Top 6 Most Fascinating New Pain Treatments In 2015 (Plus 4 Extras!)

//Top 6 Most Fascinating New Pain Treatments In 2015 (Plus 4 Extras!)

Top 6 Most Fascinating New Pain Treatments In 2015 (Plus 4 Extras!)

Pain research in 2015 has been ground-breaking and full of promise. From a newly-discovered “pain switch” to treating pain with light instead of opioids, here are our top six most fascinating new treatments and discoveries of 2015.

1. Off switch for pain

In what is arguably one of the most promising discoveries this year, Saint Louis University researcher Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D. and colleagues within SLU, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other academic institutions have discovered a way to block the pathway of pain for chronic neuropathic pain in animal subjects. This includes pain caused by chemotherapy and bone cancer.

Activating the A3 receptor in the brain and spinal cord – either naturally with the chemical adenosine or with a simulated chemical developed by NIH – helped prevent or reverse pain caused by neuropathic damage.

Dr. Salvemini believes this may be a breakthrough in the research that can lead to non-pharmaceutical pain relief:

“It has long been appreciated that harnessing the potent pain-killing effects of adenosine could provide a breakthrough step towards an effective treatment for chronic pain. Our findings suggest that this goal may be achieved by focusing future work on the A3AR pathway, in particular, as its activation provides robust pain reduction across several types of pain.”

2. Light as a pain reliever

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have also focused their research on non-pharmaceutical treatments for the most severe chronic pain. This has resulted in the discovery of a way to activate the opioid receptors in the brain – without opioids. By attaching the light-sensing protein rhodopsin to key opioid receptors in the brain, researchers were able to offer pain relief in laboratory mice without providing drugs.

This is the first step in the research. The next step is to focus on finding efficient and effective ways of activating this pathway. Opioid receptors in the brain provide multiple functions, including working with the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. Still, this is a promising start.

First author Edward R. Siuda, a graduate student in the laboratory of Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and of neurobiology, believes that this discovery could help combat the epidemic of opioid prescription while still offering relief to chronic pain patients:

“It’s conceivable that with much more research we could develop ways to use light to relieve pain without a patient needing to take a pain-killing drug with side effects.”

3. Optogenetic stimulation to relieve pain

In another study that utilizes light as a way to control pain, the physics team at the University of Texas at Arlington, in collaboration with bioengineering and psychology researchers, found that a specific frequency of light applied to the region of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) could control pain in laboratory mice. While this type of stimulation has been attempted before, this specific frequency is the first to inhibit pain-sensing activity (rather than inhibit and increase, as in previous experiments).

Samarendra Mohanty, an assistant professor of physics and leader of the biophysics and physiology lab in the UT Arlington college of science, noted the specific differences between this breakthrough and previous studies:

“Our results clearly demonstrate, for the first time, that optogenetic stimulation of inhibitory neurons in ACC leads to decreased neuronal activity and a dramatic reduction of pain behavior. Moreover, we confirmed optical modulation of specific electrophysiological responses from different neuronal units in the thalamus part of the brain, in response to particular types of pain-stimuli.”

4. Spinal cord neurons as gatekeepers

Pain signals are sent up the spine to be interpreted by the brain, but researchers at the University of Zurich have identified certain spinal cord neurons that act as gatekeepers, determining which signals get through to the brain and which do not.

Disabling glycine-releasing neurons lead to an increased sensitivity to pain and signs of spontaneous pain in laboratory mice, while activating it lead to a decreased sensitivity. The researchers caution that treatments based on this discovery are a long way off, but believe that this confirmation of the Gate Control Theory of pain should be further investigated.

5. New delivery method for pain relief

Common over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used for pain relief can lead to serious side effects that include gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.

