Chronic Lower Back Pain Linked to Atrophy in Pain-Related Brain Regions

A recent study published in the journal PAIN suggests there is an association between chronic lower back pain (CLBP) and regional brain atrophy in older adults.

Previous research has reported that CLBP is associated with alterations in the central nervous system. The new study aimed to investigate the association between CLBP and regional brain atrophy in an older Japanese population.

For the study, researchers analyzed brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from 1,106 participants aged 65 years or older, 17.1 percent of which reported having CLBP, defined as low back pain present for three months or longer. Study participants were then divided into three groups according to the presence or absence of chronic pain and the body part that mainly suffered from pain.

In examining the MRI scans, researchers found the presence of CLBP was linked to reduced brain volume (atrophy) in four of the 10 areas—the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and amygdala—compared to participants with no chronic pain. Further, there were no significant differences in the brain volumes of pain-related regions between participants with no chronic pain and participants with chronic pain in areas other than the lower back.  

Read the abstract online at https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002612.

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