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Is knee pain linked to depression?

Is knee pain linked to depression?

Chronic pain and depression are often intimately linked. You might have heard of the age-old wisdom that says half of a person’s illness is caused by the mind.

While that might not be statistically accurate, mental stress and depression have been known to aggravate various conditions and manifest themselves in some physical form.

For cyclic effect, physical conditions are also known to cause depression, getting worse as a person’s age progresses and mental faculty decreases.

This create a cyclic cause and effect; physical pain causes depression, which in turn causes more pain and reduces a person’s will power to combat the pain.

As such, knee pain is no different.

What causes knee pain?

Knee pain can come from a variety of different sources. Accidents and injuries, or excessive physical exertion are the major cause of knee pain in young adults. However, such cases are rarely chronic.

Chronic knee pain occurs mostly as age progresses and is especially common among senior citizens. It is caused by osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of arthritis around the world.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 13 percent women and 10 percent men aged above 60 suffer from OA. This percentage is much higher in Japan, with about 55 percent of people above the age of 40 suffering from some degree of OA.

Osteoarthritis is characterized by inflamed joints and damaged/worn out cartilages.

Knee pain and depression – what’s the connection?

Chronic knee pain can seriously hamper an individual’s ability to move around or perform daily tasks. Simple tasks like driving, taking a walk, or even putting on sock and getting out of bed can become very frustrating.

This degrades an individual’s quality of life, in turn causing depression.

The American Geriatrics Society Journal published a research study, evaluating the depressive effects of OA. The researchers examined information from around 573 people with osteoarthritis and no known depressive symptoms.

The study was conducted over a 2-year period using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and the Geriatric Depression Scale to identify depressive symptoms.

None of the participants at the beginning of the study had any depressive symptoms. After two years, nearly 12 percent were found to have developed symptoms.

The odds of these symptoms increased due to factors such as pain at night while in bed (adjust odds ratio of 2.6), difficulty putting on socks (aOR = 3.7), getting into and out of a car (aOR = 3.4) and taking off socks (aOR = 3.1).

The researchers further note that people who have knee pain caused by OA should be screened against depressive symptoms and should be treated as necessary.

Managing knee pain

There are quite a few ways of managing knee pain, if not altogether eliminate it.

  • Exercise – Knee pain can be caused by physical wear and tear, which is why extensive workout routines are never recommended. You can, however, do simple knee bending and stretching exercises daily to reduce stiffness in the joints. Consult with a doctor or trainer on the best exercises to employ.
    You can also use apps such as Injurymap to track your workout. Injurymap helps you get rid muscular or joint pain through exercise.
  • Massage – Gently rubbing and massaging your knee can relieve some pain in the joint. Use a tropical cream or balm to increase the effect of a massage.
  • Hold therapy – Apply gentle heat to the knee joints can help relax the muscles. Putting a hot water bottle next to the pain area provides some relief.
    A hot shower or a warm bath with Epson salts can also work wonders by relaxing up the muscles and releasing the pent-up tension.

Don’t let your knee pain get to you!


Having bad knees isn’t the worst thing that can happen. With the right attitude and willpower, you can manage your knee pain.

The more important aspect is depression; if you feel frustrated or depressed, or notice any symptoms, please consult with a psychiatrist. Never let your pain take your spirit away, and stay healthy!

Thank you!

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