exploring the physiology of distress
To date the most consistent predictors of acute or chronic pain are variables that are best considered psychological in nature - fear, anxiety, catastrophizing, depression, and others. While this is valuable information in the right hands, there has yet to be compelling consistent evidence to suggest that purely psychological interventions have strong effects on pain and related disability (not saying there’s no evidence, it’s just inconsistent). At the PIRL we are exploring the connections between what people say they’re experiencing (on standardized self-report forms of pain or distress) and what we can see physiologically. Currently we are exploring the proteome of plasma and saliva, hair cortisol, the gut microbiome through bacterial diversity in stool, and key genetic candidates that may explain these relationships. We do not anticipate that any single marker, or even a full complex suite of markers, will tell the whole story, but when these biological markers are combined with psychological distress and important contextual factors, we believe that new answers may be found for the problems of pain.