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International Association for the Study of Pain’s Clinical Updates surveyed research articles on how chronic pain impairs cognitive abilities. They found the majority of the articles centered on five major themes:

  1. Memory of duration and maintenance of pain and how it impacts areas such as learning, beliefs, and attitudes.
  2. Cognitive based therapies for pain.
  3. Impact of pain treatments such as opioid’s or deep brain stimulation on thinking ability.
  4. Difficulty of accessing pain in the elderly or dementia patients.
  5. Effects of pain on thinking.

Several authors emphasized 2 key reasons to explain the of effects of chronic pain on thinking:

  1. Increased anxiety and increased impact of pain compromises quality of a patients life.
  2. Chronic pain could make it difficult for already mentally impaired patients to explain their pain symptoms.

The problem of impaired cognition in patients with chronic pain skews research on pain and neuropsychological functions. What is at issue is how accurate these studies can be when chronic pain cognitive impairment is factored into the study.

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