The work in Dr. Bruehl’s lab is focused on the general topic of pain and pain management. For the past several years, a key focus of his lab has been on understanding various factors (e.g., natural opioid system function, psychosocial status) that may influence the benefits versus risks experienced when receiving opioid analgesic medications for pain management. Ongoing work is evaluating whether aerobic exercise training reduces chronic back pain by enhancing natural opioid systems (endogenous opioids), and is testing whether exercise-related endogenous opioid enhancements can reduce the dosage of opioid analgesic medication required to achieve adequate pain management. Dr. Bruehl’s lab is also collaborating with other researchers to better understand the impact of genetic factors on both the analgesia and side effects experienced when receiving opioid analgesic medications.
Another key focus of the Bruehl lab is on evaluating whether oxidative stress occurring during total knee arthroplasty surgery (TKA) contributes to chronic pain that occurs in a subset of patients after TKA, with a particular focus on the condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Dr. Bruehl’s lab also continues to investigate how chronic pain alters cardiovascular function and impairs normally adaptive interactions between the cardiovascular and pain regulatory systems. This work seeks to better understand the causes of increased hypertension risk in chronic pain sufferers.
Finally, work in the Bruehl lab has extensively evaluated the impact of anger-related factors on both acute and chronic pain, and has explored the role of endogenous opioids in observed relationships between emotional regulation and pain responses.
Overall, the goal of the research in Dr. Bruehl’s lab is to better understand the psychophysiological factors contributing to chronic pain and its related health risks, and ultimately, to improve treatment of chronic pain while mitigating against the risks associated with regular opioid analgesic use.