J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(11):968. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.0507
Feelings or thoughts of depression may be associated with a muscle or joint injury. When pain and depressive symptoms occur together, they can produce long-lasting problems. It can be difficult to know if these thoughts and feelings are caused by the pain or some other issue. Physical therapists focus on treating musculoskeletal problems; however, for some patients, depressed feelings may ease with treatment designed to decrease pain and improve function. Other patients may require specialized treatment for symptoms of depression in addition to physical therapy. This is especially true when depressed thoughts and feelings persist, pain has not resolved, and return to work has not been achieved. A study published in the November 2012 issue of JOSPT evaluated the change in feelings or thoughts of depression during physical therapy and how it relates to a person’s work status 1 year later.
In this report, 106 patients with work-related injuries involving the back or neck were studied during physical therapy, after physical therapy, and 1 year later. Interestingly, feelings and thoughts of depression eased in approximately 40% of the patients following physical therapy treatment to address pain and functional limitations from back or neck pain. Patients whose depressed feelings improved were more likely to have returned to work and to report less pain intensity 1 year after treatment. Patients whose depressed feelings did not improve were less likely to have returned to work. These results indicate that feelings and thoughts of depression may subside for certain people when they receive physical therapy to treat their back or neck pain.
Depressed thoughts and feelings may be present in people with muscle and joint pain, particularly those with work-related injuries. It is important for your physical therapist to know about your depressive symptoms and how they change during physical therapy treatment. This study suggests that depressed feelings and thoughts may subside with physical therapy for back and neck pain, and if they do, the patient is less likely to continue to have problems 1 year later. If depressed thoughts and feelings persist with treatment designed to decrease back and neck pain, your physical therapist may refer you to a healthcare provider trained to diagnose and treat patients specifically for symptoms of depression.
This JOSPT Perspectives for Patients is based on an article by Wideman T et al, titled “Recovery From Depressive Symptoms Over the Course of Physical Therapy: A Prospective Cohort Study of Individuals With Work-Related Orthopaedic Injuries and Symptoms of Depression,” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012;42(11):957-967, Epub 18 June 2012. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.4182.
This Perspectives article was written by a team of JOSPT’s editorial board and staff, with consultation from Jason Beneciuk and Steven George. Deydre S. Teyhen, PT, PhD, Editor, and Jeanne Robertson, Illustrator.
Feelings or thoughts of depression may be associated with a muscle or joint injury. When pain and depressive symptoms occur together, they can produce long-lasting problems. A study published in the November 2012 issue of JOSPT evaluated the change in feelings or thoughts of depression during physical therapy and how it relates to a person’s work status 1 year later.