The Link Between Depression and Myofascial Pain

The Link Between Depression and Myofascial Pain

Technically, pain is a physical sensation, but it also takes a toll on your mental health. Likewise, mood disorders can affect you physically. 

Dr. Stanley Mathew at American Rehabilitation Medicine understands the complex connection between your mind and body and can help alleviate the vicious cycle of pain and depression. Here, he explains why depression and myofascial pain are so closely linked.

Myofascial pain syndrome and depression

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is chronic musculoskeletal pain that doesn’t resolve on its own like typical minor aches and pains do. MPS involves:


Like most chronic pain conditions, MSP gets worse over time, not better. The long-term suffering affects your sleep quality, which in turn affects your overall health, including your mental health.

People with chronic pain like MSP are three times more likely to develop depression, because the brain pathways that receive pain signals use some of the same neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation, namely norepinephrine and serotonin. When this regulation mechanism fails due to pain overload or intensity, both systems feel the effects — intensified pain and increased sadness and depression. 

Depression and myofascial pain

Which came first, the depression or the pain? Sometimes it’s hard to tell which condition triggered the other, but it’s well-known that depression can be the catalyst. In fact, depressed people are three times more likely to develop chronic pain for the same reason chronic pain leads to depression — the brain pathways that handle pain and mood neurotransmitters overlap. 

People with depression often experience:


Sometimes, antidepressants that relieve depression symptoms also alleviate the physical symptoms, but nearly one-third of people with depression don’t respond to traditional medications. 

Treatment for myofascial pain and depression

A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and treats a wide range of medical conditions that affect the muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments, spinal cord, nerves, and brain. As a triple-board certified physiatrist, Dr. Mathew approaches MPS and depression from a unique perspective that considers every aspect of both conditions and identifies complex connections.

Depending on your symptoms and the underlying causes, your treatment may include a combination of psychological counseling and pain-relieving treatments, such as:


To learn how Dr. Mathew can help you break the cycle of depression and pain, call us at any of our three Iowa locations in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, or Anamosa, or request an appointment using our online scheduling tool


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