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Possible Links Between the Brain and Chronic Pain

It can be very difficult, and a major source of frustration, as a chronic pain patient to be told that you are imagining your pain or that it is “in your head”. This statement also allows for the belief that anything happening in the head is only minor even though it often deals with how you think, feel, and move during the day. A  recent study performed at Massachusetts General Hospital found evidence of an inflammation-like protein that is commonly more active among chronic pain patients. 

The Study

There was only a connection between genetic causes of chronic pain within animal subjects before this study at Mass Gen. Hospital. This study began with a group of 19 chronic pain patients and 25 healthy patients. The researchers running the study measured biological causes and physical results using a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. As multiple tests were performed they found the translocator protein (TSPO), the anti- inflammatory protein, was significantly more active in the healthy test group than in the chronic pain test group. This study is the first of its kind performed.

How Your Brain can Help Measure Chronic Pain

With chronic pain patients it can be challenging for doctors to measure the amount of pain they are in. This can be especially difficult when there is no signs of any obvious damage to the area of pain. With the discovery of the TSPO, anti-inflammatory protein, connection to chronic pain researchers are finally able to establish a method of measuring the intensity of the patient's pain condition. These current findings suggest that patients with less active TSPOs are more likely to experience chronic pain. However, further research is necessary to verify these findings. 

Chronic Pain Treatments for the Future

As much as this research is beneficial to the chronic pain community, both the doctors and patients, there is still a significant amount of research and testing that needs to be completed before it can be applied to the clinical setting. Fortunately, pain centers exist for patients who cannot find assistance from their general practitioner. Pain Specialty Group Center is one such pain clinic in New Hampshire that offers treatment for people needing help coping with their chronic pain. Contact us here to schedule an appointment and find what will work best for you.

Aidan Fisher, Maureen Cassidy Pain Specialty Group

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