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Treating Chronic Pain and Depression: A "Whole-Life" Approach continued...

The key is to break this cycle. "We now know that gentle, regular physical activity is a crucial part of managing chronic pain," says Thorn. Everyone with chronic pain can and should do some kind of exercise. Consult with a physician to design an exercise plan that's safe and effective for you.

Exercise is also proven to help depression. "Physical activity releases the same kind of brain chemicals that antidepressant medications release -- [it's] a natural antidepressant," says Thorn.

Mental and Spiritual Health

Chronic pain affects your ability to live, work, and play the way you're used to. This can change how you see yourself -- sometimes for the worse.

"When somebody begins to take on the identity of a 'disabled chronic pain patient,' there is a real concern that they have sunk into the pain and become a victim," says Thorn.

Fighting this process is a critical aspect of treatment. "People with chronic pain end up sitting around," which leads to feeling passive, says Feinberg. "The best thing is for people to get busy, take control."

Working with a health care provider who refuses to see you as a helpless victim is part of the formula for success. The goal is to replace the victim identity with one of a "well person with pain," according to Thorn.

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