Dr Zoe Williams reveals painkiller overuse can cause headaches
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The research focuses on a condition known as central sensitisation.
Central sensitisation is used to refer to abnormal pain processing in a person’s brain and spinal cord.
People with this condition have spinal cords which are very effective at sending pain signals to a brain which struggles to turn those signals off.
The researchers believe this condition is why some people struggle with pain after taking painkillers more than others.
Lead author of the study Dr Trent Hall said of the research: “Our study is the first to give patients with OUD a scale that measures central sensitization.
“Our study provides the first evidence of central sensitisation underlying the chronic pain and OUD relationship and demonstrates a new tool for easily measuring central sensitisation among individuals with OUD.”
OUD in their study refers to a condition known as opioid use disorder (OUD).
This is a condition where some individuals overuse painkillers.
Its relevance is key as the researchers say chronic pain can lead to OUD as people seek greater relief from the pain they experience.
One of the goals of the study was to find out how OUD and chronic pain were connected in the brain.
They found that in patients with OUD central sensitisation was associated with a lower quality of life.
Dr Daniel Clauw added: “Additionally, patients higher in central sensitization were more likely to report pain as a major reason for why their opioid addiction first began, as well as for putting off addiction treatment, continuing and increasing their use of opioids, and fear of pain causing OUD relapse in the future.”
The study concluded central sensitisation could be an important factor in understanding how to treat chronic pain.
Dr Hall said: “It’s important to me to search for new ways to help.
“But we can’t create better treatments for chronic pain and OUD without first understanding how the two relate.
“I did this study because I believed it might offer a new window into what is happening in the brains of patients needing help with pain and addiction.”
As a result, while central sensitisation could be key in trying to understand chronic pain, the small number of studies on the topic means it will be a while before there are treatments developed to target this process.
Chronic pain is a major problem in the UK.
Charity Versus Arthritis say: “Around 15.5 million people in England have chronic pain.” This is the equivalent of around 34 percent of the population.
Other ways to manage chronic pain include exercise and physical therapy.
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