MChem undergraduate student Edward Howe, working in Professor David Smith’s research team in the department of chemistry at the University of York, developed a slightly more alkaline gel that interacts with NSAIDs like naproxen to enable higher doses of NSAIDs to be delivered more safely. The alkaline pH mimics the pH of the intestine rather than the acidic pH of the stomach, resulting in less potential damage or side effects. Professor Smith noted that this is not the first time a gel has been proposed, but this gel is different:

“Although researchers have used gels before to try and improve the formulation of naproxen, this is the first time that a self-assembling system has been used for the job, with the advantages of directed interactions between the nanoscale delivery scaffold and the drug. As such, this is the first time that such precise control has been achieved.”

6. Pain-sensing gene discovered

Another discovery from researchers at the University of Cambridge has the potential to lead to new developments in more effective pharmaceutical pain treatment.

Studying the genetic map of 11 families across Europe and Asia with members who had the inherited condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), professor Geoff Woods from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge and his team identified the gene PRDM12 as responsible for pain sensing. One of two variants of this gene were blocking pain-sensing neurons in patients with CIP.

Dr. Ya-Chun Chen from the University of Cambridge, the study’s first author, had this to say about the possibilities this discovery could unfold:

“We are very hopeful that this new gene could be an excellent candidate for drug development, particularly given recent successes with drugs targeting chromatin regulators in human disease. This could potentially benefit those who are at danger from lack of pain perception and help in the development of new treatments for pain relief.”

On top of these six discoveries, researchers have also developed an implantable ion pump to control pain at the source, discovered a potentially longer-lasting painkiller, searched for alternatives to medical marijuana, and focused on bridging the gap between laboratory experiments and human clinical trials.

Which discovery in pain treatments are you most excited about?

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By | 2016-11-17T10:37:32-07:00 August 10th, 2015|Tags: , , |18 Comments

About the Author:

Pain Doctor
Pain Doctor was created with one mission in mind: help and educate people about their pain conditions, treatment options and find a doctor who can help end their pain issues.


  1. Avatar
    kim August 15, 2015 at 9:42 am

    When I was growing up I was physically fit and very active slowly I started to lost that due to endometriosis and many surgeries due to adhesions &scar tissue. The last 25yrs has been filled with many diagnoses’ of diseases that mostly cause pain and inflammation! I tried a metal pain pump 10 plus yrs ago after 4weeks it was removed due to a bad seems as I get older I develop more health issues and my body seems to be in pain overdrive-just daily activities send my pain thru the roof! I’m hoping some of the newest developments start clinical trials soon! So I can hopefully try other treatments and something helps me.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor August 18, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Thanks for stopping by the blog Kim. We hope you’re able to find a treatment that works for you and will actively work to keep this blog updated with any new treatments that are released.

  2. Avatar
    Steve August 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Very happy as a 21yr CRPS Survivor I welcome the new & non-invasive therapies mentioned here. My favorite ? The one that comes out the soonest. C’mon FDA !.
    Thank You.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor August 18, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Such a good point! Wishing you much luck on your journey to less pain Steve.

  3. Avatar
    LisaDavisbudzinski September 19, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for posting this! As a 15yr sufferer of Central Pain Syndrome due to a stroke in the thalamus, its very exciting to see such great therapies being worked on. Now to just get these out to patients will be so very more exciting!

    Lisa Davis Budzinski
    VP of CPSFoundation

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Indeed! The research is exciting, but having it get out to patients is even better! Thanks for stopping by the blog Lisa.

  4. Avatar
    Lynne Wilburn September 19, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    How can we convince insurance companies and pain doctors that ketamine infusions are a great treatment for CRPS and Fibromyalgia as well as helping with depression? Few insurance companies recognize these treatments as more than “experimental” and most pain doctors want cash payments. Most of us are legally disabled and use our dollars for insurance to treat our pain. We can’t afford $5,000 a week on limited resources. After 22 years of living on opiates I had a four day infusion. It was miraculous for me but I can’t afford the boosters. We need help accessing this treatment.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Lynne — We absolutely agree. There is a need for sustained, credible research into new therapies, while balancing getting these therapies out to patients who need them. With our partner clinics, we work every day on research studies that can help legitimize these treatments, especially for groups like insurance companies. We are so sorry, however, that you have to continue struggling with pain in addition to financial concerns since these haven’t been widely accepted treatments yet.

