Mental Health and Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain Mental Health SartellNew research published in the Journal of Pain suggests that 1 in 4 teenagers diagnosed with a mental health issue also suffer from chronic pain.

We’ve discussed the correlation between changes in your brain and the onset of chronic pain on the blog before, but the recent study shines more light on the link. For their study, researchers at the University of Basel analyzed data from nearly 6,500 teens between the ages of 13 and 18. They uncovered that more than 25 percent of teens with a mental disorder also experienced chronic pain.

Other findings from the study show:

  • 20 percent of teens suffer from a mental disorder, and 25 percent of them have chronic pain.
  • Mental disorders developed prior to the onset of chronic pain.
  • All types of chronic pain were associated with mental disorders.

“All types of pain were related to mental disorders,” researchers wrote. “The most substantial temporal associations were those with onset of mental disorders preceding onset of chronic pain, including those between affective disorders and headaches and any chronic pain; between anxiety disorders and chronic back/neck pain, headaches, and any chronic pain; between behavior disorders and headaches and any chronic pain; and between any mental disorder and chronic back/neck pain, headaches, and any chronic pain.”

Breaking It All Down

Researchers say the results indicate that anxiety and behavioral disorders may indicate that a teen is at a heightened risk for chronic headaches or back and neck pain. It also means that some forms of chronic pain may be preventable if we increase treatment options for mental health issues.

“Future studies should focus on identifying the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms with a view to developing interdisciplinary approaches to prevention and treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Marion Tegethoff.

I too would be interested in further studies on the subject, but I know that exercise has been proven to be beneficial for both people suffering from depression and for those with chronic pain. So while we wait for more information on how we can combat chronic pain through mental health services, go for a 30-minute jog or go for a long walk with a friend!

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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