Science Spots New Cause of Chronic Pain
Healthy nerves, not damaged ones, may be to blame
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that could alter pain treatment, British scientists have found that undamaged nerve fibers, not injured ones, cause ongoing spontaneous pain.
The unexpected finding that may help in the development of new treatments for back problems and other conditions that involve chronic pain. Previous research into chronic pain focused on nerve fibers damaged due to injury or illness, and largely overlooked intact nerve fibers.
"The cause of this ongoing pain and why it arises spontaneously was not understood before," Sally Lawson, of the University of Bristol, said in a prepared statement. "Now that we know the type of nerve fibers involved, and especially that it is the undamaged nerve fibers that cause this pain, we can examine them to find out what causes them to continually send impulses to the brain. This should help in the search for new analgesics that are effective for controlling ongoing pain."
The findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Lawson and her colleagues identified nerve cells called nociceptors (damage detectors) that, when activated by disease or injury, send out electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. The faster these undamaged nociceptors fire electrical impulses, the stronger the ongoing pain.
The firing of these nociceptors seems to be caused by inflammation within the nerves or tissues, caused by dying or degeneration of the injured nerve fibers within the same nerve, the researchers said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic pain.