I was pleased to be invited by Nature to give my thoughts on what is needed in pain research and care (“To treat pain, study people in all their complexity“). Too often, the person is forgotten while the symptom is treated. Our systems must account for the individual variability in the experience and treatment of pain, and to address the unique needs of each person. Psychology is fundamental to the experience of pain, regardless of the diagnosis or cause, and we have the opportunity to better characterize patients to ensure they get more of what they need and less of what would be risky for them.

Much of my work focuses on harnessing the power of the mind for pain relief. Placebo — the belief that something will help us — offers powerful low-risk benefit to medical intervention. Nocebo — belief that something will harm us — does the opposite: it increases pain and undermines medical treatment effects. My interventions focus on reducing nocebo and optimizing placebo for pain relief. It’s an exciting area that’s gaining attention in the scientific community and in public awareness. It just makes sense that we would optimize mind and body to have the best response to medical treatments — and prime ourselves for pain relief.

Yours in health,