Chronic Pain Syndrome is a very complex sensation. The body’s interpretation of pain involves both nerve and chemical processes that are relayed to the brain for interpretation. In my San Diego Chiropractic office, I hear my patients complain of neck pain, back pain, headaches, sciatic pain etc. Some of these patients suffer from acute pain while others who are less fortunate complain of Chronic Pain Syndrome.
Chronic Pain Syndrome and Chiropractic Care
A study completed recently in Chicago revealed some very interesting things about brain activity in people suffering with Chronic Pain Syndrome.
Brain scans taken of people with Chronic Pain Syndrome show a constant activity in areas of the brain that are at rest in those who don’t suffer with chronic pain. Researchers said that this finding could help explain why chronic pain patients have higher rates of depression, anxiety and other disorders.
Apparently they found that Chronic Pain Syndrome seems to alter the way people process information that is unrelated to pain. They found that enduring long periods of pain affects brain function even with tasks that demand minimal attention.
Studies have shown that in healthy people, certain regions of the brain take over during a resting state, something known as a default mode network. “It takes care of your brain when your brain is at rest,” Dr. Chialvo said.
When a person performs a task, this default mode network quiets down, but not in people with chronic pain. Instead of quieting down, a front region of the cortex of the brain associated with emotion is constantly active. This constant activity disrupts the brains’ normal equilibrium. To study this specific brain activity, Dr. Chialvo did a type of brain scan on 15 people with Chronic Pain Syndrome and on 15 healthy people.
In this study, volunteers were given a simple attention task — tracking a moving bar on a computer screen – in order to observe the brain shifting out of default mode to handle the task.
Both groups performed the task well but when they measured areas of the brain that were activated, the differences emerged.
“Where we were surprised is the difference in how much brain they used to do the task compared with the healthy group. It was 50 times larger,” Chialvo said.
They said disruptions in this brain activity could explain why chronic pain patients have problems with attention, sleep disturbances and even depression.
So there you have it. If you feel a little off or if someone you work with or care about has trouble focusing or staying on task because of Chronic Pain Syndrome, your observations are correct. Give yourself and others a break.