Menopause can seem like a pain. However, for some women, that feeling is literal, instead of figurative.
Researchers have found that the changing hormonal levels that happen during menopause may result in women experiencing more pain or they may develop chronic pain conditions during this time. This pain can be self-perpetuating and may actually evolve so it’s no longer linked to the precipitating illness or injury. Let’s learn more.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain encompasses several conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, TMJ and fibromyalgia. The causes of each condition vary as well as their treatments. Chronic pain lasts longer than six months and can include headaches, joint pain, backaches and pain from an injury.
Difference in the Brain
People who suffer from chronic pain have different brain images than those who are pain-free. In fact, researchers have found that people with chronic pain who have hurt for at least one year have less gray matter, which is responsible for emotion, language, thought and memory. Furthermore, this study found that the longer the person had been in pain, the less gray matter the person had. The researchers’ calculations suggest that the brain of a person with chronic pain shrinks between 5-11 percent each year. This is equivalent to what a person without pain would lose in 1-2 decades through normal aging.
This TEDTalk by Dr. Elliot Krane provides a good overview of chronic pain:
Treatment and Resources
While Dr. Krane notes that drugs are increasingly coming on to the market to help with chronic pain, an article in More Magazine suggests using cognitive behavioral therapy to help reframe perceptions in order to prevent chronic pain. Some experts believe this approach can help reduce or stop chronic pain and may even prevent it from starting.
If you are experiencing chronic pain or want to know more, HealthCentral offers a very informative site with lots of resources. I’d encourage you to check it out_Other Shareposts You Might Like:_
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Apkarian, A. V., et al. (2004). Chronic Back Pain Is Associated with Decreased Prefrontal and Thalamic Gray Matter Density. The Journal of Neuroscience.
Meriggiola, M.C., et al. (2012). Menopause Affects Pain Depending on Pain Type and Characteristics. Menopause.
Simon, N. (2015). When the Pain Just Won’t Stop. More Magazine.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.