Scientists discover peptide that may help reduce chronic neck or back pain

Aug 1 2011
Chronic neck or back pain is a common ailment that may prove difficult to treat. Many current treatments for this type of discomfort can have side effects such as depression or reduced motor coordination.

University of Indiana researchers recently published an article in Nature Medicine concerning their discovery of a peptide, CBD3, that interferes with pain signals. These signals normally move through calcium channels, and most treatments inhibit the movement of calcium to reduce instances of pain.

This peptide may be safer than opioids, which can cause respiratory or cardiac problems and are potentially addictive. CBD3 is a portion of the protein CRMP-2, discovered in earlier research, which was found to bind to calcium channels and affect pain signals.

"Since our approach does not directly inhibit calcium entry through voltage-gated channels, we expect that this molecule will be more specific and have fewer side effects than currently available analgesics," said Rajesh Khanna, PhD, a member of the research team.

While this may be effective in treating various types of pain, many calcium channels are also present in the spinal cord, so the implications for low back pain treatment may be significant. A 2009 National Health Interview Survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that low back pain was more common in both men and women than neck pain, severe headaches, and pain in the face or jaw.

The cause of back pain is not always apparent. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), back pain symptoms lasting longer than 72 hours should be reported to a physician once self-care options are exhausted. Limited bed rest, exercise, appropriate stretches, and the use of hot or cold compresses for inflammation and pain management may help reduce back pain.

The NIH notes that even some over-the-counter medications for treating back pain may have side effects, such as drowsiness, or interact with other medications, so they shouldn't be taken without a doctor's consultation.