Altered Body Perception in Stroke Survivors with Chronic Pain

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In our study of over five hundred stroke survivors, we found that people with chronic pain following stroke were almost three times more likely to perceive their hand to now being a different size, compared to those without chronic pain. Further, if the “painful” body part was the hand, they were twice as likely to feel that their hand was a different size compared to those who had pain that didn’t include their hand.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Building on the knowledge that stroke survivors usually develop pain in the weeks to months following their stroke (rather than straight away), this finding of altered body perception in stroke survivors with chronic pain provides further insight into potential adaptive changes that may take place following stroke, which result in the individual having a poorer knowledge of their own bodies, and contribute further to difficulty in moving and using their painful body part, while also increasing feelings of vulnerability. However, this finding of adaptive changes also provides exciting opportunities for the development of new therapies targeting people with stroke who experience chronic pain perceive and feel about their bodies, and driving new adaptive changes towards a healthier, more robust self, that is capable and ready to engage in new activities and regain function.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: This study demonstrates the need for further research that explores not only the potential mechanism for how these changes occur, but, more importantly, clinical research investigating treatments that target the body representation and image of individuals with stroke. Exciting option that can be further explored can include the use of sensory retraining (retraining the individual how to feel things following their stroke) and imagery strategies that may include visualisation and visual illusion.

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: This study provides support for the notion that chronic pain following stroke does not need to be considered as a fixed, permanent state. Evidence of adaptive processes provides opportunities for meaningful therapies that have the potential to change this once considered incurable pain state.

Citation:

If you’d like to read the full paper, it can be found here at https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/12/10/1331

Haslam BS, Butler DS, Moseley GL, Kim AS, Carey LM. “My Hand Is Different”: Altered Body Perception in Stroke Survivors with Chronic Pain. Brain Sciences. 2022; 12(10):1331. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12101331

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