The Link Between Spinal Cord Injury and Depression

If you suffer from chronic lower back pain or neck pain, you know how exhausting and depressing the condition can be. When discomfort is relentless it affects your ability to sleep, and even to think clearly.

Now researchers from the University of Michigan have published the results of a study showing that people who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries are at much higher risk for developing depression and anxiety, and their findings may apply to those with lumbar and cervical spine issues too.

In a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a research team from Michigan Medicine analyzed data for adults who had suffered traumatic spinal cord injury and compared them to those of adults who did not have the condition. They found that those with spinal cord injuries had a 5-point higher risk (19.3% vs 14.1%) of being diagnosed with anxiety and a whopping 20-point increase (29.3% vs 9.3) in the risk of depression.

The possibility of being diagnosed with multiple mental health conditions also showed a remarkable increase in those with spinal cord injury, increasing from 23.9% for those without the injury to 37.4% for those with the injury.

Writing on the team’s findings, Mark Peterson, Ph.D., M.S., FACSM, the Charles E. Lytle, Jr. Research Professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine and the lead author of the study remarked,

We also found that individuals with spinal cord injury had an increased risk of developing other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, diabetes, liver disease, cancer, arthritis, circulatory conditions and electrolyte disorders. Which makes sense, as patients with spinal cord injuries have extreme sedentary behavior including prolonged bed rest after injury.”

The study represents a departure from typical research on spinal cord injury, which tends to focus on the physical ramifications and manifestations of spinal cord injury. The study’s senior author, Denise Tate, Ph.D., ABPP, FACRM, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine indicated that they found a real need for clinical care to extend to patients’ mental health needs in order to ensure quality of life and well-being.

Because spinal cord injuries can evolve from herniated discs, spinal stenosis and other lumbar and cervical spine conditions, the team at our spine specialty practice in New Jersey is constantly mindful of the need to address our patients’ quality of life issues. We work to ensure that our patients’ physical conditions are addressed before they progress to a more critical stage, starting with conservative, non-invasive therapies and then moving on to recommend minimally invasive spinal surgery if they are warranted. 

Whether you have been suffering from sudden onset back or neck pain or your condition has been with you for an extended period of time, the best way to improve your back health and mental and physical wellbeing is to address the problem. Contact our office today to set up a time for us to discuss your situation.

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