The Weekly Check-Up Atlanta

Chronic Pain: It’s All in the Brain

Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans, with nearly one-third experiencing lower back pain. Scientists and doctors are dedicated now, more than ever, to solving the puzzle of biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to long-lasting pain.

A study published by Northwestern Medical School attempts to identify the link between the brain and chronic pain. While the site of injury has traditionally been to blame for chronic injury, the scientists of Northwestern believe the pain could be the cause of abnormalities in the brain.

Led by A. Vania Apkarian, PhD, the study examines irregularities in axons, or the pathways in the brain’s white matter that connect brain cells for communication. By analyzing these axons, scientists have been able to predict with 85 percent accuracy which patients would experience chronic pain, or pain lasting more than three months.

Research from the 3,000 brain scans collected may determine future treatment methods for patients more susceptible to experiencing chronic pain. As the study continues, scientists hope to determine if abnormalities in the brain exist even before an injury occurs.

Northwestern Medical School is also expanding the studies into areas of grey brain matter to discover the link between sensory perception (the muscles and emotions) and chronic pain.

Chronic pain has previously been associated with an individual’s genetics, personality, emotional state, and coping style. According to the Wall Street Journal, “those who seek less risk and are more fearful of pain are more likely to experience pain more strongly.”

More research must be done on chronic pain to not only advance treatment and understanding, but also to combat the widespread abuse of painkillers. By examining the true source of pain, doctors can provide precise treatment to prevent future dependency and continuance of pain.

We, at Pain Solutions, look forward to this exciting new research and will keep you informed as the study develops.

Pain Solutions Treatment Centers is the leader in innovative, non-surgical relief for back, spine, and joint pain, with four offices in Marietta and Northwest Atlanta. To learn more about Pain Solutions, visit