Chronic Pain, Is It All In The Brain?


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"Mind over matter" is advice that seems to come up again and again these days. Can this advice be helpful even with something as brutally overwhelming as chronic pain? Well, according to new research much of the pain is wired in the brain. A recent study conducted by Ali R. Mansour and A. Vania Apkarian from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine shows that chronic pain may be linked to the white matter in the brain even before an actual injury has occurred.

The study was based around 46 individuals who were studied over the course of a 12 month period. Information about this new study was released earlier this week in the journal, Pain, where claims suggest that differences in brain structures lead certain people to predispositions for chronic pain. These predispositions can be observed through the neural passageways even before a person has experienced chronic pain. The link between the evolution of short-term pain and the manifestation of chronic pain is not determinable from the study. However, with continued research such questions may someday be answered.

Previous research has shown that chronic pain sufferers have less gray matter in their brains when compared with individuals who have not suffered from chronic pain. The gray matter relates to how the brain controls movement and retains memories as well as to enabling reasoning capabilities. Another noted distinction to the wiring of chronic pain sufferers is that the connection between physical pain and the visceral, emotional component is more closely woven into the brain structure for these chronic pain sufferers than those not afflicted. As a result of this study, it was observed that of the 46 subjects whose pain escalated to the chronic level they had white matter in their brains that "exhibits 30 to 50 years of additional aging."

Emotional support for present suffers may prove to be more medicinal than prescriptions as the following tweets show.

[Image Via Wikimedia Commons And Courtesy Of Borsook D, Moulton EA, Schmidt KF, Becerra LR. Through Neuroimaging revolutionizes therapeutic approaches to chronic pain]