To better understand the disparity between identifiable damage and chronic pain, the National Institutes of Health has awarded $7.5 million over five years to physician-scientists at the University of Michigan Fibromyalgia Center of Research Translation.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, an estimated 100 million Americans struggle with chronic pain, yet many individuals fail to respond to commonly used therapies, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, injections and surgery.
“We want to increase understanding of how peripheral damage or inflammation and central nervous system factors interact to cause acute and chronic pain,” says co-principal investigator Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology, psychiatry and rheumatology, and director of U-M’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center.
U-M investigators have been accumulating evidence suggesting these treatments may fail in part because they target underlying damage or inflammation in the region of the body that hurts, discounting the involvement of the central nervous system.
For those with fibromyalgia, Clauw says, it’s like the brain turns up the volume control on pain processing. That higher volume is often the underlying problem, more than damage or inflammation in the region of the body that hurts.
The team will investigate whether, like fibromyalgia, a portion of the patients with other chronic pain conditions would also respond better to drug and non-drug therapies aimed at the brain than to the standard anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, injections and surgery.
“We hope to demonstrate similarities in neuroimaging among those who suffer from high levels of chronic pain, including signs of centralized pain,” says Chad Brummett, MD , co-principal investigator, associate professor of anesthesiology and pain management, and director of the Department of Anesthesiology’s Division of Pain Research.