Baby Boomers Beware – Chronic Pain Can Cause Memory Loss!

By on June 1, 2012

By Kathi Casey, ERYT, CPI –

June is national Perennial Garden Month and national Fruits and Veggies Month. Cool. I didn’t know that until today. I love my gardens, but I know it’s a lot of back breaking work. Many of the Boomers that I know suffer from chronic back, neck or shoulder pain all summer, from spending theirs days working in their yards and gardens. That’s not good for our bodies, spirits or brains.

Did you know that chronic pain can shrink your brain’s grey matter? Grey matter is in charge of memory and information processing. In normal aging, the brain loses about 0.5 percent of gray matter a year, however, when chronic pain is involved, as much as 11 percent is lost in a year!1 Yikes! Some scientists believe this large decrease in grey matter may be due to the fact that chronic pain forces nerve cells to work overtime.

In testing done by Drs. Bruce D. Dick and Saifudin Rashiq at the Multidisciplinary Pain Centre at the University of Alberta, Canada, two-thirds of participants who suffered chronic pain had a difficult time paying attention and remembering simple facts. Participants in the study were given computerized memory tests, along with a neuropsychological test of attention, on what were identified as “pain” days and “less pain” days.

Scientists compared 26 healthy participants with 26 patients who had been suffering with chronic pain for more than a year. Those with chronic pain had the largest decrease in gray matter. The researchers also discovered that those who had suffered with the chronic pain the longest, also sustained more grey matter loss. Sixty Seven per cent of the participants showed signs of cognitive impairment on their “pain” testing day. Although the sample of participants was small, the findings were statistically significant, according to Dick and Rashiq .2

In another study, researchers from Northwestern University found that chronic pain, which is defined as pain lasting six months or longer, caused significant and long-lasting damage to the brain, aging it up to 20 times faster than normal. In this study, the researchers measured grey matter density in three locations in the brain and compared healthy participants to those with chronic pain. They discovered that the chronic pain sufferer’s yearly grey matter loss was equivalent to 10-20 years of normal aging.1 These are not good odds if you are a chronic pain sufferer!

This makes it even more important that we find the reason for our chronic back, neck and shoulder, hip, or knee pain and resolve it right away! The best way to discover the source of the pain, and to find solutions to keep it from coming back, is to have a personal plan designed for you by a coach or therapist who examines your walk, looks at your office set-up, assesses how much stress you have in your life, and looks at your physical activities like biking, running, etc. In the meantime, if you’ve been out in the garden all day, here are two of my best recommendations for relieving today’s pain.

  • Relax those muscles right now! Here’s how. Sit on the floor next to your couch or a chair. Then, lie down on your back, placing your buttocks right against the couch or chair so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are resting comfortably on the furniture. Now breathe… Continue breathing deeply for about five minutes. In this position, your back is in a completely neutral position. The natural curve in your lower spine is intact and can rest, and all of the muscles in your back join in for some much needed R&R. Ahhhh… a lovely vacation for your back!
  • Take fish oil supplements. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 90 percent of back problems are caused by inflammation. Fish oil is your best anti-inflammatory soldiers! As long as you are not on Cumadin or another blood thinner, you can take 2400 mg in the morning and again in the evening. Make sure you talk with your doctor first as other medications may react with fish oil.

1. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/24/46/10410.full

2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070517142536.htm

3. http://www.anesthesia-analgesia.org/content/104/5/1223.full

 

Kathi Casey, “The Healthy Boomer Body Expert” is a renowned health and wellness coach, popular Baby Boomer columnist, Amazon bestselling author, has appeared on Fox 23, ABC-8 Evening News, and produces her own TV show, “To Your Health.” She’s the founder of The Healthy Boomer Body Center in Massachusetts. Her book “STOP Back Pain” is an Amazon international best seller. Her blog ranked #10 in nursingschools.net list of 50 top Health Blogs. For the last 9 years, she’s been teaching people how to take charge of their own Health Care – Regardless of what Congress does! http://www.HealthyBoomerBody.com

About healthyboomer

Kathi Casey, "The Healthy Boomer Body Expert" is a renowned health and wellness coach, popular Baby Boomer columnist, Amazon bestselling author, has appeared on Fox 23, ABC-8 Evening News, and produces her own TV show, “To Your Health.” She’s the founder of The Healthy Boomer Body Center in Massachusetts. Her book “STOP Back Pain” is an Amazon international best seller. Her blog ranked #10 in nursingschools.net list of 50 top Health Blogs. For the last 9 years, she’s been teaching people how to take charge of their own Health Care – Regardless of what Congress does! http://www.HealthyBoomerBody.com

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Baby Boomers Beware – Chronic Pain Can Cause Memory Loss!