Chronic pain appears to change the brain. Does it cause damage? According to research, chronic pain can possibly can damage our brain

According to experts, fibromyalgia has a neurological component. In fibromyalgia the brain interprets all stimulus as pain – when it really isn’t painful. In return our brain misfires pain signals all over the body causing chronic pain to form. Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to our brain if it is constantly at work sending pain signals out? You may be surprised.

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In a healthy brain, all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one brain region is active, the other regions should not be as active. However, chronic pain causes the front region of the brain ( responsible for emotion) to never deactivate. It is always in “full throttle” – meaning it is always fully active. The constant activation can wear out neurons ( information messengers) alternating connections to each other. Researchers used MRI scans to scan the brain a group of people with lower chronic back pain and a pain free group (control group). What they found was that parts of the cortex were activated in the pain free group and others were deactivated ( maintaining the equilibrium). Your brain cortex is responsible for memory, thinking, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, emotions, consciousness and functions related to your senses. However, in the chronic pain group, one of the nodes did not quiet down. Researchers state that then constant firing of neutrons could cause permanent damage. The connections could die because they can’t sustain high activity for this long without a break. People with chronic pain have pain 24/7 – which makes areas of the brain always active. This could hurt the brain. You can read the article here.

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In another study in 2007, researchers discovered that people with fibromyalgia, grey matter of the brain is lost. We lose grey matter as we age, but it appears that fibromyalgia may speed up this process. The study revealed that fibromyalgia patients showed a reduction in grey matter and total brain volume compared to the healthy control group. The grey matter that was lost occurred mainly in the regions of the brain related to stress and pain processing. In areas of the brain, the parahippocampal and frontal cortices, the grey matter lost is consistent with cognitive deficits of fibromyalgia ( cognitive impairments seen in fibro). Grey matter atrophy is partially reversible. Grey matter irregularities caused by chronic pain do not reflect brain damage. It will normalize when the pain is treated or under control. You can read this study here.

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Both these articles sure made me think and evaluate the neurological aspect of fibromyalgia. Are the changes in the brain that were discovered in these two studies, the reason behind some fibromyalgia symptoms or even a cause to why fibromyalgia may develop? I do not have the answer, as I am not a scientist. I believe a wider study is needed to verify the above findings. These are only two smaller studies completed.

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