A study in 2004 used MRI to look at the brains of those suffering with chronic back pain. Interestingly, they found a 5-11% decrease in grey matter volume. Grey matter is essentially brain cells with a wide range of functions. The decreased volume was related to pain duration, the longer someone was in pain, the more grey matter they lost. The authors suggested for every year someone suffered with chronic pain they lost 1.3cm3 of grey matter.
This goes against the old theory of “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger” and if you’re suffering, or know someone who is suffering with pain encourage them to have their health professional put together a plan to get them out of pain and back to health.
Chronic Back Pain is Associated with Decreased Prefrontal and Thalamic Gray Matter Density. Apkarian V, Sosa Y, et al. The J. of Neuroscience, Nov 2004, 24(46):10410-10415