Is PAIN masking cognitive decline?

A lot of people take musculoskeletal pain as a given. (This is pain felt in your bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, or tendons.)

The excuses range from, “I am just getting older” to “well, I did exercise a lot”—and everything in between.

Many just pop an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and move on with their day.

While that may temporarily ease some discomfort, remember there’s no such thing as a “free ride.” And this type on ongoing pain could actually be your body’s way of alerting you to a MUCH bigger problem…

Pain and your brain

According to new research, the consequences of chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) may extend well beyond physical discomfort…

Potentially impacting your brain.

To observe the potential link, researchers used structural MRI data to analyze brain changes in over 9,000 adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA)— the most common musculoskeletal condition. Data was pulled from the U.K. Biobank.

And get this… those with knee OA showed a faster rate of brain aging, compared to healthy peers.

More specifically, the accelerated aging took place in the parts of the brain that handle cognitive processing, which often leads to memory decline and a dementia risk.

It seems a particular gene that’s expressed in microglial cells and astrocytes may be a genetic component to the pain-brain connection. (You can test for this gene.)

But moving beyond genes, it could really boil down to inflammation.

In fact, CMP impacts more than 40 percent of the global population. And prior research shows that inflammatory markers are higher in these patients… just as cognitive aging can be attributed to higher levels of inflammation.

Important inflammatory markers

Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes CMP.

The four most common types are chronic knee pain (like knee OA), chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, and chronic hip pain.

Do you (or a loved one) suffer from any of those?

If so, not only could it be a telltale sign of inflammation, but also, potentially, cognitive decline.

Now, one of the things I’m known for is doing amazing blood testing panels with my patients. I check for many things in various ways to better ensure nothing sneaks under the radar. And I really focus on inflammatory markers.

In fact, I test for at least three different markers—and I encourage you to have your primary physician do the same:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Fibrinogen

After all, taming chronic inflammation is key to a long, healthy life—one you will remember.

For additional insight about how to fight the stealth culprit behind pain, cognitive aging, and more, check out my Essential Guide to Combating Inflammation. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool, click here now!

Until next time,

Dr. Fred


“Chronic pain, knee osteoarthritis linked to more rapid brain aging, dementia risk.” Medical News Today, 04/04/2024. (