Does back pain shrink the Brain-AHS

Are you one of those millions of people suffering from chronic low back pain?  It’s alarming to know that between one-third to two-thirds of adults will suffer from low back pain at some time (1). The Journal of Neuroscience brings sobering news to chronic back pain sufferers  that your brain actually DOES shrink if you experience chronic low back pain.

The research reveals that the affected regions were the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, involved in emotional processing and behavioural control, and the thalamus, which relays sensory information to the cortex. The scientist found that even just one year of chronic back pain would lead to a tissue loss of around 1.3 cubic centimeters. This is equivalent to the effect of aging the brain 10 to 20 years.

The study included 26 people with chronic, continuous pain in the lumbosacral area of more than a year and they were compared with 26 healthy people. MRI brain images and other sophisticated imaging tests, which measured gray matter size, were performed on all patients to help get the results in the research. After adjusting for age and gender factors, scientists found that, overall, chronic back pain patients lost about 5%-11% of gray matter a year. Typically, normal aging results in only about 0.5% of gray matter loss each year.

Are these changes reversible?

Thankfully, a new study published again by the Journal of Neuroscience asks the same question. Throughout this research, traditional brain MRI scans and functional MRI scans were obtained to compare their brain responses to cognitive tests and their brains’ structures before and after they got treatment. They also compared the brain structure and function of chronic pain sufferers against those of a control group without chronic pain.

The MRIs of the patients with back pain showed a decreased thickness in the cortex of certain areas of the brain and abnormal brain activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. After 6 months of successful treatment of the chronic back pain, these subjects had new brain scans performed to search for changes. These follow-up studies in the patients with improved back pain symptoms demonstrated that their brain cortex thickness had increased to standard levels, and their functional MRI showed normal activity patterns.

How do I stop this chronic back pain and prevent my brain from shrinking?

According to the results in the above article, the authors concluded that their results imply that treating chronic back pain can restore normal brain function.

One technique that has been shown to be effective and long lasting is Chiropractic Care. So if you’re tired of dealing with your back pain, or know someone suffering from chronic back pain, the Chiropractors at AHS are here to help. We’ve already helped endless individuals and families with their pain and would be than happy to help you or your family and friends out however possible.

Please call your Chiropractor at AHS Balgowlah on 9948 2826 or visit our clinic at 9/470 Sydney Rd in Balgowlah servicing the surrounding suburbs of Allambie, Balgowlah Heights, Fairlight, Seaforth and Manly on the Northern Beaches.

Photo Credit: Tony Hall

[mla-start][mlajournal author=”Manek, Nisha Ja; MacGregor, A Jb” title=”Epidemiology of back disorders: prevalence, risk factors, and prognosis” journal=”Current Opinion in Rheumatology” volume=”Vol 17″ issue=”No 2″ year=”Mar 2005″ pages=”134-140″ medium=”Web”]

[mlajournal author=”Seminowicz DA, Wideman TH, Naso L, Hatami-Khoroushahi Z, Fallatah S, Ware MA, Jarzem P, Bushnell MC, Shir Y, Ouellet JA, Stone LS.” title=”Effective treatment of chronic low back pain in humans reverses abnormal brain anatomy and function” journal=”The Journal of Neuroscience” volume=” 31(20): 7540-7550″ issue=”doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5280-10.2011″ year=”May 2011″ pages=”” medium=”Web”][mla-end]