Chronic Pain Harms The Brain

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by gapsych, Aug 22, 2009.

  1. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    There have been many questions on the board about pain today. This is an article I have posted before but feel that is is vitally important that people realize that pain can also harm the body.

    This originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune.


    Chronic Pain Harms The Brain

    In a new study, investigators at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine have identified a clue that may explain how suffering long-term pain could trigger these other pain-related symptoms.

    Researchers found that in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. When one region is active, the others quiet down. But in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex mostly associated with emotion "never shuts up," said Dante Chialvo, lead author and associate research professor of physiology at the Feinberg School. "The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should."

    They are stuck on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections to each other.

    This is the first demonstration of brain disturbances in chronic pain patients not directly related to the sensation of pain.

    Chialvo and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of people with chronic low back pain and a group of pain-free volunteers while both groups were tracking a moving bar on a computer screen. The study showed the pain sufferers performed the task well but "at the expense of using their brain differently than the pain-free group," Chialvo said.

    When certain parts of the cortex were activated in the pain-free group, some others were deactivated, maintaining a cooperative equilibrium between the regions. This equilibrium also is known as the resting state network of the brain. In the chronic pain group, however, one of the nodes of this network did not quiet down as it did in the pain-free subjects.

    This constant firing of neurons in these regions of the brain could cause permanent damage, Chialvo said. "We know when neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons and or even die because they can't sustain high activity for so long," he explained.

    'If you are a chronic pain patient, you have pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every minute of your life," Chialvo said. "That permanent perception of pain in your brain makes these areas in your brain continuously active. This continuous dysfunction in the equilibrium of the brain can change the wiring forever and could hurt the brain."

    Chialvo hypothesized the subsequent changes in wiring "may make it harder for you to make a decision or be in a good mood to get up in the morning. It could be that pain produces depression and the other reported abnormalities because it disturbs the balance of the brain as a whole."

    He said his findings show it is essential to study new approaches to treat patients not just to control their pain but also to evaluate and prevent the dysfunction that may be generated in the brain by the chronic pain.

    The study will be published Feb. 6 in The Journal of Neuroscience. Chialvo's collaborators in this project are Marwan Baliki, a graduate student; Paul Geha, a post-doctoral fellow, and Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology and of anesthesiology, all at the Feinberg School
  2. DemonFairy

    DemonFairy New Member

    And that's why I'm not going to suck it up and suffer with the pain. I don't think there are any prizes for getting through life without taking pain meds, unless someone has neglected to let me know about those fabulous prizes. I didn't take anything stronger than Aspirin or Advil until I had a herniated disk almost 4 years ago, at the age of 41. Except for having some nasty headaches throughout my life (which I discovered a few years ago were mostly caused by my sinuses), I'd never experienced any pain that couldn't be fixed up with an ice pack and a couple of aspirin. But, after having a herniated disk and developing FM, I now know that any of the pain that I experienced in my first 40 years was nothing. The herniated disk was so painful that I couldn't stand or walk for more than a few minutes. After my surgery, I never fully recovered from the disk pain and developed FM on top of it.

    While I would love to not have to take prescription pain meds, I know that I would have absolutely NO quality of life if I went back to the good old days of a couple of aspirin every few months. Maybe I'm not in more pain than some people who suffer and won't take any narcotics, but frankly, I doubt there are many people who suffer from this kind of pain and blithely say, "Oh, I just don't want to take anything stronger than a handful of aspirin every six months." The kind of pain that I'm in every day is the kind of pain that makes it impossible to concentrate on anything except that pain, unless I take my meds. I'm grateful to "Big Pharma" for inventing pain meds that give me some semblance of a life. Do I like that they cause constipation? Hell no. But, am I willing to eat more fiber to combat that one single side effect? Heck ya.

    I have siblings who act like they're too good to be taking pain meds and that they'll just suffer with that pain. However, one of those siblings was more than happy to get Vicodin when he had a kidney stone. So, I'm going to guess that the other pain that he experiences just isn't bad enough to warrant taking pain meds. Or, that he's an idiot who suffers needlessly. But, either way, I'm not going to suffer with any more pain than necessary. If I can take something to alleviate my pain, I'm going to take it. Besides, Tylenol/Advil/etc. are more dangerous than Oxycodone anyway. I'm not going to develop ulcers from taking Oxycodone, and I'm not the slightest bit worried about addiction. I don't drink because it makes me nauseous. I avoid caffeine because it makes my pain worse. I don't enjoy taking pain meds, but I'm not going to avoid them because of a fear that they won't work in the future or that I'll need more or whatever. I won't have a future if this pain isn't relieved, so it's not even a consideration.
  3. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Believe it or not, at one time I was one of those people who would look down at others taking pain medication.

