Recent research observes that people living with persistent spinal pain experience difficulties with mental concentration and remembering information.
In the January 2011 edition of Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology, Russian researchers divided 64 patients with musculoskeletal pain syndromes in the lumbosacral area persisting for more than 3 months into 2 age groups: 30-50 years (n=41) and 51-60 years (n=23). A reference control group consisted of 20 healthy volunteers comparable in terms of gender, age, and level of education. All subjects underwent clinical neurological, orthopedic, and psychological evaluations.
In patients with chronic spinal pain, complaints of difficulty with mental concentration were present in roughly 17%, and 1-in-5 (20.2%) had problems with remembering information. Also, compared with healthy subjects, patients with chronic pain in both age groups had significantly worse performance in tests assessing attention, mental flexibility, and in visuomotor coordination (for example, reduced ability to control the direction of hand movement while tracing the changing path of a printed line, as found in patients with Parkinson's disease).
Cognitive dysfunctions in younger patients were worsened by pain intensity and negative emotional characteristics of pain, particularly anxiety. In older patients cognitive deficits were influenced by anxiety and emotional distress, and by their level of catastrophizing; that is, harboring irrational thoughts and excessive fears about the severity of their condition.
Typical side effects of powerful pain medications may act as an additive artifact to the enhanced cognitive disruption experienced by these chronic pain patients. Thus medicated chronic pain patients experience the double-whammy of cognitive impairment from pain and further impairment from the medications.
Having lived with chronic back and leg pain for 40 years, I can personally vouch for this study's conclusions. Chronic pain does appear to disrupt my normal cognitive functioning, particularly related to attention, concentration and communication processing. What's worse is the apparent additive effect of powerful opiate medications. This "double-whammy" leaves the patient with no viable solution. One is impaired with and without appropriate medications.
Until we experience a powerful pharmacological advance, chronic pain patients will remain impaired. The cost in terms of lost employment, productivity, personal and family relationships will remain a significant impediment to all of us in this predicament. Let's hope for molecular pharmacology breakthroughs in the near future.
Finally, chronic pain patients should take advantage of any and all viable mind-body therapy available. I've discovered that keeping my brain active (as a writer) helps. So does using biofeedback, acquired in pain management programs. However, our ability to multitask and continue to maintain effective cognitive performance might be severely limited.
That certainly explains a lot to me. Double whammy indeed. I thought I was the only one who had memory problems. Nice to know it isn't just me, but sad it isn't just me. I hate this for us all. It is bad enough to live with pain but memory loss is almost as bad!
I've had pain now for 29 years 9 months, I'm now 47 years old. I had a back injury at age 18. Until I found prolothearpy I had lost all hope at living without Extreme pain 24/7. But now I'm off most all pain meds after 9 Prolo treatments. However my memory is still very poor, I'm sure it's due to pain. I describe it as before prolotherapy I wanted to cut my head off every second of every day and now I just want to cut my Leg off.
I want to share this information with you about prolothearpy.
All I want to do is wake up one morning with out pain over 25 years it has just become worse no let up. I am having problems concentrating on simple task because of the pain. I may have to quit the organizations I am involved in as I cannot keep up any more with the work which was so easy a few years ago I love doing what I do as I can not work. I could never hold a job again 10 years after my injury and keep it as I do not know from one day to the nexts if I would be able to go to work.. It is like something is sucking the life out of me and I have no control over it. Please someone tell me you feel the same. I am constantly being told by my grown children to get it together get my house cleaned do this or do that but I can't and they just do not understand the pain I am in physically and the pain I feel as I think I am letting them down. Any ideas on how i can help myslef I am on pain meds(guess what kind if you mention the neame they think you are an addict selling it on the street) no surgery can help me, nor shots in the back. WSIB won't help me I have no energy to fight them lost my pension my job my income and my ability to feel like a person who contributes to society. Just need to know I am not alone in this battle. Thanks
Me too! But it won't happen. You're far from alone. There are literally millions of us. Try to ease up on the kids. No one has any idea how difficult it is for us, unless they live with us. Even then, sometimes they don't understand. Our ability to concentrate, to focus mentally, to recall events (short or long term) is shot. Long-term studies on people with chronic pain reach the same conclusions.
However, despite our predicament, we're much better off than millions of others. I was a vocational rehabilitation counselor for seven years. I worked with paraplegics, quadriplegics and people with terminal illnesses. There are millions of people who cannot sit, stand, walk, feed themselves or care for their bodily needs. Compared to them, we are the lucky ones.
Living with chronic severe pain is an exercise in perspective. We live in agony. But millions live in worse situations. Be happy for what you can still do.
You're not alone. I hope your condition has gotten better even if just a little. How you feel and what you have been through sounds all to familiar. I injured my spine 5 years ago at the age of 27 and its only gotten worse. I've fought through this pretty hard for these past years and it's not getting any easier. All we can do is just do our best. I wish I could find the cure for us all that have these debilitating injuries and chronic pain. It's nice being able to see that other people understand this life changing condition. This is a battle I thought I would get through like any other I had been in but this is very draining. I wish you the best.
Thanks. I wish you the best too. It's very frustrating that no powerful new pain medication has arrived since Fentanyl. While it is 80 times more potent than morphine, not everyone can tolerate it, or its side effects. So, the best we can do is to combine long and short-acting opioids until we discover the ones that work best for our individual body chemistry. Many of us discover increased efficacy by adding several types of medications to long and short-acting opioids, such as an anti-depressant to inhibit the reuptake of Serotonin and an anti-convulsant for neuropathic pain. Some of us find that THC helps. If you do not live in a state that allows for medical marijuana, your doctor might prescribe a medication called Marinol (dronabinol). The active ingredient is synthetic THC. My point is that we must continually try new and different combinations of various medications, including off-label drugs. Eventually, you and your physician will discover the combination most efficacious for you.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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