consider reading a book with a soft light.

Keep Your Friends Close

When you are experiencing pain and depressive symptoms, it may be hard to keep up with friendships, but it is important. After all, you need people that care about you to be there when you require help. A support system can be beneficial in many situations, so take the time to go out with friends, eat dinner with family members, or text people you trust. This may also be able to improve your mood and can keep you from feeling lonely.


There is no “magic cure” for chronic pain or depression. However, there are effective treatment options available for both of these conditions, and in some instances, they can be treated at the same time. It is important to speak with your doctor when you are experiencing chronic pain. You should also talk to your therapist when you have symptoms of depression. The fact is that you may have both of these ailments, and if you do, they both need to be treated. If they are, you have a chance at seeing a lessening of your symptoms. Be sure to get help when you need it, and don’t let the issue worsen before you take advantage of it. When you leave either of these conditions untreated, they can lead to additional issues, which you would probably like to avoid.

You should also note that you are unlikely to see changes overnight even when you are being treated for these conditions. Be honest with yourself and your therapist or doctor, so you can be on top of your symptoms, notice when they change, and so you can tell when different strategies are effective or when they are causing you to feel worse. You can start to feel better, no matter how long you have been affected by pain or depression, so don’t give up. Remember that help is always available.


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