Depression and Pain are Linked, Researchers Find

“It’s all in your head”. Many fibromyalgia patients are made to feel that their symptoms are a figment of their imagination. Although anyone who suffers from fibromyalgia knows this is not the case, according to a new study our mood can and does influence our pain.

A new study sought to further understand the interaction between pain and depression. Scientists have long believed there is a correlation, but the underlying physiological reasons for this connection have been misunderstood. To gain further understanding of this phenomenon, researchers from the University of Oxford used brain imaging techniques to study how healthy participants perceived and responded to pain while in a low mood.

The researchers induced a depressed mood by using “depressing” music and negative thought processes to see how the study participants responded in terms of pain. What they discovered is that participants perceived greater pain when exposed to variables used to produce a depressed state. In other words, the low mood caused by the sad music and negative thoughts produced a change in the participants’ neurocircuitry, causing them to experience pain more intensely. Their conclusion? A depressed mood makes pain feel worse.

People who suffer from chronic pain know this inherently. Experiencing pain on a continual basis is apt to make anyone feel depressed. How is this knowledge important? Targeting depression in people who suffer from chronic pain syndromes may actually improve symptoms of pain. This may lead to better and more effective medications to treat fibromyalgia and other conditions in which pain is a part of daily life. After all, it’s bad enough to have to live with chronic pain- a better outlook could change how you respond to pain and how you cope with your symptoms, producing an overall positive effect on your quality of life.


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Fibromyalgia is a prevalent condition that affects many people in the United States. Approximately 3.7 million Americans have Fibromyalgia. That is 1 in every 73 people.

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