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Is Chronic Pain and the Brain Connected?

Is It All In the Head?

Society has many unfair stigmas and misconceptions, especially when it comes to chronic pain. One of the most common misconceptions as it relates to chronic pain is that a patient's pain is "just in their head". This is frustrating to many people as it minimizes the actual suffering a person with chronic pain experiences.  With this societal stigma, people in pain are often not taken seriously.   Our team at Pain Specialty Group are your advocates and present evidence that pain has a real biological basis.

Recent findings from Harvard University at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have concluded that an inflammation-linked protein is more active in chronic pain patients than in normal people.  This means that even though your brain might be a source of your chronic pain, it should not be regarded as imaginary. 

The Study

Although substantial evidence has established that the brain plays a key role in persistent pain in animals, the role of the brain in human pain disorders remains unknown.  Researchers from MGH, conducted a study comparing a group of people suffering from chronic pain versus healthy patients. This study showed for the first time that the anti-inflammatory protein translocator protein (TPSO) was significantly more active in chronic pain patients.  Using the novel technology of integrated positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance imaging and the recently developed radioligand (11)C-PBR28, the team at MGH showed increased brain levels of the translocator protein (TSPO), a marker of glial activation, in patients with chronic low back pain.  

How Your Brain Can Help Measure Chronic Pain

A ubiquitous issue that physicians face is that they are not able to quantitively measure chronic pain. If there is no physical damage, doctors are likely to say that there is nothing wrong with the patient. The discovery of this new protein and its link with the chronic pain can lead to the establishment of a technique to measure the intensity of a patient’s pain. More research is needed to develop a definite method and a thorough conclusion about the connection of the newly discovered protein.  

Chronic Pain Treatments for the Future

While the study by Massachusetts General Hospital should be lauded for providing benefits to both the chronic pain patients and its medical experts, various phases of testing are necessary before implementation of the lab experiments to the masses. 

Chronic pain patients can consult pain centers to help manage their conditions. You should consult the Pain Specialty Group based in New Hampshire to schedule an appointment and get relief from your chronic pain.

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