Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre

Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre launch

Pain relief pioneer to open Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre

1st July 2010

Pain is the number one concern for patients with arthritis, yet there have been too few advances in how to manage its effects. Thanks to advances in pharmacology in the twentieth century, many solutions were developed to help manage pain, but more understanding of underlying pain mechanisms is needed.

Dr Stewart Adams is one distinguished scientist who spent several years whilst working for Boots in the late 1950s and early 1960s attempting to find a cure for rheumatoid arthritis. During that time he discovered a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that came to be known as ibuprofen. It became one of the world’s best known over-the-counter pain remedies.

On Thursday 1st July, Dr Adams returned to The University of Nottingham, from where he graduated with his BPharm degree in 1945, to launch the new national Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre. This research centre aims to achieve a greater understanding of pain – and to come up with more effective ways of dealing with it.

Pain-relieving drugs such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and opiates all have a part to play in managing the devastating effects of chronic pain from arthritis, but none are ideal, either lacking effectiveness or introducing the risk of unpalatable and sometimes dangerous side-effects.

A new approach is obviously much-needed and a team of researchers at the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre in Nottingham aim to apply their joint expertise and make real progress over the next five years.

Pain Centre Director Dr David Walsh, Associate Professor in Rheumatology, says that while the interplay of various factors that cause pain are already known, our understanding of how all those factors contribute to the final experience of pain is incomplete, which he describes as “our great challenge.”

“Within five years we will have a much better understanding of the mechanisms behind pain,” he adds. “We will have piloted trials looking at targeting the effectiveness of existing drugs, and played a big part in the development of new painkilling drugs.” 

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director for Arthritis Research UK, said: “It is persistent pain that destroys the quality of life for so many millions of people with arthritis. Despite scientific advances in so many other areas of medicine we still do not have the tools to keep our patients free of pain.

“This internationally unique centre brings together a constellation of several different scientists, all of whom will focus their attention on this major challenge. Arthritis Research UK is excited by the potential of this new initiative in partnership with The University of Nottingham.”

Professor David Greenaway, Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the charity’s research award when it was announced last year saying: “This significant research award will harness the considerable expertise of researchers in The University of Nottingham’s Department of Academic Rheumatology within our School of Clinical Sciences.

“Working across the University and with our partner NHS Trusts as an Arthritis Research UK centre of excellence, this innovative research team has the prospect of finding vital solutions to the terrible pain caused by osteoarthritis for many millions of people in the UK and worldwide. The University has committed additional funding to supporting this research centre’s success.”

Professor Greenaway will join special guest Dr Stewart Adams, CEO of Arthritis Research UK Dr Liam O’Toole, Professor Alan Silman, Dr David Walsh, other researchers and distinguished guests to celebrate the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre’s official launch at 11.00am in the Senate Chamber in Trent Building at the heart of The University of Nottingham’s University Park Campus.

Photographer Krysia-Maria Rigley, who has lived with crippling pain for the past seven years, is hoping that the work of the new pain research centre will make her life easier. She will attend the launch on Thursday and is willing to talk about her experiences.

Experts from the fields of rheumatology, neuro-imaging, psychology, neuropharmacology, neurosciences and orthopaedic surgery will all play a big part in realizing the ambitions of the newly opened centre, funded over five years with £2.5m from Arthritis Research UK and a further £3m from The University of Nottingham.

By studying the evidence gained from imaging techniques such as MRI, another technology developed at The University of Nottingham, the team hopes to find out how an individual’s way of processing pain signals may explain why their experience may not necessarily match the severity of their joint damage seen in x-rays. Taking three distinct but linked approaches to the problem of pain in arthritis, using osteoarthritis of the knee as their model, they plan to:

·         look at pain in a social context; finding out from patients their own understanding of what pain and what they expect from treatment;

·         investigate closely two forms of pain mechanisms: the role of peripheral pain (pain that comes from the nerves in the joints) and central pain (the way that the brain responds to and processes chronic pain) and try to produce new compounds to target pain pathways;

·         run clinical trials aimed at testing existing drug therapies, and any new painkillers that may be produced over the next five years.

Millions of people with arthritis in the UK have to live with chronic pain every day, pain which blights their lives and often makes it difficult to live normally.


Case study: Krysia-Maria Rigley, was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in 2003. Every day is a struggle to carry on a normal life.

A lively and outgoing professional woman of 64, she is determined to keep going and continue working as a photographer, even though her joint pain is sometimes so intense that it regularly reduces her to tears.

“I just wish there was something that would help with the pain more,” she says. “I sob my heart out when the pain gets to its height every day. Sometimes when I get dressed I scream with the pain because it is so excruciating. The pain is always there even when I am sitting down, and it’s very hard to get up in the mornings. But I have to fight.”

Krysia-Maria’s knees were the first to be affected by osteoarthritis but now most of the joints in her body are swollen, sore and painful. She has other medical conditions that make it impossible for her to take non-steroidal painkillers, and she has been recently prescribed morphine patches by her doctor. She also takes amytriptyline to help her sleep.

“For three years I battled with lack of sleep while I was working, and was just too tired to work, too tired to drive, or do anything,” she explains.

Although she is registered disabled, she finds the lack of physical evidence of her condition means that most people don’t know she has arthritis.

“Although I’m in such pain it doesn’t show. When I get on a bus people don’t stand up to let me sit down because they don’t think there’s anything wrong with me,” she says. “If I was a little old lady with a stick it would be different.”

Somehow, and with support of husband Brian, Krysia-Maria, a former hairdresser and estate agent valuer, soldiers on with her professional and personal life. A member of the Royal Photographic Society, she recently had an exhibition in her home city of Nottingham, and does what exercise she can; walking every day, and cycling.

“I know there is no real answer at the moment and that’s why I’m so glad that the Pain Centre in Nottingham has been set up,” she says. “All we can do is hope. I know that everyone is doing all they can to find an answer to treating pain more effectively. I hope the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre will help others, as well as me.”

Arthritis Research UK is the charity leading the fight against arthritis and the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity.

We work to take the pain away for sufferers of all forms of arthritis and help people to remain active. We do this by funding high class research, providing information and campaigning. Everything we do is underpinned by research.

Our core remits are funding world-class research and providing a comprehensive range of information for patients, the public and health professionals and we are committed to raising the profile of arthritis and making a real difference to people’s lives.

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK’s Top Ten and the World’s Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

 More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


Posted on Thursday 15th July 2010

Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre

Clinical Sciences Building
City Hospital
Nottingham, NG5 1PB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 823 1766 ext 31766
fax: +44 (0) 115 823 1757