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Chronic Back Pain Can Cause Shrinkage in Brain

Pain and Your Brain

Here's another reason to protect your spine by keeping your core strong: Chronic back pain shrinks your brain. Yikes! A recent study by Northwestern University found that chronic back pain radically speeds up the aging process of the brain. The study found that about 1.3 cubic centimeters (or about a teaspoon for the more kitchen-inclined, myself included) of gray matter is lost annually in people enduring chronic pain, aging the brain prematurely by 10 to 20 years. The atrophy occurs in brain regions that manage the stress of the pain, and this shrinkage can even delay emotional decision making.

So work your abs and your spinal muscles to support your spine. Back extensions on the ball are a great way to strengthen the muscles on either side your spine. Also, never underestimate the power of the elbow plank for strengthening your core.

It is estimated that 25 percent of Americans suffer from back pain. Are you part of the 25 percent? Tell me in the comments section below.


Join The Conversation
eninagy eninagy 9 years
I've had back pain, but not anymore - pilates helps anytime
jennjennnbubba jennjennnbubba 9 years
my brain should be mighty tiny by now... I used to work in inventory and lifted 50 lb boxes day in and day out.... I have a huge ball of fire in my lower back almost daily... I'd worried bout my poor brain now :?
StarbucksAddict9 StarbucksAddict9 9 years
I am in the 25% and I hope my brain isn't shrinking! I have already had one back surgery this year and it looks like I will be moving on to pain management. I am only 26 so I wonder how much brain matter I will lose in the end...
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I don't have any back pain, but my dad's got chronic back pain from a car wreck he had almost 20 years ago. He broke a vertebra in his back and had to have it fused with another one so it would be more stable.
kaenai kaenai 9 years
wow... so that's why I'm such an emotional wreck, huh? I've had back pain for a few years, and I was already kinda messed up, so I guess this isn't helping. I don't know why it would atrophy that part of the brain, though. If you've got pain, you'd think it would stimulate it instead. Maybe it's the cellular overactivity in the pain centers of the brain that does it... *sigh* Now I'll have to find out, because I'm a complete nerd, and I won't rest until I know. Thanks.
sweetbabylesley sweetbabylesley 9 years
Oh, yeah — I'm screwed. My SI joint is shot, has been for 10 years and won't ever get better. I'm permanently in the pain-management phase. Yoga helps, and NSAIDs, lovely, lovely NSAIDs.
Buffy Buffy 9 years
I've had chronic back pain for awhile, but recently it's gone away..wonder how much my brain shrunk during that time LOL! Glad I'm feeling better now! :)
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I'm not but this is good to know.
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
my boyfriend has back pain. He used to be a TV delivery guy for Circuit Sh*tty for a few years. Now he's a jeweler and constantly hunched over a desk. I should give him this article!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
What! Really??? That is nuts I tell you!
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
that's odd. i'm totally screwed on this one.
swt-strwbrry-sgr swt-strwbrry-sgr 9 years
thats interesting...
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