In this blog you will learn the relationship of chronic pain and depression, possible causes, and easy tips to help relieve pain and depression.

Chronic pain is defined as a persistent pain that usually lasts more than three months. Depression is defined as a feeling of persistent sadness, that lasts more than two weeks, including lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, eating disorders, and a lack of motivation. A person who has chronic pain and depression tends to have more severe symptoms, than those with only pain.

Recent research states that one fifth of the general population in the United States and Europe are affected from chronic pain and depression. 85% of patients with chronic pain developed severe depression.

Example of a Normal Response to Acute Pain

When a person is cooking and cuts herself, sensory receptors on the skin send a message to the brain. The brain sends a message back to the skin with the sensation of pain. This pain is defined as acute and it should last few days. Then it goes away as healing progresses, in the normal response of pain.

How Does Acute Pain Become Chronic?

If the pain persists for more than three months, this pain will be chronic. The brain sends a false signal of pain to the area that is hurting when is left untreated. The brain doesn’t know how to reset and send the right signal.

The Brain is Like a Light Bulb

A brain that has not been reset to stop the pain is compared to a flickering light bulb. A flickering light bulb can be annoying if is not fixed. A flickering light bulb sometimes is resolved with just tightening the bulb. In other cases, it continues flickering for a long time. Here is when the big issue starts. It is necessary to find out the cause of the flickering to fix this issue.

Pain is a protective response and it should go away as healing progresses, as a fully tightened light bulb normally stops the flickering. If the pain does not go away, the brain will be sending a constant signal of pain. If the pain is not treated, it will persist for long time. Here is the persistent flickering bulb.

It is not just treating the symptom in the area of pain (again tightened the light bulb). It is necessary to look for the root of the problem, that means resetting the brain.

Causes of Chronic Pain and Depression

Changes in the Brain

Chronic pain may lead to depression as a result of the changes that occurred in the brain due to constant pain. The brain is unable to produce enough dopamine and nor-epinephrine to offset the pain. Dopamine modulates pain and produces natural analgesia. Serotonin and nor-epinephrine inhibit the pain.

Inflammation Response

Inflammation can predispose the patient to develop pain and depression. For instance, a cancer patient who receives systemic treatment tends to suffer from severe depression. This is caused by the inflammation associated with treatment.

Pain Medication

Opioids are well known to treat chronic pain such as nerve pain, pain produced by an external impact, and cancer pain. The prolong use of opioids to treat chronic pain increases the risk of severe depression, as well as exacerbation of pain which can lead to depression.

Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain and Depression

Physical Therapy offers effective methods, and techniques to relieve chronic pain and depression, speed up recovery time, all without the risk and side effects of pain killers.

Physical therapy treats the whole person, finding the root of the issue, and resetting the brain to ease the symptoms of chronic pain and depression.


  • Improve Gait
  • Reduce Muscle Tightness
  • Reduce Joint Stiffness
  • Improve Mental Clarity
  • Improve Sleep Quality
  • Improve Balance
  • Reduce Stress
  • Reduce Anxiety
  • Improve Coordination
  • Easy and Effortless Movements
  • Calm the Mind and Nervous system

Physical therapy focuses on techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to release physical pain and negative emotions.

Some of the Techniques used to reset the brain to ease chronic pain and depression are:

Cortical Field Re-education

This technique uses gentle movements to assist the brain in releasing wrong patterns responsible of emotional and physical pain. This technique was developed by Harriet Goslins, to improve, health and well-being by removing wrong sensory signals responsible of emotional and physical trauma and improving the communication between brain and body.

Cortical Field re-education eliminates protective behaviors associated with a traumatic event. This technique trains the patient to be gentle with him/herself, to feel and not to judge the movement, and to focus in quality not in quantity.

Functional Manual Therapy

Evaluate the patient body, find the movements that are restricted, and with active movement guided by the therapist the patient learns how to move with proper body mechanics, with less effort and less restrictions. Functional manual therapy is an effective technique to reduce chronic pain and depression, as well and quality of life and function.

Visceral Mobilization

Very organ is emotional and can refer pain to another part of the body, such as neck, back or arms. Visceral Mobilization for chronic pain and depression focus on releasing the diaphragm and resetting the brain to calm the busy brain and relax the body to assist with pain and depression.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a manual therapy to relax the fascia in the whole body. This method uses gentle pressure, with low load, which leads to restore muscle length, reduce pain, and improve quality of life. Myofascial release focuses on releasing the diaphragm, the neck, the back of the neck, the upper, middle, and lower back area to relieve chronic pain and depression.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing techniques focus on activating the parasympathetic system to balance the nervous system, inhibit the pain, and reduce depression.

Click here to learn How to Fight Depression Naturally?

If you are dealing with physical and emotional pain, call now to find out how Physical Therapy can help you recover faster, move easier, and effortless: 805-203-9940

The information in this blog is for educational and informational purpose only, its content is provided based upon evidence-based medicine, knowledge, and experience as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).