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Chronic Pain Can Cause Long-Lasting Damage To Your Brain

Chronic Pain Can Cause Long-Lasting Damage To Your Brain
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Chronic pain can damage and change your brain. If you live with chronic pain, you will know how devastating and wide-ranging the effects can be on your mental processing speed, your mood, and your memory.

Research with humans and mice, has revealed that chronic pain exerts measurable effects on the brain, and that these changes can last even once the pain has stopped. From this perspective, chronic pain isn’t just a troublesome day-to-day issue that affects many people worldwide. It is also a common cause of brain damage that can greatly increase the risk of anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction in those who suffer from it.

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How exactly does pain change the brain?

Researchers based at Northwestern University examined brain functioning in humans and mice living with chronic pain. First, they examined the differences in mental functioning in people living with and without chronic pain. Using brain scans, researchers discovered that those with long-term pain such as back pain (defined as greater than six months in duration) showed evidence of hippocampal shrinkage. This is significant, because the hippocampus is an area of gray matter within the brain responsible for learning and memory. It is shown highlighted in red on the image below:

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Hippocampus
    Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/MRI_Location_Hippocampus_up..png

    Pain ages the brain

    The researchers report that chronic pain, such as that seen in sciatica, can cause gray matter in the brain to shrink by up to 11% each year, compared to 0.5% seen in healthy humans. In other words, long-lasting pain greatly speeds up the usual ageing process. This in turn has a significant impact on a range of mental functions such as the ability to learn, to handle anxiety, and engage in appropriate emotion regulation.

    This in turn leaves sufferers at a heightened risk for emotional disturbances. Along with the hippocampus, another region of the brain negatively affected by chronic pain is the amygdala, shown highlighted on the image below. The amygdala is important for fear regulation, which may explain why those with decreased amygdala volume are more likely to suffer from anxiety.

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    brainlabelled
      Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/EQbrain_optical_stim_en.jpg

      The researchers also investigated the effects of pain on brain structures and processes, using animal studies. They discovered that compared with mice leading pain-free lives, the animals living with chronic pain had trouble with emotion-related memory tasks. They were also more anxious in general compared with the control mice. The brains of the affected mice struggled to grow new neuronal connections in the hippocampus.

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      Usually, both humans and rodents can form new connections in this area of the brain, which explains why we can continue to learn new knowledge and skills throughout our lives. However, when the hippocampus can no longer make these connections, as is the case in those with chronic pain, mental performance suffers.

      As pain continues, damage may worsen

      Why exactly does chronic pain result in gray matter shrinkage? It is possible that as chronic pain is ongoing, nerve cells in the brain are placed under an unusually high load. This means that they are less able to form new connections with other cells. As the chronic pain continues, it may become increasingly less responsive to conventional pain treatments due to alterations in these brain areas.

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      Natural ways to tackle chronic pain

      Given that chronic pain can cause brain damage, it is important to get it under control as soon as possible. Along with conventional medicine, there are numerous ways by which you can reduce your pain levels naturally. Natural methods of pain reduction include acupuncture, massage, hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, and herbal remedies. Always remember to consult with your regular health practitioner before trying a new course of treatment.

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      Jay Hill

      Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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      Last Updated on July 12, 2021

      100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

      100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier
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      Want to learn some quick and easy life hacks that are easy to do, low cost and saves you time?

      By tweaking little things in your daily life, it can make your life much more convenient!

      Here’re 100 of the most practical life hacks so you can just pick up any of them right away!

