Thursday, February 7, 2008

Chronic Pain Causes Brain Freeze

Your poor brain doesn’t like pain at all. Not only is it distracting, uncomfortable and depressing, but a recent study shows that chronic pain causes your brain to "freeze". Chronic pain is now shown to actually cause harm to the brain.

The resting brain is in a perfect state of balance, or in Default Mode Network (DMN). When we perform an activity the balance shifts – one area of the brain becomes active while others deactivate. In the presence of chronic pain, DMN mode is always active. The brain "freezes" then goes through a process of reorganization - perhaps to compensate. This may lead to permanent brain alterations.

Past studies have shown that taking antidepressants for chronic pain may not be useful, but this research may challenge current thinking. In order to maintain brain harmony and equilibrium, it may be prudent to treat all of the symptoms that accompany chronic pain, such as sleep disturbance and depression.

This study may pave the way to new approaches in pain management. Early and aggressive intervention could prove to be more successful. This is good news considering the number of people who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, chronic back pain, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia.

Women are more commonly afflicted with chronic pain than men. Estimates show that three times as many women as men experience chronic pain.

We should all look forward to further studies and advances in pain management. Life is precious, but it’s the quality that really counts.

Ref: J Neurosci. 2008;28:1398-1403. ◦