Chronic pain is defined simply as pain that persists beyond 3 months, but in reality is a suffering marked by emotional distress and physical disability. The socioeconomic impact of chronic pain is tremendous; current annual healthcare expenditure and employment costs for Europe and the United States are estimated at €200 billion and $635 billion respectively, far exceeding costs associated with heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
For many patients, the extent of disease or injury does not fully account for the severity of pain. We work mostly with patients who have extremely or unusually painful disorders, for example, those diagnosed with fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome or neuropathic pain. However, we are also interested in rare individuals who express little or no pain despite their disease or injury. Current research suggests that the nervous system responds differently to injury or disease in different individuals, and contributes to the variation of pain experiences. We study this variation experimentally in healthy volunteers to better understand the contributions of the peripheral and central nervous system to chronic pain. Our goal is to discover treatments that ameliorate susceptibility and enhance resilience to chronic pain in patients.