Chronic pain not only affects to work, sleep and performance of other activities but as it turns out, it can also impair your memory and your concentration.
This is the finding of a team of Drs. Bruce D. Dick and Saifudin Rashiq at the University of Alberta.
As a part study that was recently conducted at the university's Multidisciplinary Pain Centre in Edmonton, Canada, the researchers studied 24 patients, two-thirds of whom showed significant disruption of attention and memory when tested.
Dr Dick and Dr Rashiq suggest that pain may disrupt the maintenance of the memory trace that is required to hold information for processing and retain it for storage in longer-term memory stores.
In other words, chronic pain can, quite literally, drive people to distraction.
Participants in the study—all of whom had pain lasting six months or longer—were given computerized tests of working memory and a neuropsychological test of attention on separate "pain" and "less pain" days.
On the "less pain" day, participants were tested after receiving a pain-reducing procedure as part of their ongoing treatment at the Centre. On the "pain" day, participants were tested without having received a pain-reducing procedure, when their pain was reported to be at a high level.
Sixteen participants—a startling 67 per cent—showed clinical impairment due to pain on their pain testing day. The remaining eight participants, or 33 per cent, showed no clinical impairment due to pain.
And though the number of participants taking part in the study was small, the researchers insist that the statistically significant findings are "robust".
"Prevalence studies indicate that as much as 44 per cent of the population—in Canada as well as in the U.S. and Europe—experience pain on a regular basis, and that in approximately one-quarter of this group the pain is severe", said Dr Dick.
Their findings are published in the latest issue of Anesthesia and Analgesia.