Pain & Memory Loss

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Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9250
   Posted 10/12/2011 1:05 AM (GMT -6)   

While I was off on vacation I did some reading on why those of us who live with chronic pain and/or fibromyalgia have short term memory loss. Often I can't remember something for even 2 seconds and it makes me crazy! smhair wink I wanted to know what is going on that causes it and did find some explanation...not that I can do anything about it but here goes.

Here is a snip-it from Northwestern University's research via

"What Causes Fibromyalgia Memory Loss?
Once fibromyalgia memory loss was determined to be genuine, this left a lot of questions as to why fibromyalgia sufferers experienced these symptoms.

Chronic Pain:
A study performed at Northwestern University found a link between chronic pain and memory loss. Imaging studies performed on chronic pain patients showed a 25% increase in pre-frontal cortex activity, when compared to healthy controls. The pre-frontal cortex is also responsible for helping your brain retain new information and short-term details. However, when pain symptoms were reduced in these patients, activity in the pre-frontal cortex decreased, and memory actually improved. This supports the theory that pain may have a significant role to play in fibromyalgia memory loss.

Sleep and Memory:
There also appears to be a link between sleep habits and memory and cognition. Studies have shown that people are able to remember information better if they have a period of restful sleep in between study and recall. This effect has been termed the "sleep effect." Because fibromyalgia patients often suffer from disturbed sleep patterns, the sleep effect on memory may be greatly reduced in fibromyalgia sufferers. In particular, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, may significantly reduce your ability to retain and recall new information.

Here's the link for this particular information...

So basically what is going on is that the prefrontal cortex of our brains is where short-term memory happens. Also, in this same area, is where chronic pain activity goes on. When we are in pain the prefrontal cortex activity increases about 25%. So now we have 25% less 'brain power' to process and remember new information. It's no wonder we don't remember things like we used to. Also there is an issue with sleep as mentioned in the second paragraph. Sleep helps us retain items we have newly learned. Since many of us have sleep problems it makes sense that our memory will suffer.

So, how do we overcome these? I have no idea but I'm going to keep reading the most recent research to find out. It sounds to me like reducing pain and getting better/more sleep will help also. The words sound easy, doing it certainly isn't.

Hope this helps...
Chutz smilewinkgrin
Moderator on the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain forums
Fibromyalgia, Insulin Dependent Diabetes. Ulcerative Colitis, Rare form of Dermatitis, Collapsed Disk, Osteoarthritis in Neck/Hands/and slowly meandering around other places....and other maladies as discovered.
It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Walt Disney

White Beard
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Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 3702
   Posted 10/12/2011 2:29 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you so much, I have also been noticing the memory problem,"where did I leave my cain, or my coffee cup? and a host of other things! It is unnerving to say the least! At least knowing about the cause is somewhat comforting. Anyway thanks for doing the research and sharing it with us!  You are still my hero you know! smile
nice to see you back posting too!
White Beard
Moderator Chronic Pain
After spending nearly 22 1/2 years in the USAF, I retired in Sept, 1991. I then went back to school and became a licensed RN in 1994, and I worked on Oncology and then a Med Surg Unit, I became disabled in late 1999 and was approved SSD in early 2002!-- DDD, With herniated Disk at T-12 and L4-5. C5-C6 ACDF in Sep 2009, C6-C7 ACDF in Mar 1985, Osteoarthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Complex Sleep Apnea, and host of other things to spice up my life!(NOT!) Medications:Oxycontin, Percocet, Baclofen, Sulfasalazine, Metoprolol, Folic Acid, Supplemental O2 at 3lpm with VPAP Adapt SV I am White Beard with a White Beard!

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Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 1276
   Posted 10/12/2011 5:10 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you so much for this Chutz. I am continually frustrated by this as CRPS sufferers often have the same 'Brain Fog' problem that plagues Fibro sufferers. I'm not sure whether it is comforting or not, as I do know for sure some of my cognitive difficulties are also medication related.

CRPS since 1999, diagnosed in 2005 and since spread to full body, spasms, dystonia & contractures, gastroparesis, orthostatic hypotension,bradycardia/tachycardia, bone spurs, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis, osteopenia.

On Oxycontin/Endone, Topamax, Mobic, Magnesium, Florinef, Midodrine, Somac, Cipramil. Have SCS, intrathecal pump with baclofen & bupivacaine and doing physio

Monty's Mom
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Date Joined Aug 2010
Total Posts : 664
   Posted 10/12/2011 7:51 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you for sharing this Chutz. I am in the same boat as Whitebeard, always looking for something I have lost, forgetting things that I just wrote down or repeating something I just said. It is not an easy thing to get used to. I will share this with some friends who don't always understand.

Thank you and good to see you back!
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. George Bernard Shaw
Pelvic adhesive disease, IBS, SI pain, arthritis, kidney stones, depression, 10 pelvic surgeries for pain, ovarian cysts, adhesions, endometriosis, adenomyosis, and possible ovarian remnant syndrome. Unexpectedly growing ovary #3 on right side.

Screaming Eagle
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Date Joined Sep 2009
Total Posts : 5005
   Posted 10/12/2011 8:11 AM (GMT -6)   


         Yipeee! Chutzy is back! ......A very "BIG WELCOME BACK" to you! smilewinkgrin  

      I hope you two had fun and got some relaxing rest! Thanks for the research study as well. Several of the members who suffer from the Fibro will appreciate it.

          You did take photos right? wink

       Again welcome back!

         SE wink

Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Weekly Quote!

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together"

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9250
   Posted 10/12/2011 11:14 AM (GMT -6)   
Take photos??? I usually top out around 3K when we travel a longer distance so this time my numbers are down closer to 1000. But out of that if I get 10 that are wonderful I'll consider it a success. Still have to sift through most of them and find those worth sharing. Still learning to use the newest camera and the learning curve is like climbing Mt. Everest!

Hugs back...
Moderator on the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain forums
Fibromyalgia, Insulin Dependent Diabetes. Ulcerative Colitis, Rare form of Dermatitis, Collapsed Disk, Osteoarthritis in Neck/Hands/and slowly meandering around other places....and other maladies as discovered.
It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
Walt Disney

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2010
Total Posts : 2265
   Posted 10/12/2011 5:43 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Chutz It's good to see you back. I don't have fibro but I have the memory problems as well. I guess a lot of us chronic pain peeps have this problem. Thank you so much for sharing your research with us.

I hope you and hubby had a good restful time away. I look forward to seeing some of your pics as well. Take care. I hope you're having a low pain evening.

love and hugs
Dx: osteoarthritis, bursitis in left hip, Osteoarthrits in right hip, compression fracture in thoracic spine due to falling on frozen ground March 2001 , ddd, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, osteoarthritis in spine, osteoarthritis in both knees
Meds: Fentanyl patch, oxycodone, otc: BenGay, Tylenol Arthritis on occasion

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 413
   Posted 10/13/2011 1:36 AM (GMT -6)   
I noticed this years ago as my illnesses and pain progressed. I've dubbed them "brain farts" and have told my coworkers why this happens. I've noticed my memory is worse now that I have been refused pain medication and I suffer every day at work. I've often forget the names of coworkers I've worked with for over a decade when I'm having a discussion and have to state the persons name I'm talking about; it's become kind humorous to my peers but honestly it frightens me sometimes. Thank for bringing it up.
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