Depression and Back Pain, The Holiday Hangover

The holidays usually bring out the best and the worst of us all. We fall off our exercise regimen, we eat food that is not good for us, we drink too much, we get  less sleep and we spend more money . One of these problems can lead to depression and/ or back pain. All of them together are a surefire way to get  into trouble.

Let’s talk…….

Over the years it has been proven that chronic pain and depression have a symbiotic relationship. Each condition feeds the other and once a person gets caught up in those symptoms, it is very hard to break that cycle.

Awareness is key. Be cognizant of the fact you are overbooked, or you have not exercised in a week. Recognize the feeling of sadness or exhaustion before it reaches proportions you cannot handle.

 Plan ahead to keep both your energy and your money on a budget.

Book your exercise like you would your arrival at a party.

Don’t spend money you don’t have.

Have one glass of water between every alcoholic drink.

Go to bed at a regular time as many nights as you can.

Enjoy your family. Let old disagreements go.

Volunteer, especially if you don’t have big plans yourself.

Sign up for holiday runs and activities.

Most of all, if you feel unable to handle the stress of the season, get professional help. Should you require an antidepressant or just someone to talk to, calling a professional is the first step to conquering these feelings.

Have a happy and safe holiday season. Please look after yourself.


  • Calvo Lobo C, Vilar-Fernández JM, Losa-Iglesias ME, López-López D, Rodríguez-Sanz D, Palomo-López P, Becerro-de Bengoa-Vallejo R. Depression Symptoms Among Older Adults With and Without Subacute Low Back Pain. Rehabil Nurs. 2019 Jan/Feb;44(1):47-51. PubMed PMID: 30586021

Hi I'm dr. John Shim and today I want to talk about a very uncomfortable subject for many of you it's about depression and its relationship to back and neck pain. Right now it's the holiday season and many are preparing for traditions including family gatherings gift exchanges and parties. The hidden truth is is a very stressful time of year. Pressures of cost, expectation and emotion can actually cause depression. The feeling of depression is often hidden during this time but can be expressed through frustration, difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits and increased heart rates and blood pressure. Unfortunately for those with neck and back pain it can also make it worse or precipitate an episode. As we already know there's a very direct relationship between chronic pain and depression. Both can trigger each other. For those who have chronic pain I often recommend they see their primary care doctor and discuss use of medications including antidepressants. There should no longer be a stigma about this treatment in our society but still some cultures frown on those who seek help. As a physician I say we must encourage our friends and families to get evaluated but there are concerns. Other ways to prevent stresses from triggering more pain and more depression include the same common-sense things we have discussed over and over again. Get exercise, you feel better they're actually a release of endorphins those chemicals that make you feel better. Keep your weight down even though it's obvious we still let ourselves go during the holidays. Weigh yourself every day. Track and trend. Avoid situations that increase your stress emotionally, physically and financially again and the obvious recommendation but as many will say difficult to execute. Stay engaged in your favorite activity or hobby stopping the one or two things that you find fun can become a very vicious cycle. Sleep at the same time every day your body likes to keep a rhythm, it regulates you. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Paradoxically alcohol makes you sleep less effectively. If you feel overwhelmed by stress sadness and despair get help from a physician. While family and friends may mean well sometimes their advice may be the exact opposite of what you really need. I'm dr. John Shim I wish everyone an excellent holiday season. Please do not stress about things you cannot control. Reach out to those who allow you to equally laugh or cry. Reach out to those who really love and care for you. Peace to all. Thank you.

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