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MSK Links with Mental Health

Living with a painful condition can lead to depression and anxiety.

Musculoskeletal conditions and mental health have a complex and reciprocal relationship, each exacerbating the other. Living with a painful condition can lead to depression and anxiety. Conversely, psychological distress and depression worsen pain. A cycle can therefore develop, with ever-worsening pain and low mood leading to social withdrawal and isolation. People with mental health conditions may delay seeking treatment, and clinicians may overlook physical symptoms, attributing these to an individual’s mental health condition.

MSK conditions are exacerbated by weight gain which is a common side effect of many medications used to treat mental health problems. Depression is the most common comorbidity among people with rheumatoid arthritis, affecting one in six people. The presence of depression alongside rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to a person’s pain and overall disability being worse. Mental health conditions can increase the likelihood of developing some MSK disorders. For example, people with depression are at greater risk of developing back & neck pain.

MSK conditions can also have a significant impact on mental health as living with a painful condition can lead to anxiety and depression, and depression is four times more common among people in persistent pain compared with those without pain. A recent study found that 33.9% of older adults (over 50) with MSK pain also have persistent anxiety issues, and 22% have a persistent depression problem.

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Musculoskeletal Health: A Public Health Approach

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