Workshopping research into pain in MS

  • The 2016 Research Priorities survey conducted by MS Research Australia identified that the MS community is very interested in research into treating and managing pain in MS.
  • MS Research Australia hosted a workshop earlier in the month in Melbourne on this topic, bringing together people affected by MS, clinicians, researchers, allied health professionals, pain organisations and MS organisations to discuss the current evidence and the best way forward for research in this area.
  • Topics that were covered at the workshop included an overview of the current knowledge of pain in MS, as well as pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for pain, and how evidence can be implemented in the MS community.

Why did we host the Pain in MS workshop?

Following the results of the 2016 community survey on the priorities for MS research conducted by MS Research Australia, it became clear that research into pain was rated as one of the highest priorities when it comes to symptoms in MS for people living with the disease. As a result, MS Research Australia felt that bringing together researchers and experts of all kinds to discuss the current knowledge and challenges for research in this area would be the best way to accelerate progress and promote collaboration to improve outcomes for people with MS.

Who was involved in the workshop?

The workshop was held in Melbourne in early October and attended by clinicians, allied health professionals, people living with MS, MS organisations, Pain Australia and Chronic Pain Australia, and researchers from other disease fields with an interest in pain, to discuss what is known about pain in MS as well as knowledge gaps, and how this can be overcome to improve overall quality of life.

What was presented and discussed at the workshop?

The workshop had impressive speakers from around Australia. Delegates first heard from three people with MS and their experiences with pain, which were vastly different. The first session provided an introduction and overview into pain in MS. Chairing the session was Dr Kristin Lefever, a neurologist from Mater Centre for Neurosciences QLD currently undertaking a PhD in pain in MS, who also spoke about the current literature on pain in MS. Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research TAS spoke about the MS Research Australia-supported Australian MS Longitudinal Study and how it can be a new resource for research into pain.

The second session covered pharmacological interventions for pain. Chairing the session was Mr Tim O’Maley, a MS nurse from the MS Society QLD, who also spoke about the different types of evidence based pharmacological treatments available for pain management and his experience with people with MS. Dr Leon Warne, a lecturer from Murdoch University and Head of Research and Innovation at Little Green Pharma WA, spoke about his work on gene therapy to reverse chronic pain as well as his research into medicinal cannabis for managing pain and improving quality of life.

The third session covered non-pharmacological interventions for pain. Chairing the session was Dr Jamie Young, a clinical pain specialist from the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre VIC with a PhD in pain in MS, who also provided an overview of non-pharmacological treatment options for pain management and an update on his research on MS-related pain. Ms Amy-Lee Sesel, a psychologist undertaking a PhD in MS at the University of Sydney NSW and funded by MS Research Australia, spoke about the preliminary findings of her mindfulness clinical trial as a pain management option for people with MS.

The final session focused on bringing everything together and looking at the bigger picture to reduce pain and improve the quality of life for people with MS. Chaired by our very own Deputy Head of Research, Dr Hamish Campbell, the session featured talks from Associate Professor Malcolm Hogg from Pain Australia who spoke about a national pain strategy and Ms Fiona Hodson from Chronic Pain Australia who spoke about general issues and considerations of chronic pain.

What was the goal of the workshop?

Following each session, time was set aside for in-depth discussion on the many points raised, allowing all delegates to contribute their perspectives, thoughts and expertise. The final discussion session aimed to draw together all the threads and themes that had been explored during the day. This allowed us and the delegates to identify the opportunities and challenges of research into pain in MS, and determine a way forward through the best research methods, projects and collaborations to improve the quality of life for people living with MS. We look forward to bringing you the outcomes from MS Research Australia’s Pain in MS workshop in the near future.


This workshop is a MS Research Australia initiative and was generously supported by Roche Australia.

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Workshopping research into pain in MS