Sad massage clients could be feeling more pain than their jolly counterparts, according to new research that connects the dots between depression and the perception of pain. Previous research shows massage therapy alleviates depression.

Depression and pain often co-occur, but the underlying mechanistic reasons for this have largely been unknown. To examine the interaction between depression and pain, Dr. Chantal Berna and colleagues used brain imaging to see how healthy volunteers responded to pain while feeling low, according to a press release from Elsevier.

“Their findings revealed that inducing depressed mood disrupted a portion of the participants’ neurocircuitry that regulates emotion, causing an enhanced perception of pain,” the press release stated. “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 feeling sad and low disables a person”s ability to regulate emotions associated with pain. “Pain, then, has a greater impact,” the release noted. “Rather than merely being a consequence of having pain, depressed mood may drive pain and cause it to feel worse.”

The research ran in the journal Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier.

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