At LifeWorks Integrative Health, we are committed to providing the top solutions for pain management in Shawnee and Overland Park. Chiropractic care or physical medicine are the optimal ways to address and manage most types of pain. Specifically, chronic pain is an area where the specialized training of chiropractors, like those in our pain management clinics, can be particularly useful.

Chiropractic care began around 1895 and continues to be a crucial part of our healthcare and wellness system. The benefits of chiropractic care have been well-established for generations and the profession is thriving. Although there are many interesting topics in the history of chiropractic care, our focus here is chronic pain and how chiropractic care can help with pain management.

There are 3 main areas of the connection of chiropractic care and chronic pain we will address:

  1. Why doctors of chiropractic are often better suited to assess and manage chronic pain than other disciplines

  2. How chiropractic care can improve the impairments in brain function caused by chronic pain

  3. The use of chiropractic adjustments (subluxation) in reversing gray matter loss caused by chronic pain

Chiropractic Care: The Best Solution For Chronic Pain

It is estimated 85% of people with chronic back pain do not get a diagnosis for their pain. This isn’t to say back pain isn’t real, but medical doctors often do not have a way based on their training to determine an underlying cause or way to improve pain. Their solution is medications to cover up the pain. Doctors of chiropractic care, or chiropractors at LifeWorks, are extensively trained in the musculoskeletal system through the same or more hours of doctoral education as medical doctors. In 2007 it was “reported that only 26% of fourth-year Harvard medical students had a cognitive mastery of musculoskeletal system.” There is research indicating medical doctors do not receive nearly enough training on the musculoskeletal system. This is not to disparage medical doctors, it is simply to make the point that doctors of chiropractic are the trained professional for the musculoskeletal systems.

In other words, doctors of chiropractic care are expertly trained in the area that medical doctors are not adequately trained.

Chronic Pain and the Default Mode Network

Many don’t realize chronic pain actually affects brain function which is why our goal at LifeWorks is to alleviate chronic pain as quickly as possible. How does chronic pain affect brain function? Chronic pain has been associated with depression, anxiety, sleep, decision making skills, alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and ADHD. Chronic pain will always affect other body systems as it fundamentally changes the environment around it. One example of this is the Default Mode Network (DMN) in the brain. This a variety of different connections in different areas in the brain that activate during wakeful rest (awake, but not directly involved in a task) and decreases during a task. Chronic pain results in less deactivation in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and posterior cingulate cortices.  One conclusion from this is that chronic pain can diminishes the ability to focus on tasks. We WANT deactivation of the DMN in order to fully engage in an active task. This is a functional alteration of the brain that occurs in chronic pain. The body is masterful at finding “work arounds” when systems are not balanced and functioning properly. Although these adaptations are important for survival, they can be detrimental when they repetitive over time, or chronic. So in the case of chronic pain, the alterations caused in the brain can lead to permanent damage if not corrected. This is another reason we are passionate about helping you find a pain management solution and prevent any long-term brain changes.

Chronic Pain And Brain “Shrinkage”

The normal aging process results in a decrease in gray matter in the brain. It has recently been discovered that chronic back pain sufferers showed 5-11% less gray matter than controls. Conditions of neuropathic chronic pain, where there is actual nerve damage, like in diabetic neuropathy or phantom pain following amputations there is a larger decrease in gray matter than in non-neuropathic pain such as pain in muscles, bones, ligaments or other connective tissue.  An important note in the loss of brain gray matter with chronic pain is that the losses are not the same type of neuron loss as in the aging process. Brain “shrinkage” with chronic pain are in microvascular and extracellular spaces not a decrease in neurons. This means that the changes to gray matter in the brain can be reversed when the pain is alleviated. This confirms the functional anatomy of the body changes in chronic back pain sufferers. Chiropractic care is designed to restore the alignment and balance of the anatomy in order to both relieve pain and prevent permanent damage.

Chiropractic care is an essential part of wellness for all people regardless of chronic pain or chronic disease, and LifeWorks Integrative Health has a team of experienced, dedicated practitioners ready to develop the pain management plan you need to return to a healthy lifestyle. Contact us today!


Day C., Yeh A., Franko O., Ramirez M., Krupat E. (2007) Musculoskeletal Medicine: An Assessment of the Attitudes of Medical Students at Harvard Medical School, Academic Medicine 82: 452-457

Apkarian V., Sosa Y., Sonty S., Levy R., Harden N., Parrish T., Gitelman D., (2004) Chronic Back Pain Is Associated with Decreased  Prefrontal and Thalamic Gray Matter Density, The Journal of Neuroscience, 24(46) 10410-10415