      83 tie a small piece of bright colored fabric

        84 write random letter

          85 use a rubberband

            86 dorm smell bad

              87 lean your phone on your sunglassess

                89 how to waterproof your shoes

                  90 take a picture of the name card

                    91 iron inside out

                      92 old newspaper

                        93 tumble try shoes

                          keep a card like this

                            SONY DSC

                              94 soap bar

                                95 make a hole

                                  96 drop the battery

                                    97 use a coozie

                                      98 when taking a picture

                                        use a clean dust pan

                                          try a pants hanger

                                            use your cellphone light

                                              use a spring from an old pen

                                                quick and easy iphone speaker

                                                  user binder clips

                                                    wrap a wet paper towel around your beverage

                                                      put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle

                                                        clean out an old lotion bottle for your beach

                                                          use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a bbq

                                                            doritos are great for kindling

                                                              use nail polish to identify different keys

                                                                use a hanging shoe rack to store cleaning supplies

                                                                  freeze grapes to chill white wine without

                                                                    use paper clips to organize your cables

                                                                      almost finished your jar of nutella

                                                                        sick of having a box full of tangled

                                                                          unroll the rim to increase the capacity

                                                                            cut open toilet paper rolls and use as a cuff

                                                                              remove the stem from strawberries

                                                                                turn an old bottle into a simple little cord holder

                                                                                  for iced coffee and iced cappuccino, use frozen coffee cubes

                                                                                    how to fold a fitted bed sheet

                                                                                      tired of snoozing past your alarm

                                                                                        place a rubber band around an open paint can to wipe your brush on

                                                                                          ut a wooden spoon across a boiling pot

                                                                                            use bread clips to save flip-flops

                                                                                              take pictures of friends holding items

                                                                                                how i always know which headphone is the left one

                                                                                                  put a stocking over the end of a vacuum

                                                                                                    How to make sure you drink enough water

                                                                                                      user a can opener to open blister

                                                                                                        good sandwich guide

                                                                                                          turn your muffin pans upside down

                                                                                                            50 pounds of groceries and living on the 5th floor

                                                                                                              the right way to make a blt

                                                                                                                add one teaspoon of baking soda

                                                                                                                  38

                                                                                                                    hair straighteners equals to collar irons

                                                                                                                      stack your clothes vertically to see them all

                                                                                                                        the right way to make cookies in the summer

                                                                                                                          how to clean a blender

                                                                                                                            the right way to eat a popsicle

                                                                                                                              use bread clips to label and organize power cords

                                                                                                                                to get the built up residue off of your shower head

                                                                                                                                  user a hair clip to orgainize long wires

                                                                                                                                    a frozen saturated sponge in a bag

                                                                                                                                      rub stuck zipper teeth with a graphite pencil

                                                                                                                                        use a soda pop tab

                                                                                                                                          50

                                                                                                                                            51 How to multiply large numbers in your head.

                                                                                                                                              52 How to open a bottle if you dont have a corkscrew.

                                                                                                                                                rub a walnut on damaged wooden furniture

                                                                                                                                                  kids fall out of bed

                                                                                                                                                    use toothpaste to clear up hazy car

                                                                                                                                                      58

                                                                                                                                                        59 keep pizza out while driving home

                                                                                                                                                          60 put your straw through the tab to keep it from rising

                                                                                                                                                            hold oreos with a fork so your fingers

                                                                                                                                                              Never lose your remotes again

                                                                                                                                                                hiding your emergency money

                                                                                                                                                                  use a bread tab to hold your spot on a roll

                                                                                                                                                                    if you are at a hotel and run out of chargers

                                                                                                                                                                      keep a square of cardboard in a ziplock bag

                                                                                                                                                                        If you need to pee or smoke at a bar

                                                                                                                                                                          drill holes in the bottom of your garbage

                                                                                                                                                                            use an accented letter as your passcode

                                                                                                                                                                              use a squeeze ketchup bottle top with your shopvac

                                                                                                                                                                                do something unusual when locking the door

                                                                                                                                                                                  when heating leftovers space out a circle in the middle

                                                                                                                                                                                    dont burn yourself in those hard to reach candles

                                                                                                                                                                                      put a small amount of water in a glass when you microwave your pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                        75 use a piece of paper to organize

                                                                                                                                                                                          use half a pool noodle

                                                                                                                                                                                            pencil case to store cables

                                                                                                                                                                                              78 clothespin to hold nail

                                                                                                                                                                                                79 make blts

                                                                                                                                                                                                  80 take a picture of your fridge

                                                                                                                                                                                                    81 fill plastic water bottles

                                                                                                                                                                                                      82 right ways to eat chips

                                                                                                                                                                                                        99 if your plug keeps failing

                                                                                                                                                                                                          100 put the banana on the wire

                                                                                                                                                                                                            88 before you throw away a post it

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Source: Reddit LifeProTips

                                                                                                                                                                                                              There you go, 100 awesome life hacks that you can try right now to make your life a lot easier!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              30 Brilliant Camping Hacks I Wish I Knew Earlier

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