Treatment of chronic low back pain can reverse brain's abnormal changes and function, suggest researchers.
Adults suffering from chronic pain also experience cognitive impairments and reduced gray matter in parts of the brain associated with pain processing and the emotional components of pain, like depression and anxiety.
The team began by recruiting, through the Orthopedic Spine Clinic and the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the MUHC, patients who have had low back pain for more than six months and who planned on undergoing treatment - either spinal injections or spinal surgery - to alleviate their pain.
MRI scans were conducted on each subject before and six months after their procedures. The scans measured the cortical thickness of the brain and brain activity when the subjects where asked to perform a simple cognitive task.
Not only did the team observe recovery in the anatomical function of the brain, but also in its ability to function. After the subjects were treated, researchers found increased cortical thickness in specific areas of the brain that were related to both pain reduction and physical disability.
And the abnormal brain activity observed initially during an attention-demanding cognitive task was found to have normalized after treatment.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience.