Many who experience major depressive disorder experience a variety of other conditions, including chronic pain. Thus, many medical scientists are interested in discovering the ways chronic pain and depression are linked, as well as ways they may be treated together. Because of its effectiveness against depression symptoms, many wonder if transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) could alleviate the crippling effects of chronic pain.
TMS uses noninvasive electromagnetic pulses to stimulate regions of the brain exhibiting the low activity associated with depression.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is not the same as everyday pain, also known as acute pain. Acute pain occurs when a specific event traumas the body such as burns or broken bones. While it can be serious, acute pain lessens as the wound heals. Chronic pain often stays within the body years after the event that caused it or can occur with no injury at all. Chronic conditions like arthritis, back pain, or fibromyalgia are characterized by persistent pain that interferes with quality of life.
It is estimated that over 50 million Americans have some form of chronic pain. It is considered one of the most costly health concerns. Not only is the condition physically exhausting, but it can have a severe emotional impact. Many who cope with this condition are unable to go to school or work because of the energy-draining nature of these conditions and must rely on others for support.
Chronic Pain and Depression
It is common for those with chronic pain to develop depression as a result of their condition, while others may have already experienced it before their pain developed. Chronic pain can fluctuate in severity from day to day but can get to levels so excruciating that just everyday activities like walking can be a challenge. Chronic pain can lead to pervasive sadness, social isolation, and feelings of hopelessness, all of which are common symptoms of depression.
Having both chronic pain and depression can turn into a vicious cycle: chronic pain negatively affects the body in physical and mental ways, causing depression. Depression, in turn, can often make the pain worse and more difficult to deal with. Pain interferes with sleep and stress levels, which worsens depression more, and so on.
Doctors often prescribe antidepressants for chronic pain. However, there are many sufferers for whom this is not an option due to propensity to side effects or lack of effectiveness.
Researching TMS for Chronic Pain
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been proven effective against certain forms of comorbid pain caused by MDD as well as neuropathic pain, headaches, and fibromyalgia.
In one study of 162 patients with depression and chronic pain received 10 Hz was administered to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is also responsible for other complex executive functions such as memory, planning, and abstract reasoning.
Results of the study found that after 30 sessions of treatment, 68% of subjects reported that their depression and pain symptoms reduced after receiving rTMS treatment, and those with severe pain were found to have poorer response rates were 27% less likely to respond to MDD treatment overall. There were no significant differences in response to patients in terms of race or gender.
This outcome is exciting for many psychologists, as it grants merit to theories about the common neural network that connects MDD and chronic pain. These results give a basis for other studies to experiment with these methods on specific populations or on different regions of the brain. Most importantly, it widens the possibilities of what TMS can do. Many with depressive symptoms and chronic pain find it difficult to be treated with depressive treatments alone, as the medication is not always the foolproof method to coping with symptoms. Expanding this treatment and the parts of the brain it can be effectively used on will help many with the struggle of their mental health.
Look to Mid City TMS for Depression and Chronic Pain Relief
While TMS for chronic pain is still in development, TMS has been approved by the FDA as the 2nd most effective treatment against depression. If you or a loved one has been struggling with depression, Mid City TMS is one of New York’s foremost facilities for transcranial magnetic stimulation. We were the first practice to bring TMS to the state for treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, and we enlist the latest TMS technology to create a treatment plan catered to each patient’s specific needs. If you are currently seeing a therapist or psychologist, we will be happy to work with them to enhance the benefits of your treatment and update them on your progress. Contact us today to start your journey to a healthier mind and body.