Chronic Pain and Brain Atrophy
Written by Dr. Ross Hauser, MD
I suspected it, but now it has been proven: Chronic Pain Causes the Brain to Shrink – up to 11%. If you don’t believe this, take a look at the references below! It is proven in those articles. Yes, the research has shown that the brain can shrink (also called atrophy) up to 11% with chronic pain, like the pain someone experiences with conditions such as chronic low back pain or Fibromyalgia. In other words, the brain can age 10-20 years if pain is not dealt with.
The researchers have found that not only have scans and magnetic imagery documented the loss of gray matter, a number of other studies complement these findings in that the brains of chronic pain patients demonstrate altered neurochemistry and central nervous system processing of input signals such as odors, taste, heat, emotions, and touch. Studies show that chronic pain patients do not process external stimuli in a normal fashion. So what can a chronic pain patient do for this? Obviously, the most important factor is treating the pain with something that can help cure the pain!
You must realize that many of the above people in the above studies were taking pain medications. So one can logically conclude that pain medications will not stop the brain atrophy because they do not stop the cause of the chronic pain!
A recent patient of mine shared with me that he explains Prolotherapy this way, “It is the greatest concept I’ve come across for chronic pain. I have had back pain for 19 years and tried numerous treatments and the pain has remained. If you have hypermobility of a joint, the joint ligaments need to be strengthened. The concept of Prolotherapy and regrowth of ligaments and tendons to stabilize joints is the greatest concept I have ever heard for relieving chronic pain. It makes more sense than anything. . .”
And I want to tell you that this patient is doing great, with over 80% of his pain being relieved with a couple of Prolotherapy treatments to his lower back!
You can’t hide the pain!
Folks with chronic pain need to realize you can “hide” the pain with narcotic medications or other strong pain relievers, but your body still knows the pain is there! The pain is still producing damage, such as brain atrophy! For those with chronic pain, it may be that you have noticed over the years of having chronic pain that you have mental fatigue, mental fog, low sex drive, inability to make decisions, more irritable, less patient, more cranky, forgetful, fatigued, drained, emotionally unstable at times, or lethargic. Well, I am telling you all of this could be signs of brain atrophy and the resultant low hormone levels. At Caring Medical we have suspected this for years, and as such we have prescribed natural hormone replacement for many patients to replace their low hormone levels. Besides perking them up and making them feel more “normal again,” they regain their zest for life, as well as prove helpful in improving their healing response to the Prolotherapy treatments.
If you or someone you love has chronic pain, realize besides the decreased quality of life that one experiences with chronic pain, the pain itself could be damaging their brains. Perhaps it is time for them to get a Prolotherapy evaluation!
1. Tennant F. Brain atrophy with chronic pain – a call to enhanced treatment. Practical Pain Management. 2009; March: 12-14.
2. Apkarian AV, Sosa Y, Sonty S, et al. Chronic back pain is associated with decreased prefrontal and thalamic gray matter density. Journal of Neuroscience. 2004; 24:10410-10415.
3.Kuchinad A, Schweinhardt P, Seminowicz DA, et al. Accelerated brain gray matter loss in fibromyalgia patients: premature aging of the brain? Journal of Neuroscience. 1007; 27:4004-4007.