Along with Treating Chronic Pain, Physical Therapy Fights Depression

Physical therapy may do more than treat the aches and pains related to work related orthopedic injuries, studies show it can help improve patients’ moods, too. Research has uncovered a link between pain and depression, suggesting that more than one-third of individuals with chronic back or neck pain also exhibit signs of depression. Along with treating patients for chronic pain, physical therapy fights depression.

Numerous studies conducted during the last 30 years have indicated that exercise can improve mood and mindset, even helping to peel back layers of depression. More recent research suggests that feelings and thoughts of depression may subside with the introduction of physical therapy for back and neck pain.

Depression is Common and Interferes with Daily Life

Affecting more than 15 million Americans, clinical depression is one of the most common mental health conditions weighing on our country’s resources. Depression is more than the occasional bout of sadness; it interferes with normal functioning and daily life. Depression can occur alongside other medical conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, but can also occur because of a major life event such as a work-related injury or a death in the family. Experts now understand that medical conditions can enhance the symptoms of depression, and vice versa.

In one study, 40% of the patients studied exhibited decreased feelings and thoughts of depression following physical therapy treatment to address pain and functional limitations from a work related orthopedic injury. One year after treatment, those showing signs of improvement on the depression front were more likely to have returned to work and to report less pain intensity. Conversely, the individuals who did not exhibit improvements in depressed feelings were less likely to have returned to work.

Diagnose Symptoms for Appropriate Treatment

Symptoms of depression may improve for patients receiving treatment designed to decrease pain and improve function, but others may require specialized treatment for depression symptoms in addition to physical therapy. A physical therapist may refer patients with unresolved symptoms of depression to another healthcare provider for appropriate management and treatment.

Depression is a real illness, one that requires proper treatment and attention. The condition, one that can worsen alongside the prognosis of chronic back or neck pain, often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Physical therapy can have a positive impact on patients with depression, both by capturing those who suffer and helping to lessen the symptoms and burden of disease.