Dealing with a back injury cannot only be physically painful, but it can also affect your mental health. Back injuries can be tricky when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, which can open up a wide range of other problems for you.
Depression after a back injury is fairly common. In some cases, the severity of depression after a back injury does not correlate with the level of the injury. Learning everything you need to know about back injuries can help you manage your back pain more effectively, and get help for depression after a back injury.
What is a Back Injury?
Many people confuse the term “back injury” with only one type of back problem. They consider the damage to the spine as the only type of back injury. While the spine is a very important part of your back, it is not the only possible component that can be injured.
A “back injury” can be as simple as pulling a muscle in your back that is minor while trying to manage some DIY home remodeling. However, even a “pulled muscle” can be more than a “minor” problem. Your back is tasked with a lot of responsibility for your body. It is what keeps you upright and mobile.
A painful back injury does not have to be catastrophic, like a broken back, to affect your day-to-day life. Whiplash (technically a neck injury which is actually part of your upper back), pulled muscles, soft tissue damage, slipped discs, and more can all be extremely painful conditions that change how a person lives their life.
In conclusion, a back injury is any injury to your back that causes pain or any form of debilitation. It is a personal experience that can be different for everyone.
The Difficulty in Diagnosing a Back Problem
Your back is a complex assortment of bone, nerves, soft tissue, muscle, and other components. Typically, trauma to the back is the event that will send you to the emergency clinic looking for help. Diagnosing back injuries, especially the ones that do not show the damage can be a challenge.
An accident doctor in the ER or at urgent care will likely order some diagnostic tests to identify why your back hurts including:
- Xrays. X-rays are often used to detect any breaks.
- MRI’s can detect any spinal anomalies.
- Blood tests and other diagnostic testing.
If you have been in an accident, a personal injury law attorney may be able to help you find coverage for the impending medical bills that will start to rack up. Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify the actual cause of the back pain.
Once your condition is diagnosed, you can partner with your doctor to find back pain relief. Some conditions are not curable, the best you can do is find treatments that reduce the pain and make the back pain easier to live with.
Treatments for Back Injuries
The type of injury will direct the type of treatment you need. Again, in some cases, treatment is limited to controlling the pain. This is one of the reasons depression after a back injury set in. It can be very frustrating to do all that you can to heal from a back injury only to find that there is nothing left to do.
Many people make a chiropractor appointment to deal with their back injury. Chiropractors are back pain experts that can help you to find relief when there are no treatments or cures left. If you suffer a back injury you should have a chiropractor on your radar. Typically, a combination of treatment modalities is the best way to overcome a back injury.
Treatments for a back injury can include:
- Bracing and other support devices. Sometimes, during the active healing phase, your doctor may suggest a bracing device to help your back heal.
- Deep tissue massage. With soft tissue injuries, a deep tissue massage may be a part of your treatment plan.
- Surgery, pain medication, physical therapy, and other medical interventions.
Pain management is an essential part of healing from a back injury. Your physician may put you on pain control medication or offer other pain control options like a TENS machine. Of course, pain medication is a well-known depressant that can increase depression after back injury. The best way to combat depression after back injury is to be an active participant in your treatment plan and self-educate about your options.
It is okay to refuse any treatment that you are not comfortable with. Even if you are living in an assisted living situation because of your back injury, you can still refuse treatment. Empowering yourself to make decisions about your treatment options can help to combat depression after back injury.
Unfortunately, many people that are suffering from a back injury that was self-inflicted (not due to a car accident, work injury, or slip and fall accident) have to make treatment choices based on how much the medical billing company is going to charge for the treatment. Of course, this can also increase depression after back injury.
For example, there is a new treatment that has just been approved that treats your specific type of injury, but the insurance companies are not providing coverage yet, and the cost is astronomical. It can be very depressing to know that there is a potential cure that can get you back in the game of life that you simply cannot afford.
Talk to your doctor about all the treatment options, potential side effects, and whether there have been any results for people that have the same type of back injury you do. Education is power when it comes to choosing both treatment and pain relief options.
Why Do People Suffer from Depression After Back Injury
There are a few reasons why people that have a back injury often develop depression. Some of those reasons are obvious, some of them are less obvious. Here is the obvious reasons why depression is a side effect of a back injury:
- Limited mobility. It can be very depressing to not do the things you did before the injury.