    We do live in a society where people tend to pop a pill for whatever ails them. However with our pain, any chronic pain condition, we often do not have a choice.

    If people can get by on Advil, whatever, that is great but they are not experiencing the pain as intensely as we do.

  4. DemonFairy

    DemonFairy New Member

    "The study will be published Feb. 6 in The Journal of Neuroscience. Chialvo's collaborators in this project are Marwan Baliki, a graduate student; Paul Geha, a post-doctoral fellow, and Vania Apkarian, professor of physiology and of anesthesiology, all at the Feinberg School"

    Does anyone have the study that was supposed to be published on February 6th? I'd like to see the complete study. I'll do a search for it, but sometimes it requires membership to get complete studies from certain journals.

  5. DemonFairy

    DemonFairy New Member

    Okay, ha ha ha, let's just say that chronic pain harms your body & brain. My IQ isn't tiny or anything, but I'm no neuroscientist.

    Here's the important part, but if you want to let your inner scientist freak flag fly, by all means, read the whole thing. What I get from it whatever you can to stop the pain, because chronic pain ruins your life.

    "Chronic pain patients suffer from more than just pain; depression and anxiety, sleep disturbances, and decision-making abnormalities (Apkarian et al., 2004aGo) also significantly diminish their quality of life. Recent studies have demonstrated that chronic pain harms cortical areas unrelated to pain (Apkarian et al., 2004bGo; Acerra and Moseley, 2005Go), but whether these structural impairments and behavioral deficits are connected by a single mechanism is as of yet unknown. Here we propose that long-term pain alters the functional connectivity of cortical regions known to be active at rest, i.e., the components of the "default mode network" (DMN). This DMN (Raichle et al., 2001Go; Greicius et al., 2003Go; Vincent et al., 2007Go) is marked by balanced positive and negative correlations between activity in component brain regions. In several disorders, however this balance is disrupted (Fox and Raichle, 2007Go). Using well validated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigms to study the DMN (Fox et al., 2005Go), we investigated whether the impairments of chronic pain patients could be rooted in disturbed DMN dynamics. Studying with fMRI a group of chronic back pain (CBP) patients and healthy controls while executing a simple visual attention task, we discovered that CBP patients, despite performing the task equally well as controls, displayed reduced deactivation in several key DMN regions. These findings demonstrate that chronic pain has a widespread impact on overall brain function, and suggest that disruptions of the DMN may underlie the cognitive and behavioral impairments accompanying chronic pain."
  6. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I just happened to run across this. Thanks so much for the update.

  7. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    Has been saying the same thing for years. That is why he recommends Klonopin for PWC. When the neurons are constantly overfiring and misfiring, it causes seizure activity in the brain. If this continues long enough it, in Cheney's words, "Fries the brain."

    When we cannot shut our brain activity down so we can sleep, when we suffer from sensory overload, or when we suffer from anxiety, it could be related to this low-level seizure activity.

    Klonopin has been a God send for me. It has also greatly reduced my pain, muscle spasms and the tinnitus I suffered. That said, however, benzos are heavy-hitter meds and should not be taken lightly. I suffer no side effects from the Klonopin but have developed a strong physical dependence on it and cannot wean off of it. Physical dependence is not addiction. I get no pleasure from the drug, just the benefits mentioned above.

    Thanks for the article.

    Love, Mikie
  8. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

  9. fight4acure

    fight4acure Member

    Cute name!

    One thing that bothers me the most is the way someone I live with looks at me for taking all the medication that I'm on, he doesn't want to hear about anything to do with my health, because it is an some excuse to him, but he drills me anyway, and then he states how he can go through life without going to the doctor in over five years (minus hernia surgery he had). I forgot to give him a SOLID GOLD STAR!!!

    Fight :)
  10. loto

    loto Member

    I totally agree with you sister!!!!! WOOHOO!! I couldn't have said it better.
    And, wow, my story is like yours. I had a herniated disk at L5,S1, had surgery and was left with nerve pain. Then "developed?" Fibromyalgia a few years after.

  11. fight4acure

    fight4acure Member

    Thank you for this! They've already done a few studies on this and came to this conclusion. I wonder why they keep on wasting money on something they already know. Researchers should be made aware of studies that others are doing so that they do not repeat studies and waste more money on this, such as the millions of dumb studies they did to try to prove that this was not a real illness, just imagine how much money and time they wasted on it. At least this one is true about the brain and chronic pain, but why continue to repeat the studies after a few studies in the past already proved this?

    What is the date on this source?

    Thanks for posting this!
    Fight :)