Chronic Pain and Brain Fog
Georgiy Sekretaryuk
November 23, 2020
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Chronic Pain and Brain Fog

By definition, brain fog is a temporary state of diminished mental capacity marked by an inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly. It’s not a medical condition, but a symptom of various medical conditions.

Brain fog has received a lot of press of late, given that it is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. However, it has been around a lot longer than the pandemic and will continue to hinder hundreds of thousands of Canadians every year well after the vaccine has returned life to normal. This is because brain fog is closely tied to a number of other ailments, and chronic pain is one of them. 

That’s right, in addition to putting physical limitations on your life, chronic pain can impact your cognitive functioning as well. Unsure if your chronic pain is contributing to brain fog in your day to day life? Below is a breakdown of the characteristics that you may be experiencing. In recognizing them, you may find the motivation you finally need to take corrective action and seek help from a physiotherapist today.

Common Characteristics of Brain Fog That May Come from Living With Chronic Pain

Poor Concentration

Since pain has become more persistent in your life do you find yourself having to read the same sentence in an email or article over and over again? Do you feel overwhelmed by normal everyday tasks? Do you have difficulty communicating effectively or carrying on a conversation? These are all connected to a loss of concentration, and as Spine Health reports, pain leads to difficulties with concentration. The implications on your day to day life are clear.

Loss of Focus

Many people confuse loss of focus with poor concentration but they are technically two different forms of cognitive functioning. Focus relates to the lateral extent (or range of coverage) while concentration is about depth of understanding. 

When you lose focus on a given task your ability to give it adequate attention is compromised, which can have a direct impact on your performance at work, school, or other important activity. Chronic pain gets in the way of a person’s ability to focus on a task because of the simple fact that they are focused on the pain they are experiencing. It becomes a constant distraction.

Difficulty Processing Information

In the context of cognitive psychology, information processing refers to how efficient an individual is as a processor of information. It’s analogous to how a computer takes in information and follows a program to produce an output. The stages involved include attending, encoding, storing ,and retrieving information. Studies have found that chronic pain is associated with deficits in information processing. When your ability to process information is compromised, your ability to understand newly introduced concepts and instructions is negatively impacted, all of which may reverberate into your social, educational, and professional life.

Memory Impairment

If you’re living with chronic pain your inability to concentrate, focus, and process information (everything above) can have a direct impact on short term memory. But it seems that long term memory may also fall victim to chronic pain. A study conducted by the University of Alberta found that chronic pain interferes with the memory trace needed to hold information for processing and long-term storage

If you needed another reason to rid your life of chronic pain you now have it. It’s one thing to live with perpetually sore shoulders, neck, or back, but a whole other when you ability to think straight is compromised. If you live in the Greater Vancouver area schedule a consultation at our Burnaby physiotherapy clinic today.