Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia and Brain Shrinkage

So I was ready an article in a magazine about chronic pain and it mentioned this "...Aging causes the brain to atrophy at a rate of half a percent a year, but chronic pain causes the brain to atrophy twice as fast..." and I kinda freaked. I mean I had seen this somewhere before, but I chose to ignore it, I wasn't ready to face that.

Now I'm facing it.

I wanted a better source on this info, and I found this addressed on the National Fibromyalgia Association website, direct link below. What makes it really good is that the author is also one of the researchers who released this report on fibromyalgia's effects on the brain. It gets a little scientific at times, so I've tried to highlight some of the key points below, but the entire article is well worth the read.

“What Do You Mean, My Brain Is Shrinking?!”
By Patrick B. Wood, MD 

"The Journal of Neuroscience recently published the results of a study that demonstrated fibromyalgia is associated with a loss of volume of brain gray matter.1"

"...we found that the atrophy associated with fibromyalgia was over three times greater than that of normal aging, with each year of fibromyalgia equivalent to 9.5 times the loss of normal aging."

"Intriguingly, the brain centers that undergo accelerated loss of gray matter volume during stress in animal models are also connected to many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, including pain."

"Among the most encouraging findings stemming from the work of scientists like McEwen and Sapolsky is the observation that blocking the effects of stress-related chemicals can protect against their damaging impact on sensitive brain structures"

"Another agent that has demonstrated utility in promoting brain health is omega-3 fatty acid, i.e. fish oil. As previously noted, chronic fatigue syndrome is another one of the disorders that has been associated with brain atrophy. A case study from England reported by Puri and colleagues describes the treatment of a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome with omega-3 supplementation, which resulted not only in marked clinical improvement, but also in a reduction in the volume of her lateral ventricles, which suggests she benefited with an increase in brain tissue volume.16 While there is no data in the literature as to whether taking omega-3 may be useful in the treatment of FM per se, there are several other health-related benefits. So, while I recommend taking omega-3 supplements to my patients on a regular basis, it would be very interesting to see how they would perform in a structured clinical trial."

"What remains unknown at this point is whether the reductions in brain volumes in FM are related to actual loss of brain cells, or simply with cell shrinkage—I suspect the latter. And while the mechanisms of these changes are complex and not fully understood, there is reason to believe that they may be prevented and possibly reversed, as we shall see."

"While the proposition that fibromyalgia is associated with accelerated brain atrophy may be unsettling, there is something of a silver lining to the cloud. For years, the medical community has struggled to come to terms with the reality of the disorder or to take it seriously, due in large part to the lack of objective findings to distinguish FM patients from those who don’t have the disorder. The results of our study contribute to what has become the incontrovertible evidence that fibromyalgia is all too real and, I think, inspire a greater sense of urgency regarding the need to develop rational treatments."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this article. It's scary to know my brain is shrinking from this pain. Maybe now this will be taken seriously..........probably not.......