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“Dysfunctional Pain” Concept Provides Alternate Framework for Research Challenges

Nagakura Y. Challenges in drug discovery for overcoming ‘dysfunctional pain’: an emerging category of chronic pain. Expert Opin Drug Discov. 2015 Jul 11:1-3. [Epub ahead of print]

This editorial helps explain the concept of “dysfunctional pain,” and how a broad range of disorders, including fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis, fit into it. Dysfunctional pain is a type of chronic pain that is  emerging as a serious issue, according to the author, due to its negative impact on quality of life and healthcare costs. Treatment for dysfunctional pain disorders is hindered by a lack of effective therapies.

To date, most research into new potential therapies has focused on treating pain that is neuropathic (i.e., nerve pain) or inflammatory (i.e., pain due to a malfunction of the body’s immune system). However, the concept of “dysfunctional pain” provides a potentially new way for researchers to think about pain and address this challenging issue, the author argues. The main features of dysfunctional pain are chronic symptoms, either widespread or confined to a specific part of the body; and pain amplification, or an abnormal sensitivity to pain. Because the causes of dysfunctional pain are largely unidentified, the focus of research in this area should be the exploration of molecular pathways and other potential causes so that effective drugs can be developed to treat the underlying clinical problems associated with interstitial cystitis, among other conditions.

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