Chronic hand Pain and Mental Health: How to Manage Anxiety and Depression

A man with his head in his hands, representing the emotional burden of chronic hand pain and its impact on mental health.

When hand pain is relentless, it’s not just your body that suffers. Please don’t ignore your brain! Anxiety, low mood, and even depression can creep in, making everything feel even harder. But there’s hope! Let’s explore this connection between chronic hand pain and mental health and find ways to protect you. 

Why It Happens

  • The Stress Spiral: Chronic pain fuels the body’s stress response, which worsens anxiety and can lead to depression over time.
  • Brain Changes: Pain can alter how our brains process emotions, making us more vulnerable to negativity and low moods.
  • Loss and Change: Hand pain can mean letting go of activities you love or adapting your lifestyle – changes that can trigger sadness and frustration.
  • Isolation Trap: Pain can make it harder to socialise and maintain connections, leaving you feeling lonely and unsupported.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle: It IS Possible

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is just as important as managing the physical pain. Here’s how:

Strategies for Soothing Anxiety

  • Deep Breaths for Instant Calm: Simple, but effective! Try belly breathing – inhale slowly, expanding your belly, then exhale gently. Focus on the sensation of your breath.
  • Move Your Body, Calm Your Mind: Exercise is a natural mood booster. Choose gentle activities like walking, swimming, or adapted yoga.
  • Mindfulness Matters: Meditations apps or a few moments of focused awareness on your breath throughout the day can tame racing thoughts.

Tools for Navigating Low Moods

  • Seek the Sun: Even a little daylight boosts your mood naturally. Open the curtains, take a short walk – your mind will thank you.
  • The Power of Connection: Reach out to loved ones, even if it’s just a quick call or text. Feeling connected makes a world of difference.
  • Rediscover Joy, One Tiny Step at a Time: Start small. Listen to a favorite song, watch a funny video, savor a delicious treat. Small pleasures add up.

When You Need More Support

  • Don’t Go It Alone: Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. They might recommend therapy, medication, or both to give you extra support.
  • Therapy: A Safe Space to Heal: Therapists offer tools for managing pain-related emotions and teach healthy coping skills.
  • Support Group Solidarity: Knowing you’re not alone is powerful. Connect with others living with chronic pain for understanding and support.

Kindness Is Key: Be Patient With Yourself

Improving your mental wellbeing takes time. Some days are better than others, and that’s perfectly normal. Don’t give up! With consistent effort, you can strengthen your emotional resilience. Please don’t forget the connection between chronic hand pain and mental health.

Remember: It’s Not A Weakness To Ask For Help – I am here for you too

Seeking support is a sign of strength! Call me! Your GP, therapist, and loved ones also want to help you not only manage the hand pain, but also thrive mentally and emotionally.

Meet Alistair Phillips, Your Orthopaedic Hand and Trauma Surgeon

Ali Phillips is a fellowship-trained hand surgeon dedicated to educating and empowering his patients. He believes in clear information and shared decision-making. When not in the clinic, you might find him wing foiling or on a cycling adventure. Connect: alistairphillips.co.uk @ali.thehandsurgeon on IG, Twitter/X, Threads, FB and TikTok