People who suffer from chronic pain often feel like the experience dominates their lives, and changes them profoundly.
Now, a group of pain researchers and geneticists have discovered that this feeling isn’t far from scientific truth. Being in chronic pain changes the way your brain functions on a physical level. The good news is that you can also change it back.
Pain researcher Maral Tajerian and her colleague Sebastian Alvarado wanted to find out whether chronic pain was changing the way the brain functions on a genetic level. Alvarado specializes in a burgeoning field called epigenetics, which looks at the way environment and experience affect gene expression, or activity. Was chronic pain epigenetic, an experience that changed brain gene function? They quickly discovered the answer was a resounding yes.
Tajerian and Alvarado’s work centered on mice who suffered a nerve injury that put them in chronic pain. Over a period of months, they discovered that the pain was affecting regions of the mice’s brains that had nothing to do with processing pain. In fact, they found that gene activity had been severely curtailed in the prefrontal cortex, a brain area that serves as the seat of higher reason and decision-making, as well as many emotions, in both rodents and humans.
“We saw chemical changes to the DNA in [the prefrontal cortex],” Alvarado told io9. Specifically, they found a 12 percent downward shift in DNA activity. “That’s really big,” he added. “Normally these changes are associated with cancer.” This lack of activity, Tajerian said, leads to a loss of density in this region of the brain — which ultimately causes cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety.
Taking the “Chronic” Out of Pain
If pain could change brain activity, Tajerian and Alvarado wondered, were there activities that could change it back? The two worked with colleagues at McGill University to design a simple experiment that might answer this question. They created groups of mice who had all suffered injuries that would cause long-term pain. One group was subjected to “impoverishment,” which meant a very small cage where they lived alone. Another group enjoyed “enrichment,” which meant they had a roomy cage with other mouse friends, as well as marbles to play with. Both groups had the same amount of food and care otherwise. (There was also a control that got typical lab mouse treatment.)
After two months, the mice in the enriched environment did not suffer chronic pain any longer. Or rather, their prefrontal cortexes showed normal mouse activity. Meanwhile, the impoverished mice showed the reduction in brain activity, which led to cognitive impairment. Along with colleagues, the two published a paper in PLoS One about the study earlier this year. The paper provides strong evidence that chronic pain is an epigenetic phenomenon, a life experience that actually changes gene expression in the brain.
Translated into human terms, this means that some people experience chronic pain because they have literally rewired their brains to be more sensitive to pain. The more pain they feel, the more anxious and vulnerable they are to feeling further pain.
And that’s actually a good thing.
“This paper gives me hope,” said Tajerian. The brain is a much more plastic organ than scientists realized even a decade ago, and the actions we take today can actually change how our brains function tomorrow. “A different environment will give you a different experience of pain. By changing the environment we could change the pain,” she said. “Having fun and friends is really good for you.”
The Latest Bing News on:
- CT man invents device to help manage pain that is used by most major sports teamson July 7, 2021 at 2:58 pm
Chronic pain of all kinds impacts the lives of so many people. Managing that can be very difficult, especially if you want to avoid taking a lot of pain medication.
- Corrie's Lisa George says chronic pain means she can't even dress herselfon July 7, 2021 at 12:03 pm
Coronation Street's Lisa George has revealed her ongoing battle with chronic pain after she was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder following her 50th birthday ...
- US Service Members Suffer Chronic Pain at Rate Much Higher Than Civilian Population, Report Sayson July 7, 2021 at 8:56 am
Many service members are in constant pain and the military medical system needs to better identify effective treatments to help them cope, says a new study that found chronic pain as the main factor ...
- Experts Reach Consensus on Dosing Cannabis for Chronic Painon July 7, 2021 at 7:02 am
Twenty cannabis experts from across the globe have reached a consensus on how medical cannabis may be used to treat chronic pain. The study was published i | Cannabis Sciences ...
- Understanding chronic pain (part one) – podcaston July 6, 2021 at 3:35 am
Anand Jagatia explores what it’s like to live with chronic pain, and what science can tell us about the causes for these sometimes debilitating conditions ...
