Chronic pain may cause memory loss in older people, says study - Sovereign Health Group
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06-15-17 Category: Chronic Pain

People with chronic pain not only have a regular dust-up with enduring the agony but also have other things to worry about as an offshoot. It is usual for individuals with long-term pain to experience psychological problems like anxiety and depression as compared to the general community. Chronic pain tends to strain the brain, which, in turn, leads to the development of cognitive issues like low mood, poor memory or difficulty in concentration.

Now, a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on June 5, 2017, suggests that chronic pain in older people may trigger changes in the brain that contribute to memory problems. Those with prolonged pain also stand to be at a bigger risk of mental decline and dementia, finds the study. Though it did not strive to establish a cause-and-effect relationship, it did show some association between pain and memory problems.

The researchers studied more than 10,000 people who were 60 years or over. According to the findings, participants who had moderate or chronic pain in both 1998 and 2000 reported more than 9 percent decline on memory tests as compared to those without any pain over the next 10 years. The researchers noticed that a decline in their memory power somewhat altered the way they managed their finances or kept a track of their medications. The study also found that people with chronic pain had higher chances of developing dementia later on.

“Elderly people need to maintain their cognition to stay independent. Up to one in three older people suffers from chronic pain, so understanding the relationship between pain and cognitive decline is an important first step toward finding ways to help this population,” said study’s first author Dr. Elizabeth Whitlock, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of anesthesia and perioperative care at UCSF.

Chronic pain, mental illness and substance abuse

There were several evidence-based studies in the past, which associated chronic pain with mental disorders and substance abuse, albeit with scant information about the cause-and-effect relationship among them. In the United States, pain is one of the most common complaints primary care physicians receive from their patients. The disease is ubiquitous as it affects nearly 100 million people in the country, suggests data from the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). Over 20 percent of all medical visits are related to pain and 10 percent drug sales are for relieving pain. In the U.S., any direct or indirect costs of chronic pain hover between $150 billion and $260 billion annually.

Those individuals who suffer from chronic pain often complain that it comes in their way while engaging in professional, social, romantic or leisure activities. This is always constant and proves to be a biopsychosocial model of illness. Persistent pain can be so nagging that it can have a substantial impact on one’s thinking and one’s perception about oneself or the world one lives in. Alternately, an individual’s mood, personality traits and social environment can influence his or her overall experience of pain.

When chronic pain is ill managed or not intervened adequately, it invariably leads to loss of sleep, high-stress levels, strained relationships, workplace issues and psychological upheavals. It is important to break this despicable cycle and introduce effective treatment intervention to improve pain management and psychological health.

Managing pain with opioids may lead to dependence

Many people try to pop opioid painkillers to assuage their chronic pain. However, instead of lessening the pain, they develop tolerance followed by dependence. This is the onset of a vicious cycle of addiction, which only exacerbates over time. The prescription opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. today, as the blitzkrieg continues to plunder the whole nation. Indiscriminate abuse of opioids has led to overdose deaths, emergency room visits and flooding of treatment rehabs by patients.

Hence, pain management has evolved as a specialized discipline over the years to counter its debilitating effects. It is a complex treatment procedure, which demands expertise from caregivers. Psychiatrists who receive specific pain management training are qualified to treat patients who suffer from chronic pain. Only such comprehensive treatment programs can help relieve chronic pain.

Road to recovery

An individual while trying to manage pain by self-medicating may get addicted to opioids and at the same time may develop psychological disorders. Apparently, he or she becomes a dual diagnosis patient. Whether it is chronic pain due to which one swerves towards opioids and becomes an addict, also developing psychological disorders as an aftermath or it is an underlying mental condition that leads to substance abuse wherein treatment intervention remains the only solution.

With a range of cognitive programs, alternative therapies and mutual accountability, Sovereign Health offers a complete solution for pain management, serving patients in its numerous state-of-the-art facilities in a 24/7 monitored environment. Manned by seasoned professionals who are the best in their domain, our patients always receive individual care and get relief from their chronic pain.

With its top dual diagnosis residential treatment, Sovereign Health of California is among the crème de la crème of the treatment rehabs in the U.S. If a loved one in your family is grappling with any mental condition and a substance abuse problem, call our 24/7 helpline number for any dual diagnosis information. Our experts will apprise you about all the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment.

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