  5. Avatar
    Barbara Ziegler September 23, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    There are many people who suffer from Burning Mouth Syndrome. I belong to a support group of over 1,000 members. Some of us are Primary idiopathic suffers, others from other reasons. We are most interesting in the misfiring of nerves in our oral cavity and long for the day our beast of a syndrome leaves us. The majority of us that take meds use clonazepam, often along with other calmative drugs. As you can imagine, this BMS has affected us in our personal and business lives.

    Carry on with your research and good wishes for results that can one day assist those of us who live with chronic pain.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Wishing you less pain as well Barbara! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  6. Avatar
    Zdravka Rostočil September 24, 2015 at 3:33 am

    Hello and greeting from Slovenia!
    I am a member of a two groups on FB- BMS-Burning mouth syndrome!( Members are from around the globe! We suffer so, so much: burn,pain, altered taste in whole mouth, sometimes even throat area…just to name some! Very few, found some kind of relief, by medicine,like opiates,benzoes or antiepileptyc drugs… In many cases, the pain and burn is so severe, where some people, often cant go on ….(like my self) ! Are those pain medicine going to be also for this kind of pain,where there is no medicine which actually works? We don*t even know, how to get more awarnes about this misterious syndrom…. mostly not known cause! They are some very devoted researchers working on this disorder! Have you been also focusing on these kind of pain and reconsidering to work together with researchers and come out with proper medicine which will make our life normal again? Due to severity,many of us are depressed, anxious…our lives are so, so sad! I know, that all of us have only one wish…to get reed of this debilating pain…sincerely Zdravka Rostočil

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Zdravka — Thank you for stopping by the blog! Based on your comment, we’re going to write an article on BMS for next month. Hopefully that can help spread awareness of this condition to a larger community!

      • Avatar
        Zdravka rostočil May 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm

        Good evening!
        I did not see you articel about BMS. Please tell me where it was published or if you can send me a link….thank you so much !

  7. Avatar
    Victoria September 26, 2015 at 8:11 am

    It will be a year since I’ve been diagnosed with CRPS/RSD From an injury months prior. The biggest part of my recovery is finding doctors to help me deal with all the pain. I’m tired of the pills they give me that only cause other side affects. I’ve done a few Sympathic nerve blocks.. I have some of the best doctors that treat CRPS/RSD but to no avail they want me to come to my monthly visits but not consider the research I’ve done for procedures that are available. I realized after months of pain (not to mention the mental rejection I get) I am my own advocate and I will not stop fighting! I am looking forward to some of these new therapies to be soon available and approved by insurance! I just want to be “normal” again and enjoy life again! Thanks for all your research!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 29, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      We are cheering you on Victoria!!!! Becoming your own advocate is so crucial. Sending much luck on your search for less pain.

  8. Avatar
    Alta Hanlon March 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    After 25 yrs of pain caused by lower back issues I can now understand how chronic pain becomes a disease in itself. For many years I just put up with it, but now I realize that wasn’t wise. Now that my pain is controlled pretty well, I am still stuck with the anxiety and depression from all the stress it causes. I appreciate anyone who cares enough to work on answers to our predicament, and chronic pain is a predicament that most people can’t find a way out of on their own. Learning about using adenosine for pain control is good news. How long do you think it will be before this will be available to the general public, and how will it be delivered? Are there any side effects?

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 16, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Alta — all of those things are so true. Make sure to stop by the blog on April, as we’ll be covering many of the issues surrounding chronic pain and mental health. As for the adenosine study, you’ll have to follow up with the researchers behind the study. You can find more information on that at: Thanks for stopping by the blog!

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