Research Topic

The Affective Aspects of Chronic Pain and Potential Treatments

About this Research Topic

Chronic pain is a highly common and complex disorder defined as "pain that exceeded the time for tissue healing" and is assumed to last more than three months. Despite resulting from an injury or a disease, chronic pain is considered a separate condition at its own right. The long term effects of pain have a negative and disabling consequences on the biological, psychological, behavioral, and societal domains of the individual's life, and chronic pain disorders are listed among the ten most disabling conditions worldwide. Despite the advancement in pharmacological, surgical and procedural interventions for chronic pain, most sufferers are not pain free, and in many cases experience only a modest relief. This results in enormous economic costs to society at large, and a high burden on health care systems. There is an urgent need to address the effects of chronic pain, its societal impact, and further develop more effective pain treatments. This can properly be done by using a multidisciplinary approach addressing the cognitive/affective, social, and medical/physiological aspects of this complex disorder.



The importance of the emotional brain on the experience of pain is well known in the field. Currently the treatment guidelines for chronic pain in north America and Europe includes psychological interventions as first line treatments. However, there are still many issues to be addressed in the field:

1. The biological mechanisms underlying the correlation between affect and pain are still under researched and not entirely understood.

2. Some of the widely used psychological interventions for pain have limited efficacy.

3. Many psychological interventions for chronic pain have limited empirical support.

4. Inclusion of psychological interventions for chronic pain is still under utilized in many clinical settings and treatment practice guidelines.

These all warrant further pre-clinical and clinical studies evaluating the contribution of affective processes to chronic pain. In the last two decades there has been an increase in research identifying cortico-limbic areas responsible for the perception of pain, as well as clinical studies evaluating the efficacy of psychological interventions on chronic pain. In this Research Topic we would like to expand on these attempts and bring forth novel pre-clinical and clinical research addressing the affective aspects of chronic pain, in order to support better understanding and treatment of this disorder.

This Research Topic intends to further elaborate on the bidirectional relationship between affect and chronic pain. We welcome both pre-clinical and clinical studies which address different aspects of this relationship. Some of the themes may include but are not limited to the following:

1. The effects of negative affect (e.g. stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, anger) on chronic pain.

2. Evaluating the mechanisms underlying the bi-directional relationship between affect states and chronic pain.

3. The efficacy of different psychological interventions in different age groups and/or different populations experiencing chronic pain.

4. Imaging studies evaluating changes in cortico-limbic pathways in chronic pain states.

5. Sex differences in relation to the experience of affect and chronic pain.

6. Integration or dynamic interaction of affective aspects of pain with other dimensions of pain

7. Evaluation and impact of affective nature of chronic pain


Keywords: chronic pain, affect, pain treatment, nociception, stress, limbic system, cognitive, affective, behavioral, emotional


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 is a highly common and complex disorder defined as "pain that exceeded the time for tissue healing" and is assumed to last more than three months. Despite resulting from an injury or a disease, chronic pain is considered a separate condition at its own right. The long term effects of pain have a negative and disabling consequences on the biological, psychological, behavioral, and societal domains of the individual's life, and chronic pain disorders are listed among the ten most disabling conditions worldwide. Despite the advancement in pharmacological, surgical and procedural interventions for chronic pain, most sufferers are not pain free, and in many cases experience only a modest relief. This results in enormous economic costs to society at large, and a high burden on health care systems. There is an urgent need to address the effects of chronic pain, its societal impact, and further develop more effective pain treatments. This can properly be done by using a multidisciplinary approach addressing the cognitive/affective, social, and medical/physiological aspects of this complex disorder.



The importance of the emotional brain on the experience of pain is well known in the field. Currently the treatment guidelines for chronic pain in north America and Europe includes psychological interventions as first line treatments. However, there are still many issues to be addressed in the field:

1. The biological mechanisms underlying the correlation between affect and pain are still under researched and not entirely understood.

2. Some of the widely used psychological interventions for pain have limited efficacy.

3. Many psychological interventions for chronic pain have limited empirical support.

4. Inclusion of psychological interventions for chronic pain is still under utilized in many clinical settings and treatment practice guidelines.

These all warrant further pre-clinical and clinical studies evaluating the contribution of affective processes to chronic pain. In the last two decades there has been an increase in research identifying cortico-limbic areas responsible for the perception of pain, as well as clinical studies evaluating the efficacy of psychological interventions on chronic pain. In this Research Topic we would like to expand on these attempts and bring forth novel pre-clinical and clinical research addressing the affective aspects of chronic pain, in order to support better understanding and treatment of this disorder.

This Research Topic intends to further elaborate on the bidirectional relationship between affect and chronic pain. We welcome both pre-clinical and clinical studies which address different aspects of this relationship. Some of the themes may include but are not limited to the following:

1. The effects of negative affect (e.g. stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, anger) on chronic pain.

2. Evaluating the mechanisms underlying the bi-directional relationship between affect states and chronic pain.

3. The efficacy of different psychological interventions in different age groups and/or different populations experiencing chronic pain.

4. Imaging studies evaluating changes in cortico-limbic pathways in chronic pain states.

5. Sex differences in relation to the experience of affect and chronic pain.

6. Integration or dynamic interaction of affective aspects of pain with other dimensions of pain

7. Evaluation and impact of affective nature of chronic pain


Keywords: chronic pain, affect, pain treatment, nociception, stress, limbic system, cognitive, affective, behavioral, emotional


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

02 August 2021 Abstract
30 November 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

02 August 2021 Abstract
30 November 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

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

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