The association between depression and type of treatments received for chronic low back pain

Max Zubatsky, Matthew Witthaus, Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Joanne Salas, Sarah Gebauer, Sandra Burge, F. David Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Depression is associated with receipt of opioids in non-cancer pain. Objectives: To determine whether the receipt of opioid therapy modifies the relationship of depression and use of multiple non-opioid pain treatments. Methods: Patients (n = 320) with chronic low back pain (CLBP) were recruited from family medicine clinics and completed questionnaires that measured use of home remedies, physical treatments requiring a provider and non-opioid medication treatments. A binary variable defined use (yes/ no) of all three non-opioid treatment categories. Depression (yes/no) was measured with the PHQ-2. The use of opioids (yes/no) was determined by medical record abstraction. Unadjusted and adjusted logistic regression models, stratified on opioid use, estimated the association between depression and use of all three non-opioid treatments. Results: Participants were mostly female (71.3%), non-white (57.5%) and 69.4% were aged 18 to 59 years. In adjusted analyses stratified by opioid use, depression was not significantly associated with using three non-opioid treatments (OR = 2.20; 95% CI = 0.80-6.07) among non-opioid users; but among opioid users, depression was significantly associated with using three non-opioid treatments (OR = 3.21; 95% CI: 1.14-8.99).These odds ratios were not significantly different between opioid users and non-users (P = 0.609). Conclusion: There is modest evidence to conclude that patients with CLBP and comorbid depression, compared with those without depression, were more likely to try both opioid and non-opioid pain treatments. Non-response to other pain treatments may partly explain why depression is associated with greater prescription opioid use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-354
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Depression
  • Opioid
  • Pain management
  • Primary health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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