How neuroimaging studies have challenged us to rethink: is chronic pain a disease?

J Pain. 2009 Nov;10(11):1113-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.09.001.


In this review, we present data from functional, structural, and molecular imaging studies in patients and animals supporting the notion that it might be time to reconsider chronic pain as a disease. Across a range of chronic pain conditions, similar observations have been made regarding changes in structure and function within the brains of patients. We discuss these observations within the framework of the current definition of a disease.

Perspective: Neuroimaging studies have made a significant scientific impact in the study of pain. Knowledge of nociceptive processing in the noninjured and injured central nervous system has grown considerably over the past 2 decades. This review examines the information from these functional, structural, and molecular studies within the framework of a disease state.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease / classification
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Pain / classification*
  • Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Radionuclide Imaging