Chronic back pain wears people out, and it may also actually cause their brains to shrink. Dr. A. Vania Apkarian found that the brains of people with chronic pain may experience changes in their gray matter, the part of the brain associated with thinking, and says this means “the urgency to cure chronic pain becomes more important.”

When Apkarian compared the gray matter of 10 people with chronic back pain to the brains of 20 people who were pain-free, he found that the people with back pain had less gray matter. In another study, he found that people with chronic pain have “a very specific” type of decline in their ability to make emotional decisions.
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