This article from ScienceDaily reviews new research into the relationship between depression and pain. What was once thought to be an "either/or" proposition regarding the perception of pain (that is, it is either in your head, or in your body) is turning out to be more complicated. From the article:
Their findings revealed that inducing depressed mood disrupted a portion of the participants' neurocircuitry that regulates emotion, causing an enhanced perception of pain. In other words, as explained by Dr. Berna, "when the healthy people were made sad by negative thoughts and depressing music, we found that their brains processed pain more emotionally, which lead to them finding the pain more unpleasant."
The authors speculate that being in a sad state of mind and feeling low disables one's ability to regulate the negative emotion associated with feeling pain. Pain, then, has a greater impact. Rather than merely being a consequence of having pain, depressed mood may drive pain and cause it to feel worse.
From a clinical standpoint, I find this to be interesting, for a couple of reasons. First, when it comes to depression, it is usually physical symptoms that prompt an individual to seek out treatment, rather than cognitive or emotional symptoms. that is, it is physical discomfort resulting from depression that will more often trigger an individual to seek treatment, rather than feelings of depression, or depressive thoughts. The impact of this research on depression and pain in the context of therapy would be an interesting area of further research.
The other issue has more to do with helping clients who are experiencing pain and depression. I think I've blogged on this before, but it is often difficult to engage clients in the process of therapy when it comes to pain, because they often believe you are assuming their pain "isn't real." I've addressed this issue in various ways with clients, but research like this ought to help clients bridge the mind-body gap even more, which is encouraging.