Depression's Affect on Arthritis and Joint Pain
If I am depressed, will my osteoarthritis get worse?
There is no doubt that there is a connection between the mind and the body. For example, when thoughts come into your head, your body physically reacts in certain patterns. If you are speeding down the street in your car and you look in the rearview mirror and see flashing police lights, what happens? Most probably your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty, and your stomach feels like it is dropping. Then, if the police car races past you in pursuit of someone else, what happens? Your heart rate slows down; your body slowly returns to its previous resting state. If you think of your favorite food, perhaps you notice that your mouth starts to salivate and your stomach rumbles.
In all of the above examples, nothing was physically happening to your body. But the thoughts in your mind influence your body, and your body reacts in a very real and physical way. This is all to say that the thoughts in your head can and do influence your body.
Now, back to the question: Does depression lead to worsening osteoarthritis? There is no evidence that depression alone will accelerate degenerative changes in the cartilage. However, depression can certainly make it less likely that you will eat a healthy diet. Depression can make it less likely that you will do your exercises. And depression can make it less likely that you will take your supplements. If you don’t eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, perform your prescribed exercises and take the appropriate supplements, then there is most certainly a greater chance that your joints will degenerate sooner. So, as you can see, in an indirect manner depression can lead to worsening osteoarthritis.
In addition, depression can make it more difficult to deal with pain by amplifying the pain that is there. As the pain is amplified, it becomes harder to exercise and less likely that you will stay active in general. This, in turn, may lead to accelerated osteoarthritis.
Please be sure to talk with your doctor not only about your joint pain, but also about your mental state of mind. It is only natural that joint pain may lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and/or sadness. Joint pain makes it difficult for you to participate in the activities you most enjoy. Joint pain can even make it hard to simply get through the day. If you are having feelings of frustration, anger, and/or sadness, they need to be addressed. Failing to do so may interfere with the osteoarthritis treatment. Talk with your doctor. Even if your arthritis doctor is not comfortable treating your depression directly, he or she can advise you on the appropriate course of action and offer any referrals that may be necessary.
I hope you have found this blog helpful. As always, I wish you the best of health because with good health, all things are possible.
Concerned you may be depressed. Try our assessment at our Depression site.
Grant Cooper is a board certified, fellowship-trained physician who specializes in the non-operative treatment of spine, joint and muscle pain. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Osteoarthritis.