Chronic pain can develop from numerous conditions and is one of the most widespread and disabling health problems today. Unfortunately, the pathophysiology of chronic pain in most of these conditions, along with consistently effective treatments, remain elusive. However, recent advances in neuroimaging and neurophysiology are rapidly expanding our understanding of these pain syndromes. It is now clear that substantial functional and structural changes, or plasticity, in the central nervous system (CNS) are associated with many chronic pain syndromes. A group of cortical and subcortical brain regions, often referred to as the "pain matrix," often show abnormalities on functional imaging studies in persons with chronic pain, even with different pain locations and etiologies. Changes in the motor and sensory homunculus also are seen. Some of these CNS changes return to a normal state with resolution of the pain. It is hoped that this knowledge will lead to more effective treatments or even new preventative measures. The purpose of this article is to review recent advances in the understanding of the CNS changes associated with chronic pain in a number of clinical entities encountered in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. These clinical entities include nonspecific low back pain, fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, postamputation phantom pain, and chronic pain after spinal cord injury.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Clinical Neurology