Using DNA to better treat back pain

By Cathy Kearns

John Web
 
Chronic pain affects one in five adults in the United States, and high impact chronic pain that interferes with work or daily life most days affects one in 13 adults in this country.

These numbers, taken from the 2016 National Health Interview Survey, only begin to tell the story of how chronic pain affects the lives of 50 million Americans, and how high impact chronic pain affects the lives of another 20 million people.

“The physical, emotional and financial toll from chronic pain is a major issue for our country,” said John Licciardone, DO, a family medicine physician and preventive medicine specialist at UNT Health Science Center.

“Treatment options for chronic pain, and specifically for chronic low back pain, have often not given people the relief they seek. Doctors often prescribe opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that have a wide range of side effects.”

Dr. Licciardone’s research team explores how chronic low back pain affects peoples’ quality of life, how people treat low back pain and which treatments are most effective. By analyzing the DNA of low back pain sufferers, the goal is to uncover which patients are most likely to respond to specific drugs.

The project — funded by grants from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, Institute for Patient Safety, and the American Osteopathic Association — was created to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of opioids and other drugs. The data is being stored in the Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical and Interventional Studies in North Texas, or PRECISION TEXAS. Eventually this registry will contain data from more than 1,000 patients.

“Chronic pain is a topic that is often not discussed as much as other medical conditions, but to the people whose lives are altered by it, finding better methods of treatment is critically important,” said Dr. Licciardone, Professor of Family Medicine, Executive Director of the Osteopathic Research Center and the Richards-Cohen Distinguished Chair in Clinical Research. “On a national level, health experts recognize how difficult the problem of chronic pain is to address.”

Community members can help tackle the issue of chronic pain and help improve treatment for themselves and others in the future by participating in the PRECISION Pain Research Registry. People can see if they qualify for the registry by visiting its Facebook page @ORCresearch.

Registration is open to those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with plans to expand to other areas in Texas in the near future.

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