I know it’s been a while since my last installment of Nitty Gritty, but here we go. I’d like to discuss the actual changes to the body, particularly the brain, that occur in people that endure the chronic pain of Fibromyalgia and the associated Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
There are actual physical, structural changes to the brain in people that suffer from chronic pain of disorders such as Fibromyalgia. With an estimated 3% of the population suffering from Fibromyalgia, it’s important that we look at the effects of pain on the body and the brain in addition to the causes of the pain. The effects of the pain are why we need a cure. Sure, pain itself sucks. That in itself is a reason to find a cure but long term chronic pain actually has effects of its own.
Check this out:
Chronic pain appears to be associated with brain gray matter reduction in areas ascribable to the transmission of pain. The morphological processes underlying these structural changes, probably following functional reorganisation and central plasticity in the brain, remain unclear. The pain in hip osteoarthritis is one of the few chronic pain syndromes which are principally curable. We investigated 20 patients with chronic pain due to unilateral coxarthrosis (mean age 63.25±9.46 (SD) years, 10 female) before hip joint endoprosthetic surgery (pain state) and monitored brain structural changes up to 1 year after surgery: 6-8 weeks, 12-18 weeks and 10-14 month when completely pain free. Patients with chronic pain due to unilateral coxarthrosis had significantly less gray matter compared to controls in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insular cortex and operculum, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and orbitofrontal cortex. These regions function as multi-integrative structures during the experience and the anticipation of pain. When the patients were pain free after recovery from endoprosthetic surgery, a gray matter increase in nearly the same areas was found. We also found a progressive increase of brain gray matter in the premotor cortex and the supplementary motor area (SMA). We conclude that gray matter abnormalities in chronic pain are not the cause, but secondary to the disease and are at least in part due to changes in motor function and bodily integration.
*There’s another article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120701191611.htm
Okay, so that means that there’s a possible explanation for the infamous Fibro Fog, which is a type of cognitive dysfunction that many people with fibromyalgia have during particularly bad and/or extended pain flare-ups. Symptoms include difficulty with concentration, memory deficits, difficulties using language, difficulties learning and retaining new information, and confusion. Some sufferers of fibromyalgia and researchers have suggested that Fibro Fog is caused by sleep deprivation, depression, nervous system disturbances that cause the brain the receive less oxygen, but the majority of research doesn’t support any of those hypotheses.
Not only that:
It’s a lot to think about. It’s not ALL in our heads… but some of the effects are. In the next Nitty Gritty I’ll introduce the discussion on the effects of chronic pain on the body.
- Autism and Fibromyalgia: Can they be Linked as an “Auto-Immune” Disorder Originating In-Utero? | The Guardian Express (dysgirl.com)
- The Importance of Names (deadmendontsnore.wordpress.com)
- Chronic Mom (fighterzblog.wordpress.com)
- I won’t tell anyone it gets easier (livinglifewithraandfms.wordpress.com)
- Article on Fibromyalgia Research (painfighter.wordpress.com)