Living with Chronic Pain

Brain Fog and Chronic Pain


What is brain fog?

Chronic pain often causes mental and cognitive symptoms, such as short-term memory loss, difficulty processing information, confusion, and trouble focusing. These symptoms are commonly known in the pain community as “brain fog.” Work, school, and other daily tasks can be challenging when dealing with brain fog.


Possible symptoms of brain fog include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Confusion
  • Disorganization
  • Memory loss or other memory issues
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Inability to focus
  • Problems multi-tasking
  • Increased time required to complete tasks
  • Mental fatigue
  • Loss of motivation


A variety of issues can cause or contribute to brain fog. Possible causes include the following:


Side effects of certain prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause brain fog. If this occurs, consulting a physician or pharmacist is important. A lowered dosage or change in prescription may help.

Lack of sleep

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended. Chronic pain can interrupt sleep patterns, and lack of proper sleep can cause brain fog.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the central nervous system. The pathways of communication between the brain and body are often altered by MS. An estimated 50% of those with MS also have memory, focus, and language issues.


Lupus causes the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue, which can lead to brain fog. An estimated 50% of those with a lupus diagnosis report memory issues and confusion.

Cancer treatment

Chemotherapy drugs can cause brain fog or “chemo brain.” Confusion and memory loss can occur during or after treatment.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

No known cure exists for chronic fatigue syndrome, and it can leave the body and mind in an exhaustive state. Confusion, forgetfulness and the inability to focus may develop.


Mental exhaustion is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. An estimated 80% of those with fibromyalgia experience brain fog (“fibro fog”).


Various other medical conditions can cause brain fog, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • Sjögren's syndrome
  • Stress
  • Food allergies
  • Pregnancy
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Hormone issues (menopause, thyroid disorders, etc.)
  • Depression or anxiety
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