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There may be unique neural signatures that make people with PTSD more prone to chronic pain.
Nearly 50 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, according to a 2018 report released by the CDC. For some, there’s a clear reason for their pain, whether it be ongoing diseases like arthritis or disorders like fibromyalgia. But for others, there are no physical roots—their chronic pain is caused by trauma.
For years, scientists and clinicians have noticed that chronic pain and psychological trauma tend to go hand-in-hand. It’s never been clear why—pain is a subjective experience that differs from one person to another, making it hard to identify exact mechanisms in the brain. But now, scientists may have an answer.
In a new study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research, researchers in California have discovered three different types of brain patterns that may explain why some people are more prone or less prone to chronic pain that’s associated with trauma. These findings, based on new MRI studies of military veterans, push back against one-size-fits-all approaches to treatment, and instead pave the way for more tailored treatments specific to individual patients.