Iam fascinated by a range of opinions and different studies on treating chronic non-cancer pain with opioids, but to do this one has to be able to measure pain to establish correlations with pain intensity and pain relief.
So, what is pain? In fact, pain is an uncomfortable feeling which is an indication that something is wrong in you. Pain can also show other physical symptoms, like nausea, dizziness, weakness or drowsiness. It can cause emotional effects like anger, depression and perhaps most significantly, change your lifestyle and impact your job and even relationships.
The only way for doctors to measure pain is the use of a ‘pain scale’. This typically involves patient self-analysis. This could be problematic when doctors have to take important clinical decisions. Patients in pain are notorious for both understating and overstating their degrees of their suffering.
The neuroscientists have set about the task of using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify objective measures of pain.
Interestingly, the new door just opened to identify biomarkers in the blood that can help objectively determine how severe a patient’s pain is. The blood test, the first of its kind, would allow physicians far more accuracy in treating pain. Much like as glucose serves as a biomarker to diabetes.
I would remind you how currently opioid epidemic occurred, because addictive medications were overprescribed due to the fact that there was no objective measure whether someone was in pain or not and the reality about the thought was that this person says they are in pain, let’s prescribe it. In fact, this is a huge problem for any community, hence the need alternatives to opioids, and the need to treat people in a precise fashion.
This future prototype for a blood test that can objectively tell doctors if the patient is in pain, and how severe that pain is. It’s very important to have an objective measure of pain, as pain is a subjective sensation.
On the other hand, experts discovered biomarkers can help predict when someone might experience pain in the future, which I would say help alleviate the dilemmas caused by drug addiction.
The researchers with new prototype of measuring the pain, have worked well in psychiatry for suicide and depression in previous studies. Where they have applied it to pain, and were successful.
In the end, this breakthrough by developing a real measure of pain is the future, where we can treat and prescribe things more appropriately to people who are in pain.
Dr Yousuf Ali Almulla, MD, Ministry of Health. He is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column, he can be contacted at: