Pain Research Takes Centre Stage at Research Involvement Event

03 November 2020

On Saturday 17 October, we hosted our Virtual Patient and Public Involvement in Research Day. Six research talks were given live over Zoom, after which people asked their burning questions to some of the country’s top researchers. There was also exciting interactive online content in the form of ‘virtual posters’. You can read more about what happened at the event here.

Pain is known to be a major problem for many people with Crohn’s and Colitis, the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Research into preventing pain in Crohn’s and Colitis was a particular focus at our Research Involvement Day and we wanted to talk to you about this in more detail here.

Can you predict who will experience pain in Crohn’s and Colitis?

Professor Qasim Aziz and his team believe that if they can better understand what factors increase the risk of developing chronic pain, then people can be diagnosed more quickly and so their pain can be managed better.

To investigate this, Qasim’s team are using information from a database project called the IBD BioResource, which we are proud to have supported. At our Research Involvement event they presented this part of their work live over Zoom to discuss directly with patients.

Professor Qasim Aziz, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry

The group hope that, ultimately, one day chronic pain in Crohn’s and Colitis might be prevented completely, which would increase the quality of life for thousands of people with these conditions. One method by which they think that pain could be alleviated is by stimulating a specific nerve in the body called the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is also known as the ‘rest and digest’ nervous symptom as it controls the heart and the gut. Reduced vagus nerve activity is linked with increased inflammation in the body. As people with Crohn’s and Colitis people have more inflammation in their body, it’s thought that something called transcutaneous electrical vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) could be a safe method suppress this inflammation. You can read more about how they’re hoping to do this in their virtual poster and video.

Qasim’s work is part of our research campaign against pain in Crohn’s and Colitis called the Pain Collaborative. You can read more about their work in their Crohn’s & Colitis UK project webpage.

To find out more, you can also watch this short documentary film from the BBC, in which Qasim’s research is put into the context of the experiences of people with Crohn’s and Colitis.

Using acceptance and commitment group therapy to manage pain

Also featured at the event was another Pain Collaborative study by Dr Wladzia Czuber-Dochan, which explores whether taking part in a type of group therapy can help people with Crohn’s and Colitis manage their pain.

As part of her virtual poster, she discussed whether acceptance of pain as part of a supportive group of peers can help people express difficult thoughts and feelings and manage this potentially life-changing symptom.

Dr Wladzia Czuber-Dochan, King’s College London

An important part of this project is the development of group therapy. However, this has been significantly impacted by the recent coronavirus pandemic as group activities are currently discouraged and can cause anxiety. Wladzia therefore asked people about whether they would feel more comfortable taking part in group therapy online and if they can foresee any barriers to taking part in therapy virtually.

She hopes that by knowing a bit more about peoples’ preferences, they are at ease to work with her to develop this new therapy in harmony and therefore move one step closer to relieving pain in people with Crohn’s and Colitis.

You can read more about Wladzia’s Crohn’s & Colitis funded project here.

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