- Chronic pain affects both cognitive and emotional circuits in the brain as both mood and cognition are affected. Basically, an injury causes changes in the body’s chemistry and function which results in a change in the brain’s circuitry on how we perceive pain. Normal emotional processing is damaged.
- Initially, acute pain is perceived in brain regions involved with pain reception, but as it transitions to chronic pain, it is perceived in centers of the brain that are involved with the mediation of emotions. Chronic pain involves abnormal stress responses, in which patients with chronic pain have higher cortisol stress hormone released to a painful stimulus. They also have smaller hippocampus areas of the brain that are involved in memory, learning, and emotions, This area of the brain begins to process pain signals poorly while areas of the brain that are involved in anticipatory anxiety and associative learning have over activity. There appears to be connectivity problems between brain areas involved in mood and cognitive function. This results not on ly in the sensation of pain, but also mood disorders such as anxiety and problems with decision-making.
- Significant factors leading to chronic pain include non-restorative sleep, anxiety, memory impairment, and poor quality of life.
- Things that help: Get regular exercise at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Ensure healthful sleep with good sleep hygiene. Be certain to sleep in a quiet, comfortable environment and avoid caffeine and strenuous activities before bedtime. Become more active in Life – socialize more and get involved with hobby or helping others.
- Other options for treatment include vagal-nerve stimulation to interfere with pain perception and transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which a magnet is used to alter nerve circuits in the brain that are involved with pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and meditation are also means of combating chronic pain.
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