A signal in the brain can predict who will continue to suffer back pain more than a year after an initial injury. This early warning sign could reveal new ways to reverse or prevent pain that lingers long after an injury heals, scientists report online July 1 in Nature Neuroscience.
“We’re very excited about these results,” says study coauthor A. Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “We think they open up a whole new way of looking at chronic pain.”
The study included 39 people with newish back pain, about half of whom still suffered a full year later. These people’s pain had turned chronic, morphing from the pain associated with the original problem to something more devastating. At the start, pain intensity was similar in people with chronic pain and in those who recovered.
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