PainSA is a chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Our mission is to improve all aspects of pain management in Southern Africa.

Chronic Pain and Mental Health Disorders: Shared Neural Mechanisms, Epidemiology, and Treatment

Chronic pain and mental health disorders are common in the general population, and epidemiological studies suggest that a bidirectional relationship exists between these 2 conditions. The observations from functional imaging studies suggest that this bidirectional relationship is due in part to shared neural mechanisms. In addition to depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, individuals with chronic pain are at risk of other mental health problems including suicide and cigarette smoking and many have sustained sexual violence. Within the broader biopsychosocial model of pain, the fear-avoidance model explains how behavioural factors affect the temporal course of chronic pain and provides the framework for an array of efficacious behavioural interventions including cognitive-behavioural therapy, acceptance-based therapies, and multidisciplinary pain rehabilitation. Concomitant pain and mental health disorders often complicate pharmacological management, but several drug classes, including serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and anticonvulsants, have efficacy for both conditions and should be considered first-line treatment agents.
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