Patients with chronic back pain complain that they have a hard time thinking about anything else. Often friends and family dismiss the severity of the pain, saying things like, “it’s all in your head.” However, a recent article in the Washington Post shows that chronic pain has a physiological effect on the brain. Relief from such pain allows patients to return to normal cognitive functioning, provided they receive adequate pain management and rehabilitation for their injuries.
Researchers investigated whether procedures such as spinal surgery or injecting anesthesia between spinal joints could affect cognitive functioning. Patients who received treatment to relieve their pain showed a marked improvement in neural activity. Their brains returned to normal in the regions associated with attention, emotion, and decision-making. The researchers had hoped that treatment would improve the patients’ performance, but did not expect the surprisingly speedy return to normal levels. Researchers now plan to see whether other types of treatment produce the same results.
Many patients are told to live with chronic back pain. This study shows that living in pain can change the way your brain functions, making it hard to concentrate and leaving you anxious and depressed. Finding a way to be compensated for your back injury can heal your back and your brain.