new research from stanford school of medecine

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by davebhoy, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. davebhoy

    davebhoy New Member

    has anyone else picked up on tis new research from the stanford school of medecine, pain management division? i heard an item on bbc radio 5 live just now.

    The Strain in Pain Lies Mainly in the Brain

    Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D.

    Pain serves highly useful functions such as to help us monitor the physical and emotional state of our body and to warn us to take action in the event of injury. People born without the ability to perceive pain often die at a very young age due to overwhelming infection caused by injuries they never felt. While this ability to perceive pain is beneficial to us in an acute setting, in chronic pain it serves no beneficial purpose. In the chronic pain setting, the site of original injury has often healed, however the patient is left with an unremitting pain condition that is often associated with depression, anxiety, decreased libido, altered appetite, and sleep disturbances. These chronic pain conditions have a huge impact on the individual, their family, and society as a whole. The impact on society in particular is only recently being appreciated.

    We know that pain affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and is a primary complaint resulting in physician visits and health care resource utilization [1]. The importance of pain as a major worldwide health care problem has been recognized by the World Health Organization [1], and the need for further research into pain mechanisms and control was recognized by the U.S. Congress in its declaration of the years 2001-2010 as the Decade of Pain Control and Research [2]. Pain contributes to the overall economic burden of disease through increased direct medical costs caused by additional health care resource utilization and high indirect costs through absenteeism and on-the-job loss of productivity [3]. Overall costs are projected at over $100 billion annually [4].

    Research has demonstrated that our experience of pain is perceived within the human brain. The brain takes the electrochemical impulses generated from our body during injury and modulates or changes these impulses to ultimately become the conscious experience of pain. Some of the factors that modulate the pain experience include: attention/distraction, anxiety, fear, depression, and placebo. As we all know from our own experience, our perception of pain is not directly proportional to the extent of the injury or the intensity of the painful stimuli being applied. Each of these factors has a beneficial role in the setting of acute pain but can become maladaptive or harmful to the patient with chronic pain. For example, overwhelming fear of pain in a patient with chronic low-back pain with a stable spine and no neurological injury can lead to guarding and protective behaviors that result in deconditioning, back muscle shortening and spasm, and therefore more pain. This leads to a spiraling course of ever more increasing pain and disability.

    Recently, through the use of neuroimaging tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), researches have demonstrated within specific brain regions where pain is processed and perceived [5]. Each of these regions communicates with the others in a form of distributed parallel network. This results in multiple pathways within the brain that contribute to the pain experience. In the acute setting, this is beneficial in that if any one pathway is disrupted or injured, there are others to take over and contribute to the pain experience. However, in a chronic pain condition, particularly one that involves injury to nervous system, the patient is left feeling pain when there is no longer a direct stimulus. Take, for example, the patient who feels burning pain from a light breeze over their arm as a result of an injury many years ago. This patient’s injury is well healed, but the nervous system continues to misinterpret signals that should not be painful at all as being excruciating. We now understand that this patient’s pain is a result, in large part, through abnormal rewiring (i.e., central sensitization/neural plasticity) of the central nervous system (CNS) that perpetuate the pain despite the absence of a painful stimulus.

    Our group is focused on utilizing state of the art neuroimaging tools to investigate the emotional and cognitive factors that influence pain as well as the neural plastic changes that occur in chronic pain. Details of current studies available here. We are directing these tools at both the spinal cord and brain to better understand our patient’s experience with the goal of developing new therapies to treat their condition. Recently, this technology has been extended to allow the subjects or patients to “see” their own brain activity in real time. They then use this information to learn to control their brain activation in a specific region associated with the processing and perception of pain (details here).

    We are also actively involved in investigating: 1) applications of botulinum toxin in neuropathic pain, 2) the use of intravenous lidocaine as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool for neuropathic pain, 3) the effect of opiates on central sensitization (i.e., opiate induced hyperalgesia), and 4) assessing clinical chronic pain outcomes in our outpatient and inpatient setting.

    These accomplishments would not directly impact patients unless there was a close connection with the clinic. This realization has led to the establishment of a close collaboration with the clinical enterprise at the Stanford Pain Management Center – California’s premier tertiary referral center for patients with chronic pain and the only academic center with a “chronic pain unit” in the western US. The center is staffed with outstanding physicians, psychologists, nurses, physical and occupational therapists who integrate the latest knowledge and Stanford research into their clinical practice.

    The last decade has seen dramatic changes in the way we understand pain. Rather than viewing pain as simply a symptom of trauma, infection, inflammation, or surgery, we now see it as a discrete disease entity - one that fundamentally alters the entire nervous system. In a major recent advance, neuroimaging tools have allowed us to peer inside the human brain in ways once only dreamed about – unlocking mysteries of where pain is perceived and processed, how it affects the brain, and how it can act to change our thoughts and emotions. For the first time, we have the tools to effectively explore the impact of pain on the brain and can use this information to create the comprehensive interdisciplinary treatment needed to prevent or reverse these changes. Our ultimate goal is to lessen or stop our patient’s pain and restore and enhance their quality of life.


