At GSK, we’re determined to break through the pain barrier, and through a dedicated team of scientists in our Consumer Healthcare business, we are working hard to better understand why we experience pain; and to develop more effective pain relief treatments for people around the world.
Pain is our body’s internal alarm system
While pain is unpleasant, it’s important. Our bodies have evolved a clever pain mechanism to protect us. Many instances of pain act like a signal to warn someone they are in danger. For instance, when skin is broken, pain occurs to indicate that the area should be protected until it heals.
“If the body is damaged in some way, pain signals are sent from the damaged area, through the spinal cord, along specialised nerve fibres and towards the brain,” explains our principal research scientist for topical pain relief, Salvador Rios Martinez.
“The brain then interprets the pain signal and localises where in the body is damaged, allowing the body to respond and react.”
We can experience two different types of pain. One is neuropathic, which is caused by a malfunction of, or damage to, the nervous system. This is often described as a dull, aching pain. The other type is a nociceptive signal, caused by damage to body tissue. This usually manifests as a sharp, or throbbing pain.
Understanding the impact of pain
Developing effective medicines for pain is reliant on scientists like Salvador understanding how individuals feel and react when they’re experiencing it. To do this, we need to combine social science with lab-based science. For the past two years, we have produced the Global Pain Index (GPI), which uncovers people’s attitudes towards physical pain and the impact that pain has on their lives.