SAHMRI launches Persistent Pain Research Group

03 Jul 2023
SAHMRI launches Persistent Pain Research Group

A new SAHMRI research group is bringing together a team of experts on a mission to alleviate persistent pain caused by chronic pain conditions.

The Persistent Pain Research Group is working alongside consumers to better understand and treat persistent pain, which affects one in five Australians and costs the country an estimated $73 billion per year.

The group is being led by Associate Professor Tasha Stanton and comprises of researchers with a diverse range of skills and experience, including the development of new technologies such as virtual and mediated reality and translating these technologies to the clinical environment.

SAHMRI researchers will be collaborating with the IIMPACT in Health Research Concentration based at UniSA, another team with an aligned goal; empowering people with chronic conditions to reach their potential for recovery, independence and wellbeing.

“Our vision is to work with people with lived experience of persistent pain to devise solutions with them, rather than for them,” A/Prof Stanton said.

“We believe this approach will create impactful change in the treatment of persistent pain and improve the quality of life of those affected.”

The research focus spans everything from discovery to implementation science, focusing on key contributors to the development and maintenance of persistent pain. Ultimately, the team is striving to create brain-based interventions that address the root causes of persistent pain.

The group is currently working on several projects, including a program aimed at increasing physical activity levels while reducing osteoarthritis symptoms. It’s also testing new virtual and mediated reality technology in clinical settings to determine their effect on pain and exercise engagement in people with the condition. This is all being done in conjunction with testing "myth-busting" educational resources for osteoarthritis to tackle one of the largest barriers to optimal treatment.

The team is working to develop treatments for people who experience phantom limb pain after amputation. Collaborating with industry partner, Virtetic Pty Ltd, they are developing and testing a new lower limb virtual reality program that mimics the benefits of mirror therapy but is gamified to increase engagement and enhance pain relief for those with phantom limb pain.

“We’re also investigating the role of emotions and bodily sensation perception in how people with fibromyalgia make decisions related to reward and effort,” A/Prof Stanton said.

“The Persistent Pain Research Group is eager to embark on these projects and work towards better understanding and treating persistent pain.”

Listen to Associate Professor Tasha Stanton explaining chronic pain on ABC Mornings with David Bevan.

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