It is fairly easy to understand the concept that prolonged pain can gradually wear down our psychological resistance, and produce depression. This is a very common complication of many medical conditions associated with pain, and this occurs even when the pain is reasonably controlled by pain killers, but leaving the patient with reduced bodily functions of various sorts.
It perhaps seems a stranger concept to tell you that depression can influence the amount of pain we experience.
However, there is no dispute that our level of morale influences our pain perceptions, and the importance our brain attaches to pain at any point in time. The example I usually quote is the fact that we will all be in pain if we break a leg; however, if we are then informed that we have won the lottery, the pain fades into the background to a greater or lesser extent! Just as high morale or low morale will give us less or more pain, being depressed means our brain focuses automatically on more negative things, including pain.
Antidepressant medication has two very useful roles for those in pain.
Firstly, if pain and / or disability have caused depressive illness, antidepressant medications can deal with this complication, and markedly improve the quality of life of the patient affected by the pain.
Secondly, even if a patient does not have depressive illness, it has been recognised for over thirty years that the use of even low dose antidepressant medication has a very useful role to play in reducing the brain’s awareness of pain. The mechanism of this effect is still being researched. This finding of the benefits of low dose antidepressants in pain treatment has repeatedly been shown to be correct with the older antidepressants known as the tricyclic antidepressants, and there is still debate as to whether or not the newer antidepressants can produce the same benefits. The very recent antidepressant Cymbalta seems to have a particular benefit for pain, including pain associated with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy).
Important Disclaimer: This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.