Chronic Pain And The Volume Of Your Brain
Chronic pain and the volume of your brain
Pain is one of the main reasons why people come to our clinic or in general seek any sort of medical or complementary therapies. If you have been following our blogs you know that we often discuss the role of the brain in the production of pain and how chiropractic adjustment and other therapies can help with improving your health and pain symptoms. Many people live with chronic pain and we hear if often – ‘Oh, I have had that pain for years’.
Pain is important to inform us that there is a potential of tissue damage. However, chronic pain is a symptom of significant changes happening in our body and especially in our nervous system.
Chronic pain often means that part of our brain, called the prefrontal cortex doesn’t work as effectively as it should (there may be various reasons for that) and the limbic part of the brain that is responsible for emotions and triggering ‘flight or fight’ response is hyper active. This can be a result of past trauma, stress, injuries, illnesses and so on. The list is long. There is even a lot of research now, that investigates the long term consequences of prenatal stress. This means that if your mum had experienced stress, trauma, anxiety and so on, while she was pregnant with you, you are more likely to experience health problems in your life.
One of the most important things that studies show is that from the moment we had a traumatic experience the brain changes. And the changes can be significant. The longer there has been stress (of any sort- stress, trauma, chemical, environmental stress, past injuries etc.) the more significant the changes.
If you have been in chronic pain, it means the prefrontal cortex and limbic part of your brain have not been functioning optimally for a while now.
Recent studies have shown decrease in the grey matter volume of several brain regions in people with chronic pain. The most consistent observation is a decrease in volume of the medial prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the prefrontal cortex that plays crucial role in emotional and cognitive processing in chronic pain.
There are two major explanations to why this happens. According to studies, when we adopt the stress model of chronic pain that we talk a lot in our blogs and clinic, decrease in the volume of prefrontal cortex is due to changes in dendritic morphology as a result of hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction and neurotransmitter dysregulation, which affects local microvasculature.
Even if you are not interested in the complex explanation, the fact is: the brain changes from the moment of stressful experience and the changes can be significant, leading to decrease of the volume of grey matter in prefrontal cortex in people who suffer from chronic pain. The good news is that loses of prefrontal cortex grey matter are often reversible after the treatment of chronic pain. What is the treatment?
Getting your prefrontal cortex and your whole nervous system functioning at optimal level, which chiropractic adjustment can be a part of.
If you would like to learn more, why not to check out our blogs and YouTube channel or book an initial consultation with one of your clinicians