- Constant pain. Dealing with never-ending pain can be depressing. It can be very hard to stay positive when you are in pain.
- Financial woes. A back injury can keep you from working and generating income. Financial problems because of a back injury can be very depressing.
Depression after back injury can also be caused by less obvious things like:
- Loneliness. Being in pain or losing mobility can mean missing out on social engagements, and reduce the amount of time a person spends with family and friends. Being in pain can be lonely.
- Misunderstood pain. It can be difficult to convince family members and friends that you are in pain, especially when there is no visual involved with your back injury. It can be very frustrating trying to get people to understand that you are in constant pain when they cannot see it.
- Lifestyle changes. Depression after a back injury can take hold because of the lifestyle changes that you may have to make to compensate for the injury.
Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle when you are dealing with depression after back injury. Studies have indicated that a positive attitude is important in treatment, recovery, and pain control after a back injury. The back injury causes depression, then the depression keeps you from getting back on your feet after a back injury.
If you suspect that you are suffering from depression after back injury, talk to your doctor. There is help that is available.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression
It can be easy to miss the signs of depression after back injury because you have so much going on, but the same symptoms that are associated with any type of depression, and the symptoms that you should be looking for.
If you are not interested in participating in the things that you used to participate in. Of course, there will be some things that are off the table for a while. For example, if you loved a rousing game of flag football with your co-workers, that is likely not an option right now, but you can still gather with friends and watch football. You can still attend the company games as a spectator. If you find you are not interested in anything to do with your much-loved sport, you may be suffering from depression.
In some people, depression does not manifest as sadness, instead, it manifests as agitation. If you find yourself constantly short-tempered with family and friends, or even strangers, you may have a form of depression called agitated depression. Instead of being sad, you get mad at every little thing. You also may feel like not doing anything, sleeping more, and notice changes in other habits.
For other people, symptoms of depression are classic symptoms like crying, lethargy, sleeping more often, binge eating, turning to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Typically, depression comes with some noticeable behavioral changes in all cases. There is usually always some element of not enjoying what you did before, and there is always some element of hopelessness.
You might not recognize the symptoms yourself, but other people around you likely will. Do a little self-checking with your partner, parents, close friends, and other close people. Ask them if they have noticed that you have been “off”. People that are closest to you can often notice the signs of depression long before you ever realize that something is wrong.
Dealing with depression can be a challenge to manage on your own. Recognizing the signs is your first step to getting the help that you need to get the problem under control and refocus your energies on healing from the back injury.
Combatting Depression After Back Injury
There are things that you can do to keep from falling into the cycle of depression after a back injury. While it may be hard to get up and get out if you can, you should push yourself. Call a car service to drive you to your favorite café or restaurant. It is important that you maintain a certain level of your social life.
Forcing yourself to see people and talk to them is vital to your mental health. Join a group of survivors of back injury. If you are not getting the support that you think you need from your family, join a group of back injury survivors. It can be tremendously mentally healing to be able to talk to people that have gone through what you are going through right now.
Ask your doctor about the medication you are taking. Many pain meds can cause depression. If any of your medications list side effects that include feelings of depression, sadness, or other “down” symptoms, ask your doctor about switching medications.
Reach out to a therapist that specializes in pain management and depression. Dealing with the fallout from a back injury can be difficult to navigate on your own. Getting support from a professional can be a game-changer for your mental health.
Exercise can help. While you may not be able to run a marathon or do any power lifting, there are some low impact exercises you may be able to participate in. Ask your doctor for recommendations. Often physical therapy is part of the treatment plan for a back injury. Speak to your physical therapist about exercises you can do at home.
Reach Out To Your Family And Friends
Even if your family and friends are not very sympathetic to your situation, it is important that you stay in touch. Falling into a black hole of despair and feeling like no one cares about your situation is often propagated by our own thoughts.
Give your friends and family an opportunity to support you. Many times it is the patient that pushes away their core support people not the other way around. Give your family and friends an opportunity to support you by telling them how you feel. Finally, do not go through this alone, talk to someone, a doctor, a friend, a colleague, a family member, it does not matter who, just reach out and get help.