Widespread pain is linked to an increased risk of dementia and stroke.
If you have pain everywhere (widespread pain) in a lot of places in your body, like neck pain and back pain and knee pain, you may be at an increase risk of getting dementia (43%) and Alzheimer’s disease (47%). You may also be at an increased risk of stroke (29%). These risks are regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic factors, health status and other lifestyle differences. These are the findings of a study on 2464 people tracked across ten years.
How does widespread pain lead to dementia and stroke?
How exactly pain leads to increased risks of dementia and stroke is not fully understood. Possible reasons include:
- Pain especially when severe competes for cognitive resources, similar to the way a program that is running on the computer causes slowing of other program. A person overloaded with pain signals functions less adroitly than someone without pain.
- Widespread pain may be a type of early dementia. Indeed, chronic pain has been show to reduce the size of the brain by decreasing white and gray matter. This increases risks of depression, anxiety, and loss of cognition.
- Abnormal changes to the blood vessels that supply the brain likely lead to a concurrent increase in stroke, dementia and pain.
How to prevent?
Eat healthily and drink in moderation. Exercise and have adequate rest and sleep. Treat pain when it arises with a mixture of rest, physiotherapy, medications. If pain fails to be resolved, consider non surgical pain injections as well as surgery. While it may be character building to be stoic with regards to chronic pain, the body oftentimes amplifies the pain signal further if we do not react to it. This leads to a vicious cycle of increasing pain affecting activity, worsening mood, and poor quality sleep.