Pain Centre Versus Arthritis

How we investigate pain

The Pain Centre Versus Arthritis is focusing on why arthritis is painful and how we may be able to improve pain treatments. Much of our work looks at knee osteoarthritis, one of the commonest and most troublesome forms of arthritis, although we are interested in all kinds of arthritis pain.


“Everybody’s different and everybody’s pain is probably different. Your symptoms get worse yet there doesn’t seem to be any progression with the pain relief.

That’s why we need research into pain management.”

Lynda Tainton, member of Centre’s lay advisor group.

The above quotation is from interviews the Pain Centre carried out with members of its Patient and Public Involvement Advisory Group (Dec 2011-Jan 2012).

The pathway between what is happening in the joint and what the person feels is complex and ever changing; a little like traffic in a city centre throughout the day. There are times when there is a lot of traffic, and times when things are quieter. Sometimes the traffic gets to where it intended, and sometimes it gets diverted to some other destination. Sometimes there are blocks, and sometimes the drivers get angry.

From the outside it all can look very chaotic, but more detailed inspection reveals a multitude of different cars navigating different but interconnected routes to get to their various destinations.

We are investigating the pain pathways from the start of the journey in the joint through the nerves in the spine to their destination in the brain. We are interested not only in signals that carry the pain messages, but also what influences their journeys and what the consequences are of them reaching their destination.

Only through this broad understanding of arthritis pain will we be able to discover new treatments to relieve pain, and to get the best out of existing treatments. Our methods include questionnaires, interviews, imaging, and laboratory studies including the collection and analysis of tissue samples.



A summary of our research themes

The Centre’s combined expertise incorporates the fields of rheumatology, neuro-imaging, psychology, neuropharmacology, neurosciences and orthopaedic surgery. Our research spans across seven research themes:

Preclinical studies investigate how pain from the affected joint is processed by the nervous system at many points up to and including the brain.

Pain imaging involves using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine not only changes in the joints, but also changes in how pain signals are received and processed by the brain.

Psychology and perception is examined using questionnaires and interviews to find out how people with arthritis cope with pain, and how pain affects their health and well-being.

Clinical pain phenotyping (i.e. characterisation) brings together a number of methods to measure and describe the different kinds of pain in arthritis. This will help us to match treatments to these various pains.

Clinical trials are large community-based studies to investigate treatments for arthritis pain. Our aim is find out how to target treatments to those most likely to benefit, and to relieve pain outcomes by improving the ways in which treatments are delivered.

Epidemiology and biobanks store clinical information, tissues and blood samples that have been given to us by people with arthritis and enable us to investigate the mechanisms that cause arthritis pain.

Evidence based medicine involves reviewing published studies, and contributing to guideline development, to inform and influence researchers, practitioners and policy-makers.

Click here to read more about our research themes.



Pain Centre Versus Arthritis

Clinical Sciences Building
City Hospital
Nottingham, NG5 1PB

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