Chronic Pain and its Effects on the Brain

June 20, 2017

How ongoing chronic pain can affect the brain

In the past couple of years, it has become evident that chronic pain can lead to brain damage and deterioration in the body. This includes damage to the central nervous system, which impacts motor and sensory function, and neurochemical systems. This damage to the brain tissue is measurable and quantifiable, making immediate and precise treatment of chronic pain essential for preventing your chronic pain from causing further health issues.

There are several studies that show the effect that specific chronic pain conditions have on the brain. These conditions include headaches, fibromyalgia, back pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. While it may seem logical to use pain reducing medication to treat the symptoms of your chronic pain, this medication doesn’t have the same positive influence on the brain as treating the neurological component of your chronic pain to establish better health in the long-term.

One of the primary studies conducted on this topic, studying the effects of lower back pain on the brain, was done at North Western University by Dr. Apkarian — a Professor of Physiology. The results showed that up to an 11% shrinkage in the brain occurred as a result of chronic pain.  What’s also interesting is that the loss that occurred in the pre-frontal cortex and the thalamus (a vital structure of the brain that involves sensory and motor signal relay and regulates consciousness and sleep) was related to the amount of time the person was in pain.

For every year of pain suffered, there was a 1.3 cm² of decrease in the grey matter (the grey matter is the outer portion of the brain which contains all the cell bodies). The good news, however, is that the loss of the cortical thickening, or the outer layer of the brain, did not cause any neuron loss, and therefore with proper treatment the damage can be reversed.

Those of us who have been exposed to the pain and suffering of patients can identify with the fact that brain damage is becoming more and more profound.  Furthermore, patients who have been suffering from pain often present with an alteration to their sensitivity and their sensory interpretation of odor, taste, heat, emotions, and touch to varying degrees, due to the fact that they have often been compromised for many years. In fact, much of our clinical observations have now been backed by further studies concluding that patients who have been suffering from pain for a prolonged period are not able to process stimuli in a normal fashion. This relates to the way that the forebrain (the portion of our head that we touch to check our temperature) is able to process dopamine and opioids. What appears to be altered due to chronic pain are the brain receptors for these neurotransmitters indicating that chronic pain is not just a condition that requires treatment of symptoms, but a disease that needs a holistic approach to treat the underlying cause of the pain.

In our KKT clinics we often see patients display a positive change in their attitudes, their memory, their vision, their self-esteem, and their whole persona often comes back to life after a few months of care. These positive effects relate to a separate study of patients who were able to regain some of the brain function they lost as a result of their long standing chronic pain.

KKT’s state-of-the-art technology is designed to return your body to its peak state through a comprehensive treatment and post-treatment plan. If followed consistently, KKT’s treatment is often more effective and less invasive than other invasive treatments which often don’t treat the underlying cause of your pain.

If you are concerned about the symptoms or physical pain you are experiencing, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment by a KKT physician will determine if you require treatment. Click here to find your nearest KKT clinic and book an appointment.


Posted in All Conditions by KKT Team

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