    1. Gureje, O., et al., Persistent pain and well-being: a World Health Organization Study in Primary Care. Jama, 1998. 280(2): p. 147-51.

    2. Public Law 106-386-OCT. 28, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Title VI, Section 1603, "Decade of pain control and research." 2000. Available at:

    3. Korzan, J.R., et al., In vivo magnetic resonance imaging of the human cervical spinal cord at 3 Tesla. J Magn Reson Imaging, 2002. 16(1): p. 21-7.

    4. NIH Guide: New Directions in Pain Research: I. 1998., in Available at:

    5. Mackey S, Maeda F, Functional Imaging and the Neural Systems of Chronic Pain in Neurosurgery North American Clinics Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, July 2004, Vol. 15, No. 3; 269-288
  2. sunflowergirl

    sunflowergirl Well-Known Member

    thank you for putting it on the board
  3. ephemera

    ephemera New Member

    thanks so much for this!
  4. CAAnnieB

    CAAnnieB New Member

    This article really caught my interest because I was treated at the Stanford Pain Clinic in '03 & '04...Was hospitalized in their "chronic pain unit" at Stanford Hospital, AND was a guinea pig for Dr. Mackey's Functional MRI research!

    While I applaud these brainiacs (I'm being respectful. They ARE very "smart"!) for doing their research & trying to get to the bottom of the causes of chronic pain, I've gotta be honest & say my experiences with these folks were horrendous! (putting it mildly)

    My experiences being treated as an outpatient and inpatient pain patient were SO awful; I still feel mentally traumatized at times. They have very rigid ideas re: treating Fibro pain. [NO you can tell from the article, they believe it worsens chronic pain." the effect of opiates on central sensitization (i.e., opiate induced hyperalgesia)"] My opinion...They actually might be right about that one, but they don't tell you this stance up front.) They also will not prescribe ANY Benzo's. I asked them about trying Klonopin & Soma. Got a big "NO" for an answer. The only meds they offerred me were Baclofen & Keppra. Keppra is an antiseizure med similiar to Neurontin but much newer. (therefore without a track record.)UCSF is doing a research trial on Keppra for FM. Stanford bypassed the studies & just prescribes it.

    When I was hospitalized, they took me off my pain med AND Valium (both were low doses) way too quickly. (10 days of a FAST "taper") Sent me home to go into a MAJOR withdrawal hell.In the hospital, they put their chronic pain patients(me & 2 other patients) on a behavioral psych ward...and mix you in with the LOCK-DOWN Psch patients (patients hospitalized non-voluntarily-i.e. suicidal, violent people from jail, etc.) for group therapy each day! Lemme tell ya how stress-reducing THAT was! LOL!

    Oh my, I could go on & on with my stories...but it would just get me all worked up! My main point is this: Researchers (including Dr. Mackey) are to be applauded for their work...I participated in their Functional MRI (realtime MRI) research study...however...Researchers do not make the best clinicians! I would not recommend going to Stanford for treatment for FM/ CFIDS pain. Thumbs up for the research. Thumbs down for their clinic & hospital treatment of those of us who suffer chronic pain from these DD's.


  5. tansy

    tansy New Member

    these researchers do admit it's too early to draw conclusions.

    There was research on phantom limb pain where a mirror was used to help treat the pain, in situations like this Stanford's research may have helped to provide important clues.

    Years ago I was referred to a specialist for suspected TMJ dysfunction. It was the same surgeon who had actually caused the problem, and made my neck issues many times worse, years earlier through greed (private health insurance) and/or because he had misinterpretted the signs. He wrote back to my GP saying the pain had nothing to do with my jaw, instead I was suffering from chronic pain syndrome: now there's a surprise!

    Fortunately the cause of this particular "chronic pain syndrome" was identified by another medical professional who behaved like one; it was mechanical and the Tx a success. Since then there have been other mechanical explanations for my "chronic pain syndrome"; overall pain levels have improved through addressing factors that are known to cause pain.

    Tansy[This Message was Edited on 12/13/2005]
  6. ephemera

    ephemera New Member

    Your story just reinforces the point that just because a doctor wears a white coat in the lab doesn't mean that same doctor can see patients humanely.

    Some belong in the lab & shouldn't see patients. others belong with patients. Doubt many can go between with much success & care.
  7. caroleye

    caroleye New Member

    But there is are newer diagnostic tools coming out such as the one people are talking about........Neuroscience......and the QEEG brain map test.

    Also, once the abnormalities have been discovered, there are non-invasive ways to stop the pain.

    I keep repeating this, but it's all about the brain & so much more.......The Edge Effect by Dr. Braverman.

    I'm already feeling the results by using some of his suggestions, along with neurofeedback & the phototonic stimulator (light therapy). The book also allows you to see what you need; and for me that's a huge piece of control & thus hope.