UAB researchers to study cause of pain differences

UAB researchers looking at differences in pain for people with knee osteoarthritis.

Patients with knee osteoarthritis report very different levels of pain, even when imaging studies show the progression of the disease is similar. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham want to get a better understanding of the cause.


“We think there may be three factors that primarily influence pain in these patients,” says Laurence Bradley, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology and lead investigator of the study. “Those are biological factors such as blood pressure or hormone levels, psycho-social factors such as perceptions and expectations, and also genetic factors.”

Bradley says a better understanding of the origins and perception of pain will help physicians better manage pain and may remove some barriers to therapies such as total joint-replacement.

“Previous studies have shown, for example, that the expectation of pain severity after recovery from joint-replacement is higher in blacks than it is in whites, and this difference contributes to more frequent unwillingness among African-Americans even to consider undergoing procedures such as joint transplant,” said Bradley. “A high expectation of pain can be a barrier to certain treatments.”

For information on the study, call 934-9614 or

Bradley and colleagues, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Florida, are conducting a five-year, National Institutes of Health-funded study of pain in those with osteoarthritis of the knee. They are enrolling individuals ages 45-85 with and without knee osteoarthritis.

The researchers will be assessing coping styles, other health conditions, ethnicity, economic factors, hormones and genes that may increase or reduce pain and access to health care. For information on the study, contact 205-934-9614 or

Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint disease affecting mainly the hands, knees, hips and spine.