Dr. Ronald Lavine practices chiropractic in New York City and Princeton, NJ

Depression from Back Pain

It’s understandable to have depression from back pain. Especially chronic, long-standing back pain.

Of course you’d get depressed if your lower back was nagging you all the time, you couldn’t enjoy ordinary daily activities, you were taking a lot of pain pills to deaden your feelings, and you had fear for what the future would bring.

What’s also becoming clear is that it works in reverse, too.  Depression can start first and then cause back pain.

Back Pain from Depression

Linda Carroll and others at the University of Alberta published an important research paper on this topic in the journal Pain in 2004.  Sure enough, they found that people with depression had a high risk of developing troubling back problems in the future.

What does this mean for you?

  • If your back is bothering you, and particularly if it’s been a problem for a long time, you need to find a solution that improves the muscles, joints, and discs of the low back, but that helps lift your mood too.
  • You may benefit from a simple screening test for the symptoms of depression.  I’m not a psychotherapist.  But send me an e-mail and I’ll forward to you a copy of the basic questionnaire that’s commonly used to screen for cases of depression.  If you score high on the questionnaire, you should consult a physician or psychotherapist.
  • Even if you’re not a candidate to see a therapist or take anti-depressant medication, knowing that your emotional life ties in to the state of your low back can guide you in your recovery.  For one thing, don’t have an unrealistic expectation that passive treatment only (such as heat treatment, medication, massage, or dozens of chiropractic adjustments) is enough to get you back on your feet.  You need to re-activate your body.
  • The reverse is also true.  If you’re feeling depressed, talking about your feelings or taking mood-stabilizing drugs may not be enough to restore you to robust health. If you can get help for your back pain, some of your low feelings will begin to lift. And you’ll be able to exercise more, which is a known cure for depression.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


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  1. Tim

    I have never had any back problems bofree but right after an auto accident I have been having persistent lower back pain. Pain that affects the way I move, how long I sit, lifting 10+ pounds, etc. I had a MRI done which showed mild arthritis inflamation, other than that MRI is normally. They are referring me to pain management b/c the pain is intense, I usually lose 1 to 3 days a week from the pain. This doesn’t seem right to me, why would I just start hurting like this? Thanks.Also, my entire lower back is tender to the touch, if someone hugs me and their fingers touch certain spots of my lower back very painful!!!

    • Ron Lavine, D.C.

      Hi Tim – sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m unable to comment specifically on your situation, but I welcome your phone call at 609-497-1944. Perhaps I can offer you some helpful information.


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