Using a sensory training system to combat persistent limb pain at home

Disease - Complex regional pain syndrome

Lead applicant - Professor Candida McCabe

Organisation - University of the West of England

Type of grant - Translation

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £99,749.6

Start date - 8 April 2019

Reference - 22029

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that causes severe, persistent limb pain which won't go away. The aim of this research is to develop a sensory training system, for restoring normal limb sensation and reducing pain, which can be used at home by patients.

Why is this research important?

The main symptom of CRPS is persistent pain, however patients also have trouble with sensory discrimination (identifying difference between textures) with even gentle touch feeling painful. Patients can also struggle to determine where exactly pain is. This can be treated by intensive therapy to improve sensory discrimination however, this requires regular time-consuming therapy sessions which is quite often difficult for patients to maintain commitment to, particularly as it can take a long time to see an improvement.

This research aims to work with patients with CRPS to develop a game-based sensory training system that can be easily used at home. The system uses a pattern of electrodes that delivers a pleasant sensation to the affected limb to help patients feel normal sensations instead of painful ones. The system records data to see if it can be used to improve sensation and ultimately reduce pain.

How will the findings benefit patients?

If developed successfully, this research could lead to a commercially available device that patients can use at home to help treat persistent pain, ultimately to restore normal limb sensation and reduce pain. The research will involve patients in the design process to make sure the device meets their needs and priorities, helping them to engage with treatment of their condition and have greater control over management of their pain.

This technology could also have broader applications for improving quality of life of people with arthritis and neuropathic pain, including people with chronic lower back pack and survivors of stroke.