An article by Sarah C. P. Williams in Science says that having a brain scan might show which individuals among back-pain sufferers have a higher probability of having chronic back pain, and thus advance new treatments to alleviate such pain.
Now, researchers have discovered a difference in brain scans between the two groups of patients that appears early in the course of the pain. The finding could lead to not only ways of identifying patients who are the most at risk for long-term pain but to new treatments or preventions for chronic pain.
"This is the very first time we can say that if we have two subjects who have the same type of injury for the same amount of time, we can predict who will become a chronic pain patient versus who will not," says neuroscientist Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the new work.
Over the past 2 decades, Apkarian's lab has run many studies comparing the brains of patients with chronic back pain with those of healthy people, finding differences in brain anatomy or the function of certain regions. But the study designs made it hard to sort out which brain changes were consequences of the chronic pain—or the patients' painkillers or altered lifestyles—versus those that drove the pain's chronic nature.It seems that persons with chronic back pain exhibited more intense communication in two areas of the brain than those whose pain eventually subsided. If this is indeed the case, or a causal link can be established between such brain activity and chronic pain, then neuroscientists could quickly predict early on which persons are more prone to chronic back pain. That would be the first step in early detection, which might provide eventual relief.
You can read the rest of the article at [Science]