Will chronic pain lead to the aging of your brain? Recent studies have shown that chronic pain that lasts up to three months or longer can result in a decline in the way your brain functions. In addition, it can reduce the critical thinking area of the brain, i.e., the hippocampus and lead to early dementia.
WHAT STUDIES SAY ABOUT CHRONIC PAIN AND AGING
A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that chronic pain found in a single site was enough to age the brain by 1 year and that pain found in 2 different spots was enough to shrink the brain even more, it was equivalent to over 2 years of aging. 5 pain sites were equivalent to eight years of aging, with the critical thinking center being 4 times smaller than those with only 2 pain spots.
A preventive neurologist at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases of Florida, Dr. Richard Isaacson, says that the idea of pain specialists asking and taking care of people with chronic pain conditions is a preventive measure that can be used in reducing the risk of the aging of the brain. The study has also shown that when given cognitive and intellectual tasks, people with pain in different body spots underperformed compared to those with no body pain in a ratio of 7 to 11. Isaacson stated that as exercise is the most efficient and powerful way of fighting against dementia and cognitive decline, people with pain in various body spots will likely not be able to undergo various forms of physical activities, which will increase the risk of dementia.
According to a 2019 study of neuroinflammation and degenerative diseases, inflammation of the brain can also be a result of chronic pain. It has been shown that people with chronic pain are prone to have reduced gray matter in their prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe (areas that impact cognition in the brain); these same areas are attacked by a degenerative disease known as Alzheimer’s disease. CNN stated that over forty-five percent of Alzheimer’s patients suffer from chronic pain.
As we age, the treatment of chronic pain should not be taken for levity; it should therefore be prioritized. Pain can be treated in different ways, such as medication and pain management programs that cover physical, emotional, and mental support. Pain management doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive; there are cost-friendly therapies that do not even need medications.