Chronic pain (illustrative)
Chronic pain (illustrative)iStock

Researchers at University of Haifa have launched an innovative collaborative project called PainStory, a website that will offer individuals a safe and secure place to share their experiences with chronic pain.

The initiative aims to break the stigma surrounding chronic pain and will allow researchers to learn directly from the true experts: chronic pain sufferers. By giving voice to their experiences, the project’s leaders seek to gain a deeper understanding of chronic pain and develop more compassionate and effective treatments.

Chronic pain affects a staggering 20% of the global population, surpassing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined, and is the leading cause of the opioid crisis. Behind these statistics lies the untold suffering experienced by millions of people. As such, PainStory aims to shed light on the reality of chronic pain by sharing individuals’ personal stories.

“Through this project, we’re exploring a different approach to understanding chronic pain,” said Dr. Pavel Goldstein, head of University of Haifa’s iPain Lab. “A doctor has a very specific biomedical focus, filtering out the patient’s emotional experience and suffering.”

The PainStory project is being conducted in collaboration with Tor Wager, professor of Neuroscience at Dartmouth College; Yoni Ashar, assistant professor at University of Colorado; Alla Landa, assistant professor at Columbia University; and Jonas Tesarz, a senior physician and assistant professor at the Department of General Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics at University Hospital Heidelberg.

Dr. Goldstein, too, carries his own personal pain story and adopted lyrics from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ famous song, “Californication.” The song beautifully captures the intricate nature of pain and its potential to become chronic.

“A breakthrough should come from a collaborative approach that places the experiences of people with chronic pain at the forefront. We believe that the key to unlocking breakthrough solutions lies in harnessing the invaluable knowledge and insights of those who live with chronic pain every day. To this end, we are actively developing psychoeducational materials in four languages and exploring innovative ways to communicate and connect with individuals suffering from chronic pain,” Goldstein said.

The dedicated digital platform is built to provide a safe and secure space for individuals to share their unique pain narratives. By participating in this initiative, individuals can contribute invaluable information and perspectives that have the potential to transform how researchers and doctors understand and address chronic pain.

By having participants share their stories on the platform, they can help foster a compassionate environment where others can comprehend the true nature of chronic pain, ultimately reducing the stigma surrounding the condition.

The PainStory project also aims to enhance a multidimensional understanding of chronic pain beyond just the magnitude and severity of chronic pain. The shared stories paint a vivid picture of the challenges faced by millions around the world, amplifying awareness and advocacy for improved pain management and combatting the global opioid crisis.

The need to enhance understanding about chronic pain extends even further, to the medical community. Researchers believe it is essential to include the voice of the patient in this process. These stories could lead to the development of innovative approaches that directly address the diverse needs of those suffering from chronic pain.

“We want them to know that their story matters and their participation will significantly impact our collective knowledge on this subject. Together, we can create a powerful force for change,” Goldstein said.

The researchers also emphasized that all information shared on PainStory is strictly for research purposes only and will remain confidential.