Experiences of pain vary widely. Not everyone exposed to a potentially pain-inflicting situation will experience pain, or develop a chronic condition as a result of it. In order to treat or prevent painful conditions, it is critical to understand which factors predispose individuals to certain painful conditions, to provide accurate diagnosis and best possible prognosis, as well as deliver personalized treatments that would optimally balance efficacy and safety. The clinical and translational research activities at Washington University Pain Center (WUPC) aim to provide answers to many of these questions.

We study individual patient factors that shape the development of acute and persistent pain after surgery, to allow the understanding of mechanists that contribute to pain, and provide risk prediction and prognosis to patients, as well as optimize perioperative pain management. The research activities at WUPC aim to understand disease mechanisms and develop rationale for mechanism-based personalized treatment approaches for chronic pain in general, and also specific conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), knee osteoarthritis, and migraine headaches. Clinical pain researchers at WUPC investigate new targets for pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments of chronic pain, and perform clinical studies testing novel approaches for treating pain across the entire spectrum of clinical research – from early proof-of-concept phase all the way to randomized controlled clinical trials.

Clinical research at WUPC is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary, which allows us to incorporate state-of-the art approaches and technologies in our research, such as behavioral interventions, brain imaging, brain-computer interface technologies, machine learning, as well as genomic, proteomic and microbiome research. 

The research at WUPC is also highly translational. Our goal is to alleviate pain by increasing our understanding of the fundamental nature of chronic pain in patients and the mechanisms underlying chronic pain. As such, WUPC researchers translate insights gained in all areas into an improved ability to care for people. The advances in basic research stimulate further clinical research work, and vice versa. For example, insight from unique clinical populations or individual patients provide the impetus for studies of animal models of chronic pain. Studies in animals stimulate the use of specific pharmacological and neuromodulation approaches in patients, and results of clinical trials drive research to examine the implementation of these approaches in the clinic. Similarly, the systematic synthesis of information for development diagnostic and treatment guidelines help advance the field of pain medicine in general. WUPC emphasizes collaboration, communication, and active synthesis of advances in all areas.