Pain is a fact of life. Pain lets us know that something’s amiss and needs our immediate attention; without it, we wouldn’t survive. Yet, in some people, the pain experienced after injury is amplified and persistent, causing ongoing problems that interfere with day-to-day living.
While pain is difficult to measure, we’re learning more about how to predict who might suffer from chronic pain after an injury. About ⅓ of Americans experience some form of chronic pain—around 100 million people—which costs upwards of $635 billion per year to treat.
While these abnormalities appear in the general population, “...only those people with a back injury go on to develop the chronic pain,” stated A. Vania Apkarian, senior author of the study and a professor of physiology at Northwestern University. “We’ve found the pain is triggered by these irregularities in the brain…[and have] shown abnormalities in brain structure connections may be enough to push someone to develop chronic pain once they have an injury.”
In other words, individual responses to pain vary, and how severely you suffer after an accident depends on factors beyond your control. And, instead of focusing on the site of injury, such as the low back, scientists are turning their attention to where pain is registered and experienced: the brain.
But, as we continue to learn from studies like this, we’re discovering more about where chronic pain comes from and how those who suffer from it most acutely can find lasting relief.
Fortunately, chronic pain doesn’t have to stop you from leading an active life. There are many conditions that lead to chronic pain, such as sports injuries, fibromyalgia, neuropathy and arthritis; but there are also many pain management treatments available to those suffering from chronic pain.