Taking a Personalized Approach to Treating Chronic Pain
It is estimated that 25 per cent of Canadians live with chronic pain. On top of the personal suffering this causes, it costs Canada $50 billion a year. But treating chronic pain is a challenge for doctors because, in most cases, complaints of persistent pain are not directly related to tissue symptoms. Instead, it is believed that chronic pain is associated with changes in the brain and influenced by psychosocial factors.
Our lack of understanding of the factors behind chronic pain is a major reason for the high rate of treatment failure: about half of patients don’t report significant pain relief with treatment. Chronic pain mismanagement can also lead to drug abuse, tolerance, addiction and overdose-related deaths.
Dr. Javeria Hashmi, Canada Research Chair in Pain, believes this situation can be improved by personalising pain treatments to fit the specific needs of each patient. Hashmi is studying the cognitive mechanisms, brain properties, medical histories and psychosocial makeup of people with chronic pain to develop better diagnostic tools. Using principles of computational neuroscience, machine learning and network analysis, Hashmi and her research team aim to examine the unique therapeutic needs of each chronic pain patient.
The biomarkers (measures used to perform clinical assessments) that emerge from this research will determine the treatments that are most likely to benefit a given patient. Ultimately, Hashmi’s work will improve and streamline the treatment process for chronic pain, and reduce healthcare costs by replacing the “one size fits all” approach with strategies tailored to fit the unique needs of each patient.
For more information: Brain Networks and Neurophysiology Lab