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Depression and Joint Pain

Nicks J Apr 28, 2019
Did you know that a depressive mood not only deteriorates mental health, but it can also trigger physical ailments like joint pain and muscle aches? Read on to know more.
We often associate joint pain with injuries or chronic ailments like arthritis. Yes, this is true as most cases of joint soreness have been attributed to trauma that causes a fracture or joint problems like gout, osteoarthritis and lupus.
However, what would you say when a person has not met with an accident or isn't suffering from a joint related disorder but is yet complaining about joint pain? Studies show that apart from physical injuries, emotional disorders like depression can also cause joint pain. In fact, depression, anxiety and stress may even aggravate existing joint discomfort.

Link Between Depression and Joint Pain

Mental ailments like depression and anxiety have a negative impact on our health as has been found out through various studies. It is an undisputed fact that the body and the mind are connected and so any mental ailment can lead to onset of physical ailments. Depressive situations like acute financial problems or an ugly divorce can cause profound sadness.
So, when emotional disorders goes haywire, one is bound to experience joint and muscle pain. Unfortunately, the discomfort in the joint associated with depression does not last for a day or two but is long-lasting.
Poor emotional health typically causes chronic joint pain and this may be followed by muscle aches, fatigue and even gastrointestinal problems like constipation and ulcers.

Effect of Endorphin Levels

Experts believe that depression might cause disturbances in the chemical balance of the brain. There are certain chemicals in the brain such as 'endorphins' that allow to regulate pain effectively.
When their production increases, we become immune to pain but a decrease in their concentration makes us sensitive to pain. Thus, events that cause grief may cause a dip in their levels, thereby disabling us to manage pain.

Effect of Serotonin Levels

Patients under depression also show a decrease in serotonin levels. Also, referred as the 'happy hormone', it regulates mood and provides a feeling of well-being. This hormone produced in the brain influences the way we perceive pain. Lower the serotonin levels, higher is the intensity of the pain.
One study showed that patients with fibromyalgia (a condition that it is typically marked by chronic muscle and joint pain) had low serotonin levels. Rheumatoid arthritis patients, many times, go into depression, which can actually worsen their pain due to low serotonin levels.
The hormone is basically involved in blocking the pain signals that are traveling to the brain. No wonder, serotonin deficiency can cause stronger painful sensations in the muscles and joints.


When it comes to treating joint pain arising from depression, use of antidepressants is usually recommended. However, it is necessary to confirm that depression is indeed the underlying cause of joint pain. Prescription antidepressants like citalopram and escitalopram help to improve serotonin levels, thereby helping to cope with depression successfully.
This in turn helps to relieve joint pain. Arthritis and fibromyalgia sufferers exhibiting poor serotonin levels may also benefit from the usage of these antidepressants. However, some of these medicines produce some serious side effects and so should be taken only for a short duration under medical supervision.
Taking depression medication alone won't work, unless it is complemented with a change in attitude. Also, prescription drugs are not a long-term solution for depression. Positive thinking and belief in self are extremely important to 'thrash away' depression. Building positivity has the potential to turn setbacks into a comeback.
Studies also suggest that people who focus on positive thinking lead a healthier and more fulfilling life. Positive thoughts and emotions like humor transmit positive signals to the brain, thereby making us feel better. So, be optimistic as it is the most effective way to handle joint pain associated with depression.