While many sufferers of back pain look for external causes to solve the problem, the issue may actually be internal. Many studies have linked back pain with the onset of depression, but newer research has focused on how depression can actually cause back pain. Most recently, Australian researchers analyzed the data from 11 studies on back pain with a total of 23,109 participants and found that people with symptoms of depression had a 60 percent higher risk of developing lower back pain compared to those with no signs of depression.
The study, which was published in a 2015 issue of the journal Arthritis Care and Research, found that patients with more severe symptoms of depression had an even higher risk of developing lower back pain. Researchers also considered age as a factor, finding that older depressed participants had double the risk of experiencing lower back pain than younger participants.
According to Business Insider, other studies have estimated that up to 48 percent of back pain patients have symptoms of depression. While the Australian study doesn't explain why there's a connection, it theorizes that it's due to the decreased physical activity, sleep disturbances and lower pain thresholds from dysfunctional neurotransmitters caused by depression. The study also brings up genetic factors, highlighting some research on twins that suggests certain people may be predisposed to developing both back pain and depression.
The researchers are hoping this will lead to better treatment of back pain and depression, recommending that both be treated simultaneously.
"When patients come to us with both back pain and depression their cases are much more complex," Dr. Paulo Ferreira, of the University of Sydney, told Business Insider. "They don't respond to treatment in the same way as patients who only experience back pain — they take much longer to recover and treatment can be expensive."
While the newest Australian research provides a clearer view of the relationship between depression and back pain, past studies have had similar findings. In 1991, one study found that 42 percent of depressed male veterans with chronic pain experienced their emotional symptoms prior to physical pain. Another study on chronic lower back pain from 1993 found that 39 percent of patients had pre-existing depression. In 2000, a review of 16 different research studies found that depression often increased the risk of back pain. Other studies have suggested that anxiety also plays a role in developing back pain. All this information demonstrates that back pain is a complex issue that is unique to each patient that often requires dedicated lifestyle changes to correct.
If you're experiencing back pain, you should schedule an appointment with a chiropractor today.