Research Topic

Pain in Early and Late-Life: Capturing the Understudied Tails of the Lifespan Spectrum

About this Research Topic

Chronic pain, a leading cause of long-term disability, affects 20% of the worldwide population, with costs greater than that of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined and is the main cause of the opioid crisis. For decades, chronic pain management followed the biomedical model of pain, focusing on tissue damage and nociception, and understanding pain as a symptom of different health conditions. However, in 2019, this changed dramatically, when the World Health Organization adopted a new edition of ICD-11, defining chronic pain as a separate health condition. The definition of pain changed too, and it is now contemplated that pain can be sourced from multiple body systems including the brain. Past research showed a potential shift from sensory to emotional brain circuits with pain chronification. However, while this shift is evident in adult populations, it remains unclear whether a similar cascade is present in youth and the elderly. Moreover, a substantial amount of research has exponentially emerged in the past decades about the nature and mechanisms of pain processing and chronic pain in adults, research regarding pain measurement, management, and mechanisms has been scarce in youth and the elderly.

Recent advances in the field of chronic pain were triggered by clinical and behavioral research, neuroscience, and public health findings. However, a thorough understanding of chronic pain mechanisms based on multi-system interactions within the body is still missing. Moreover, research has typically focused on adults with chronic pain conditions and has frequently disregarded the study of specific age groups that present with high vulnerability for chronic pain or greater management challenges, such as youth and the elderly. Currently, little is known about the specific mechanisms and features of chronic pain in these age groups, which is critical to tailor the most effective management strategies. In order to better understand and specifically address the needs of these vulnerable patient cohorts, the field requires research studies focusing on the neurophysiological, behavioral-cognitive, clinical, social, genetic-, immune-related, and other features of pain and pain chronification in youth and the elderly.

The aim of this Research Topic is to highlighting relevant research studies in the field of neurophysiology, behavior, cognition and clinical practice, addressing the assessment, management, chronification, and neural mechanisms of pain in the tails of the lifespan spectrum: youth and geriatric pain. It will address work from basic to translational research, including research based on animal models, clinical, experimental or real-world studies, methodological or theoretical advances. We are calling for submissions of multiple types of manuscripts (research papers, reviews, meta-analysis, commentaries, and methodological manuscripts) focusing on the following subtopics:

• Pediatric (children and adolescents) chronic pain: objective pain assessment, neurophysiological mechanisms and features of pain, pain chronification (transition from acute to chronic pain states), treatment outcomes, placebo/nocebo effects.
• Geriatric chronic pain: objective pain assessment , neurophysiological mechanisms and features of pain, pain chronification (transition from acute to chronic pain states), treatment outcomes, placebo/nocebo effects.
• Real-world assessment and treatment approach for pediatric and geriatric pain (e.g. digital health, Virtual Reality).
• Comparisons between pediatric pain vs. adult pain, or geriatric pain vs. non-geriatric adult pain
• Null findings in pediatric and geriatric pain research (spanning across subtopics listed in 1-4)


The submitted research manuscripts should provide a rigorous study design (e.g. control conditions, validated methods), appropriate sample sizes (pilot studies have a low acceptance chance), and appropriate statistical testing both to reject and accept the null hypothesis.


Keywords: Chronic Pain, Elderly, Lifespan, Pediatric Pain, Adolescent Pain, Geriatric Pain


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Chronic pain, a leading cause of long-term disability, affects 20% of the worldwide population, with costs greater than that of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined and is the main cause of the opioid crisis. For decades, chronic pain management followed the biomedical model of pain, focusing on tissue damage and nociception, and understanding pain as a symptom of different health conditions. However, in 2019, this changed dramatically, when the World Health Organization adopted a new edition of ICD-11, defining chronic pain as a separate health condition. The definition of pain changed too, and it is now contemplated that pain can be sourced from multiple body systems including the brain. Past research showed a potential shift from sensory to emotional brain circuits with pain chronification. However, while this shift is evident in adult populations, it remains unclear whether a similar cascade is present in youth and the elderly. Moreover, a substantial amount of research has exponentially emerged in the past decades about the nature and mechanisms of pain processing and chronic pain in adults, research regarding pain measurement, management, and mechanisms has been scarce in youth and the elderly.

Recent advances in the field of chronic pain were triggered by clinical and behavioral research, neuroscience, and public health findings. However, a thorough understanding of chronic pain mechanisms based on multi-system interactions within the body is still missing. Moreover, research has typically focused on adults with chronic pain conditions and has frequently disregarded the study of specific age groups that present with high vulnerability for chronic pain or greater management challenges, such as youth and the elderly. Currently, little is known about the specific mechanisms and features of chronic pain in these age groups, which is critical to tailor the most effective management strategies. In order to better understand and specifically address the needs of these vulnerable patient cohorts, the field requires research studies focusing on the neurophysiological, behavioral-cognitive, clinical, social, genetic-, immune-related, and other features of pain and pain chronification in youth and the elderly.

The aim of this Research Topic is to highlighting relevant research studies in the field of neurophysiology, behavior, cognition and clinical practice, addressing the assessment, management, chronification, and neural mechanisms of pain in the tails of the lifespan spectrum: youth and geriatric pain. It will address work from basic to translational research, including research based on animal models, clinical, experimental or real-world studies, methodological or theoretical advances. We are calling for submissions of multiple types of manuscripts (research papers, reviews, meta-analysis, commentaries, and methodological manuscripts) focusing on the following subtopics:

• Pediatric (children and adolescents) chronic pain: objective pain assessment, neurophysiological mechanisms and features of pain, pain chronification (transition from acute to chronic pain states), treatment outcomes, placebo/nocebo effects.
• Geriatric chronic pain: objective pain assessment , neurophysiological mechanisms and features of pain, pain chronification (transition from acute to chronic pain states), treatment outcomes, placebo/nocebo effects.
• Real-world assessment and treatment approach for pediatric and geriatric pain (e.g. digital health, Virtual Reality).
• Comparisons between pediatric pain vs. adult pain, or geriatric pain vs. non-geriatric adult pain
• Null findings in pediatric and geriatric pain research (spanning across subtopics listed in 1-4)


The submitted research manuscripts should provide a rigorous study design (e.g. control conditions, validated methods), appropriate sample sizes (pilot studies have a low acceptance chance), and appropriate statistical testing both to reject and accept the null hypothesis.


Keywords: Chronic Pain, Elderly, Lifespan, Pediatric Pain, Adolescent Pain, Geriatric Pain


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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