If you have chronic pain — get moving. Untreated aches linked to aging brains.

Your joints may be achy and your back may be sore, but if you have chronic pain of any type, do something about it.

New research from the University of Florida Institute on Aging finds chronic pain — left untreated — can cause the brain to show signs of aging, In some individuals, brain aging has led to decreased mobility, Alzheimer’s and even an earlier death.

In a two-year study, UF researchers looked at the the brains of 47 older adults 60 to 83 and found “the greater the pain intensity they were experiencing, the older looking their brain.”

Individuals without chronic pain had on average a brain that looked four years younger than their actual age. To gauge brain age, Yenisel Cruz-Almeida, a UF Institute on Aging faculty member and the study’s lead author, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that measured gray and white matter in the brain.

The UF study included only older adults considered mentally and physically healthy — not those with major illnesses who might experience pain. To build on the correlation between pain and brain aging, Cruz-Almeida is launching a broader study this fall with a larger population, digging deeper into how brain aging can affect mobility and critical thinking.

“Strategies and treatments may work better to prevent brain aging when we know earlier someone is going down a trajectory that might have a higher risk,” she said.