- Startup gets FDA-clearance for device to treat chronic painon July 5, 2021 at 5:29 am
Neuralace Medical, a San Diego-based startup, recently got FDA clearance for a non-invasive device to treat chronic pain. It works by stimulating nerve fibers that have been damaged in a traumatic ...
- How You Could Turn Your Back on Chronic Back Painon July 2, 2021 at 9:41 am
It's important to consult your doctors with any medical concerns, and before making any changes or adding supplements to ...
- Independence from Pain: World Institute of Pain Spotlights Advancements Helping Free Patients from Chronic Painon July 1, 2021 at 10:05 am
Across the United States, about 50 million adults experience chronic pain, according to an analysis of the National Health Interview Survey. On this I ...
- Sufferers of chronic pain have long been told it’s all in their head. We now know that’s wrongon June 27, 2021 at 10:00 pm
In the first of a series looking at chronic pain and long Covid, Linda Geddes explores the growing realisation that pain can be a disease in and of itself – and the pandemic could be making it ...
- Inflatable implant injected into the spine could relieve chronic painon June 25, 2021 at 11:02 am
A tiny, inflatable implant that can be injected directly into the spinal column could provide long-term relief from chronic pain by emitting electrical charges that signal the brain to stop perceiving ...
The Latest Google Headlines on:
The Latest Bing News on:
Reversing chronic pain
- The 12 top bankers in the hottest part of healthcare reveal their predictions for the future of the industryon July 6, 2021 at 6:47 am
Top bankers at the leading firms in digital health break down the predominant M&A trends and predict the next generation of giants.
- New Way To Restore Eyesight, Reverse Glaucoma and Cataract Without Surgery Or Eye Dropson July 3, 2021 at 7:00 am
The reason I said so is because I’m about to reveal to you how to totally reverse glaucoma ... of heart and brain related cases, chronic fatigue, chest pain etc. It also works for eliminating ...
- Fla. Employer Doesn't Have To Pay For Medical Pot Evaluationon July 1, 2021 at 4:38 pm
A Florida appellate court said Wednesday that an employer can't be required to pay for a worker's visit to a physician to be evaluated for a prescription for medical marijuana because the drug remains ...
- Eating This Type of Diet Can Reduce Chronic Pain and Inflammation—and You Don't Have to Give Up Pasta or Wineon June 29, 2021 at 2:25 pm
Chronic inflammation has been linked to a ... "may significantly reduce or even reverse pain from conditions causing either inflammatory pain—such as arthritis, trauma or surgery—or ...
- Eating This Type of Diet Can Reduce Chronic Pain and Inflammation—and You Don't Have to Give Up Pasta or Wineon June 29, 2021 at 2:19 pm
Chronic inflammation has been linked to a whole host of health issues, including many of the leading causes of death in the U.S. (heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and cancer, to name a few). So it's ...
- Anodyne Pain & Wellness Solutions shares the three phases of care for reversing chronic painon June 25, 2021 at 9:13 pm
Anodyne introduces new solutions for knee, shoulder, and back pain during their “Pain Reversal” webinar where they vowed to transform the way people think about pain.
- Western High-Fat Diet Could Contribute to Chronic Painon June 25, 2021 at 12:52 pm
A typical Western high-fat diet can increase the risk of painful disorders common in people with conditions such as diabetes or obesity, according to a new study in Nature Metabolism.
- The WHO Didn't Reverse Its Position on Kids and COVID Vaccineson June 25, 2021 at 7:42 am
"The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION recently reversed its stance on children getting the COVID vaccine. Sorry to all those dumb parents who rushed out to get their 12 year olds vaccinated. Oops you ...
- Western High-Fat Diet can Cause Chronic Pain: Studyon June 24, 2021 at 4:01 am
Typical Western diets are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats such as processed snacks, fast foods, cakes, and fatty and cured meats, and are served as a significant risk factor for both inflammatory ...