When we look at things like frequency, intensity, duration, and extent of pain, we’re better able to evaluate the effect on the system and it’s not only affecting the brain, it’s affecting all the stress response systems. There is work that’s showing that we can actually capture this and show that not only is there a burden from chronic pain on the system but in fact, resilience factors that can buffer that. There’s some really nice findings both clinically and in population-based studies that I think are going to be encouraging to clinicians and patients and I think give us some guidance for alternative treatments.
An additional piece to that and one area that we’re looking at is can we enhance or promote neuroplasticity; can we optimize the body and the brain to be more responsive to these interventions. And particularly as we age, our metabolic and neurobiological functioning changes and yet there are some noninvasive strategies out there that might help us optimize that so we can improve our learning and memory and response to treatment interventions. I think we’re starting to venture into some exciting areas that may help improve pain care and treatment.
Fom the brain’s perspective, we can enhance functioning, we can target things if we think of the brain like a muscle. Resilience factors allow for a focused effort to hopefully develop those abilities and skills. By working with patients and not only trying to reduce the risk factors but also develop the things that we want them to have in order to function more effectively, that’s where I think we’re going to see an improvement in outcomes. I think clinicians have a unique opportunity to encourage where people can take action and demonstrate initiative that would be beneficial to them.