Chronic pain and depression are two maladies that are often intertwined. The good news is that sufferers can break the cycle. Often in treating one issue, both problems can be improved.

Immediate solutions

Meditation isn't just a New Age mood-lifter. It has been scientifically proven to get results. A Wake Forest University study conducted by Fadel Zeidan in 2011 found that research subjects experienced a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity ratings using meditation when compared with non-meditation.

For those who find meditation a daunting task, there are even high-tech aids like the Muse brain-sensing headband, which provides real-time feedback during guided training sessions, making meditation as easy as plugging in.

"Being able to relieve stress can also help with pain levels, and laughing with friends is a great way to lift depression."

Immersive virtual reality (VR) is a new form of distraction pain relief, and a recent study looked to see its impact on people with severe burns. VR showed significant pain reduction during wound dressing changes, and 13 of 19 patients reported clinically meaningful (33 percent or greater) reductions in pain using VR. Best of all, no side effects were reported and the results did not diminish with repeated use of the technology. 

Safety net

Also important in dealing with chronic pain is finding a support system. Being able to talk to other sufferers either in person or in online groups can reassure people with chronic pain that their problems are real. "Support groups like Chronic Pain Anonymous provide friendship, camaraderie and a safe, encouraging place to vent, which can be crucial to a person with chronic pain," says Alice Krueger, President, Virtual Ability, Inc. "These groups are entering virtual worlds to provide services there."

Being able to relieve stress can also help with pain levels, and laughing with friends is a great way to lift depression. Krueger adds, "With the rise of social media, words of encouragement are as close as Twitter, a Facebook page, or a virtual world such as Second Life, and finding a support group can be as easy as conducting an online search."