The Link Between Anxiety and Chronic Pain

Anxiety and chronic pain minnesotaResearchers say the expression of a single peptide has been linked to both anxiety disorders and chronic pain, suggesting that we may be on the verge of a breakthrough for treating patients with both conditions.

Currently far too many patients are being prescribed a combination of drugs to treat both their anxiety and chronic pain condition, which researchers say can be dangerous. Instead, researchers say the discovery of the expression of pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide, or PACAP for short, could change the way we simultaneously treat the two conditions.

“Chronic pain and anxiety-related disorders frequently go hand-in-hand,” said Dr. Victor May, a professor of neurological sciences at the University of Vermont and study author.

Chronic Pain and Anxiety Disorders

For the study, researchers used mice to determine where the pathways for stress and pain intercept. By applying what the team called a “PACAP receptor antagonist,” researchers were able to successfully reduce both stress and pain in the rodents.

“By targeting this regulator and pathway, we have opportunities to block both chronic pain and anxiety disorders,” said May, who plans to next develop small molecule compounds that can antagonize PACAP actions. “This would be a completely different approach to using benzodiazepine and opioids — it’s another tool in the arsenal to battle chronic pain and stress-related behavioral disorders.”

The findings are intriguing because the US Food and Drug Administration recently issued a strong warning against mixing opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines, which is a current standard treatment for patients with chronic pain and anxiety. You can read more about the study here.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).