One of the most common psychiatric problems associated with chronic pain is depression. While depression can affect people of any medical profile, those with chronic pain are at a high risk of becoming depressed. In fact, chronic pain sufferers are three times more likely to develop psychiatric problems than individuals who are not dealing with long-term pain.
Medication is a common treatment for depression, but it can have serious side effects, including addiction and loss of energy and mental acuity. The high cost of many medications is, of course, another serious downside.
Luckily, not all solutions are pharmaceutical ones, and some effective alternate treatments are low-cost and natural. Regular cardiovascular exercise, meditation, dietary changes, acupuncture, and journaling can all help alleviate depression. While no one treatment is effective for everyone, natural treatments lack the negative side effects of medication, so there is little risk in trying a natural treatment before trying medication. It may be all you need.
Jogging for Joy
The physical benefits of cardiovascular exercise are better known than the mental health benefits. This situation is changing as more and more research on the mental health benefits of exercise is published.
Exercise can be as effective as medication for people with mild to moderate depression. Not only can it reduce or eliminate depression; it can also help prevent relapse. People who exercise regularly are less likely to become depressed again, possibly because they feel empowered to regulate their mental health.
Meditation and Inner Peace
Thanks to the brain’s ability to change itself at any age, meditation can alter the structure of key brain regions. These brain changes can lead to reduced depression and anxiety.
There are many different forms of meditation, but mindfulness meditation is the best researched, and an increasing number of medical professionals are being educated about its benefits. If mindfulness meditation alone is not successful in treating depression, it can be combined with aerobic exercise for greater effectiveness.
You Are What You Eat
Sometimes all you need to do to change your mood is to change your diet. What you eat has a big impact on how you feel. People who eat low-quality diets tend to have more problems with depression than those who eat mostly healthy foods.
Cut down on your junk food intake. Read the labels on the packaged food you buy and monitor your sugar consumption. Eat whole grains, veggies, and brain-healthy foods like salmon. It shouldn’t be a surprise that when your body feels better, you feel better.
The Acupuncture Approach
While skeptics decry its use, recent research suggests acupuncture is an effective drug-free treatment for depression. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, physical and mental health problems are the result of blocked chi (roughly translated as “life force”) in the human body. No one is really sure how acupuncture works, but tradition holds that it alters the flow of chi.
Journaling for Relief
Journaling has not been as well researched as the other treatments mentioned in this article, but it costs virtually nothing and is easy to do. Simply write down your thoughts about your life situation and your emotions. Try to be non-judgmental. Some journalers feel that writing by hand, with a pen and paper, is more conducive than a computer to thoughtful reflection (at least you won’t be tempted to check your emails or Facebook), but use whatever medium you find works for you.
The better educated you are on the subject of natural treatments for depression, the more empowered you will be to address it. Whatever your situation in life, you may already have the ability to treat your own depression.
Self-treatment is not always effective, however, and the care of a professional may be necessary to treat your condition. Pain Care Clinic of Idaho offers acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other treatments to help people in the Boise area cope with depression, as well as treatments to address chronic pain directly. Call 208-939-3750 for an appointment.