3 min read
Mental and physical pain often co-occur, perhaps the most striking example being the high prevalence of chronic back pain among people with mental health disorders.
Gentle movements and stretching exercises—such as those involved in basic Yoga—can soothe sore joints and muscles while also providing a sense of peace and balance.
-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark
In a study of roughly 85,000 people across 17 countries, up to 42% of those with a diagnosable mental health issue also reported having chronic neck and back pain in the past month. And other research has shown that as many has 60% of patients seeking treatment for chronic lower back pain meet criteria for at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
The association between physical and mental pain stems from the shared brain dynamics and neurochemistry involved in both. Two neurotransmitters (i.e., chemicals that allow brain cells to exchange messages), serotonin and norepinephrine, have been implicated in the regulation of mood and physical pain, offering a common link that could help explain their co-occurrence.
Pain and mental health problems also seem to reciprocally impact one another. Our mental state can color the way we perceive our bodies (e.g., as ‘fit’ and ‘capable’ or ‘broken’ and ‘aching’). Likewise, when pain symptoms flare up, physical discomfort can fuel feelings of frustration and hopelessness, in many cases pushing someone over the edge into a full blown mental health disorder.
If you’re suffering from a troubled mind and an aching spine, the good news is that there are a wealth of effective strategies for managing mood and back discomfort.
Gentle movements and stretching exercises—such as those involved in basic Yoga—can soothe sore joints and muscles while also providing a sense of peace and balance. If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, talk to your doctor about incorporating the stretching exercises depicted below as part of your treatment plan.
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Demyttenaere, K., Bruffaerts, R., Lee, S., Posada-Villa, J., Kovess, V., Angermeyer, M. C., … & Lara, C. (2007). Mental disorders among persons with chronic back or neck pain: Results from the World Mental Health Surveys. Pain, 129, 332-342.