Orthopedic Pain Affects Both Physical and Mental Health

March 29, 2017

“Hurting bodies and suffering minds often require the same treatment.” - Hippocrates



Most people associate orthopedic problems with injury, aging, or physical over-use. It is indeed surprising that orthopedic pain has a connection with psychological factors as well. Pain and injuries are emotional conditions as well as a physical sensation. The cause and effect relationship between pain and your mood is complex but very significant.


Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain. People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms — usually mood or anxiety disorders — and depressed or anxious patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.


There are many other connections between mood and orthopedic problems:


  • Mood related inflammation


Anxiety, stress and depression cause your body to release stress hormones. This can cause inflammation in your joints and tendons, resulting in orthopedic problems. These same stress hormones can slow healing from injury or surgery.


  • Anxiety causing immune system disorders


Stress, anxiety and depression can weaken your immune system and contribute to immune system disorders or slower healing of injury or surgery. Some types of arthritis involving severe joint pain also result from immune system dysfunction.


  • Anxiety causing tension in the muscles


Anxiety results in mental tension. It also causes your muscles to tense and become stiff. This stiffness in the muscles increases the friction between the joints, tendons and muscles and causes pain.


  • Mood abnormality causing irregular eating and sleeping patterns


Irregular eating and sleeping habits caused due to anxiety also result in weakening of the muscles and the immune system. Sugar binges have been associated with inflammation and pain.


  • Mood and perceived pain


When you have anxiety or depression, you are far more prone to experience pain in a more pronounced way, and also unable to ignore it in order to go about your day. Often times, those with anxiety have the same aches and pains as others, but the inability to focus on something else makes them far more painful.



To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, you may need separate treatment for each condition. However, some treatments may help with both:


1. Get the Proper Diagnosis and Treatment Plan. The team at Blanda Orthopedic and Physical Therapy will make the proper diagnosis and provide treatments to break the vicious cycle of pain or injury/dysfunction/mood abnormality.  The physical therapy team will determine which modalities and exercises are best for you on an individual basis.


2. Make Exercise a Priority.  We will help you understand how to safely exercise to prevent injury and pain, as opposed to causing it. Exercise is a strong antidepressant – endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin are released during exercise which are natural antidepressants.


3. Anti-inflammatory foods and weight control are essential. You will be counseled on both of these critical factors at our facility.


4. Develop healthy sleep habits. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night.


5. Calm Your Mind. Studies show that meditation and guided imagery can help improve mood, reduce distress, and ease pain. The team at Blanda Orthopedics can give you advice on this.


6. Make Some Lifestyle Changes. Work around problems. When orthopedic symptoms flare up, everyday tasks can be harder to do. Maybe your exercise routine is doing more harm than good. We can help you find solutions.


7. Avoid Narcotics - they may worsen your mood abnormality. At Blanda Orthopedics we focus on a ten point pain management plan that doesn’t require narcotics.


8. Consider mood stabilizing medication. Often patients with mild to moderate arthritis on x-ray report as severe or even worse pain as those with longstanding severe arthritis. Some of these patients have untreated depression. People with painful musculoskeletal conditions who are experiencing emotional stress, an ongoing blue mood or other signs of depression – including fatigue, irritation and loss of interest in favorite activities – should mention it to their doctor who can prescribe or refer them for treatment that could potentially improve both their depression and their pain.  Some antidepressant medications have been found to have analgesic as well as antidepressant effects.


9.  Realize the connection between poor surgical outcomes and untreated mood abnormality.  Discuss any concerns about stress, anxiety, depression or any mood abnormality with the team at Blanda Orthopedics.






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