Back Pain Takes A Toll On Mental Health

August 09, 2015
by Tony Barber
Back Pain Takes A Toll On Mental Health

After long hours on the road, sleeping on stiff mattresses, and loading and lifting heavy cargo, it’s no wonder your back is feeling the strain.

100 million Americans live with chronic pain—more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

Source: American Academy of Pain Medicine

However, you may be surprised if you’re suffering from more than your back pain.

Pain can take a toll on your mood, and sometimes in very profound ways. More than merely making you cranky, chronic pain can provoke feelings of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.


When we think of depression, we think of what happens after a death, a breakup, losing a job, or a sudden crash in finances. We don’t think of a chronic pain condition.

But back pain breeds conditions that cause depression. You have to adjust your lifestyle to your pain, which is uncomfortable and can make you feel isolated. In this line of work, you may worry about your ability to carry on in your job if the problem intensifies. And the most obvious reason of them all is that you’re living in constant pain.

To cope, recognize how you’re feeling and realize there’s no shame in it. Try and figure out ways to decrease your discomfort, whether that’s painkillers, ice-packs, or rest stops.

Also, be sure to make friends and family aware of it. You want them to know they shouldn’t obligate you to attend events that require long periods of sitting, or ask you to lift heavy things when your back is sore.

If the depression gets debilitating, talk to your doctor. Antidepressants or counseling for other contributing issues could help.


Anxiety might happen because you’re worried about what impact the pain is going to have on your life: your job, your favorite activities, even your relationships.

If you have intermittent back pain, you may be worried about when it will flare up again or if it’s going to get worse.

This is all normal.

Stress-busting activities can help. Relaxing, spending time with family, taking things slower, or working shorter shifts. Small adjustments can make a big difference.

Once again, if it gets debilitating, seek professional help. Counselling is a first line of defense, but there are also anti-anxiety medications if the problem is too much to handle alone.


Pain is exhausting. Doing even the smallest things requires more energy, much less a physically demanding job that calls for long stretches of time alone and awake.

The obvious solution is to rest. Rest more. Don’t push your body beyond its limits. When your back is killing you, give yourself a break when you can.

If depression is increasing your fatigue, engage in a mood-lifting activity—even if that’s just calling your kids while you’re on the road. It’s easier said than done, but it can lift you out of exhaustion or despair.

In a bit of a paradoxical solution, you may want to pick up exercise. It turns out that certain exercises can actually strengthen your back and alleviate pain, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Obviously, the last thing you feel like doing after a long week on the road is exercise, but getting into the habit of doing even half an hour a day can make a world of difference.

The mood-enhancing effect of exercise can also put a dent in any feelings of depression you might be experiencing as well, according to a December 2011 report from the American Psychological Association.

All of the above should be discussed with your doctor when you go for a check-up. As someone in the industry, you know the importance of your health, not only for your ability to do your job, but for yourself and your family.

The lifestyle of a trucker can have a huge impact on you, physically and psychologically. Make sure to take care of both.

You don’t need the extra stress of trying to find a provider to help with the physical and mental effects of your back pain. Visit the DOTexams website to find one suited to your particular needs.