Chronic pain affects millions of Americans every year. Chronic pain lasts for days, weeks, months and years. It can be caused by conditions such as arthritis, muscular injury, or bowel disorders.
Everyone knows what pain feels like — we all experience physical pain at some point in our lives. If you crack your shin on the corner of something hard, the pain is acute and temporary. As the injury heals, pain recedes. But when pain becomes chronic, it can take on a whole different role in the body. In fact, it can actually start to break down and alter other systems.Also Read ==> Pain Behind Knee – Causes and Natural Treatments
According to a study recently done at Northwestern University in Chicago, chronic pain can affect brain function. This means that if you are a sufferer of chronic pain, you may experience sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and difficulty thinking straight. And it’s not all in your head. Chronic pain can literally make a part of the brain overactive and wear out neurons.
A research team scanned brain activity in patients with chronic low back pain using an MRI. They compared these readings with a control group of people free from pain symptoms.
The researchers found that in those with no pain, brain regions showed a state of equilibrium. In other words, when one region was active, the other regions tended to calm down.
This was in contrast to those experiencing chronic pain. The research team reported that the front region of the cortex, which is associated with emotion, is constantly active. And when this region remains active for long periods of time, neurons wear out and their connections to one another are altered. The researchers believe that when the neurons are constantly firing, permanent damage can result.
Lead author Dante Chialvo puts it this way: “We know when neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons or even die, because they can’t sustain high activity for so long”.
When these changes happen, it’s harder to make decisions or to brighten your mood. Pain can cause symptoms of depression that are directly linked to changes in the brain.
The researchers hope the results of this study will lead to methods of preventing brain disruption in those with chronic pain. If brain function could be stabilized, many of the secondary symptoms of chronic pain such as depression and poor concentration could be remedied.