My husband has had low back pain for years. He hardly does anything, and he seems depressed. What's keeping him on the couch? Is it what's in his back, or what's in his head?

It could be a combination of both. A group of researchers recently set out to determine whether physical pain or emotional well-being was more important to the physical performance of patients with chronic low back pain. These researchers suspected that mental health might play a bigger role than previously thought.

But in testing patients with low back pain on a treadmill, the researchers found that pain stopped patients from walking more than poor mental health. From these results, it looks like poor mental health may be a result of the pain patients experience with physical activity, rather than a cause.

If movement causes pain, it's natural that your husband would want to avoid it. Talk with your husband and his doctor about your concerns. The doctor may be able to suggest a program to improve your husband's activity levels with less pain. This may improve your husband's mood as well.