Do you have a tendency to be more forgetful or fuzzy-headed when you are in pain? Do you have a difficult time concentrating in these moments? If you are like many others experiencing chronic pain, you might also have various signs of something called brain fog. When someone experiences brain fog, it is more commonly known as cognitive dysfunction. However, if you are going through this, you are not the only one.
Are you unsure if you are experiencing chronic pain? Read this article to help you determine. Acute vs. Chronic Pain
What is Brain Fog (Cognitive Function)?
What does the term “cognitive function” mean? Cognitive function refers to several different activities, including problem-solving, decision making, learning, memory, and paying attention. Over the past ten years, we have learned that those who experience chronic pain had a severe performance disadvantage to these activities. Indeed, it also appears that the more body parts that are affected, the more intense the pain.
Usually, the most well-known example of this would be known as “fibro fog,” which is a term that is all-too-common for those dealing with fibromyalgia. Furthermore, daily cognitive difficulties are also common, such as:
- Poor concentration
- Trouble finding words
- General forgetfulness
- Trouble following a conversation
If experiencing mental cloudiness wasn’t bad enough, it usually shows up in tandem with symptoms, such as:
- Back pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Diabetic neuropathy
Brain fog and Chronic Pain
There has been a lot of research regarding those who deal with chronic pain. One of the key findings is that the pain will interfere with cognitive functions. Many individuals with chronic pain will have memory difficulties. Furthermore, chronic pain sufferers may also encounter recall difficulties. This means they have trouble recalling words, information, objects, or places. However, if your pain is wide-spread, a large memory deficit is ordinary. Concentration, staying on task, and organizing our thoughts can be difficult for one too. Plus, pain can definitely impact our ability to be adaptive to change if needed.
Of course, there are other factors related to pain. This would include anxiety, depression, and insomnia. And all of these issues can negatively affect cognitive performance and mental sharpness.
Researchers are still trying to fully understand all of the causes of brain fog. Of course, there are several possible explanations. One of these would be that the brain becomes over-activated and over-stressed when it is experiencing pain. In fact, the brain needs time to rest, and it cannot do that with constant pain. Therefore, the brain will not effectively do its job of storing information or other normal functions. And this very similar to having a conversation with someone in a crowded, noisy room. The pain might create a lot of brain noise where the brain cannot function.
Can We Do Something About Brain Fog and Chronic Pain?
Well, if you clear some of that extra unwanted background noise, it can go a long way. Clearing out your brain fog is only going to help you in the long run. One proven way to do this would be through meditation. A good practice would be doing such activities as mindfulness meditation. This practice will both boost your focus and calm your nervous system. In fact, it will not only quiet the nervous system but also improve your cognitive performance. You also can dampen some of this background interference with simple distraction. And these distraction activities include journaling, listening to music, coloring, or drawing. There has been a lot published on the way exercise can impact brain performance. As a matter of fact, exercise will help boost proteins in the brain that increase mental functioning!
Go ahead and try out some of these tools. However, you also should try making lists and taking notes. This will help you be prepared for forgetfulness or cloudiness. Keep a notepad that has critical information. Carrying a list of your medications with you while running errands or going on doctor visits could really help you. Experts continue to research improved brain function, so we will hopefully get more advanced treatments soon.