With chronic pain affecting more than 100 million people in the United States, researchers are always actively involved in looking for ways to manage and treat this debilitating condition. However, it seems that there’s lots more than can be done in regards to research. At a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) event, ‘Tangled up in Blue: The Complexity of Chronic Pain’, a panel of experts suggested that, in order to have the knowledge to treat chronic pain effectively, a broad culture shift in both medical care and research is required, with the current level of attention given to find a treatment being deemed as woefully inadequate.
How is chronic pain defined?
Chronic pain is often defined as any pain which lasts for more than a 12 week period, but it can often last for months or even longer. Sufferers of chronic pain are also at greater risk of depression, anxiety, addiction to opioid substances and suicide.
Just nine hours of formal education on chronic pain
Although chronic pain affects many people, the average number of hours spent in US medical schools on formal education about chronic pain and its effects equates to just nine hours. This surprising statistic was delivered by David Thomas, deputy director of the Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the main speakers at the event, which was the first of the ‘Neuroscience and Society’ series of talks organized by AAAS, together with the Dana Foundation.
Lack of effective treatments for chronic pain
The speakers, which included representatives from the University of New England, Boston Children’s Hospital and the U.S. Pain Foundation, discussed and summarized the results of several basic research projects and clinical trials which clearly show that chronic pain is not just real, but that it can result in long-lasting effects on the nervous system. However, despite current research, there has been no conclusive steps forward to identify ways to effectively treat those people who suffer from chronic pain