Chronic Pain and Resveratrol: The Pleasure of Relief

Three comfort foods to keep you healthy.

Posted Feb 07, 2012

Life is looking up if you enjoy grapes, peanuts and dark chocolate.

Last month it was announced that researchers at the University of Arizona School of Medicine demonstrated that resveratrol, a compound found in these foods, may be beneficial as a treatment for acute and chronic pain conditions.

Despite advances in the understanding of the basic mechanisms resulting in post-surgical pain, treating incision-induced pain remains a huge clinical challenge. Interestingly, surgery and its less than ideal aftermath can result in chronic pain. In the United States, over 45 million surgeries are performed annually; in up to 50% of these surgical patients, pain and discomfort persists even if the surgical wound has healed completely. The pain can last for over six moths following procedures such as hernia repair, breast surgery, leg amputation, or cardiac bypass surgery.

The researchers, writing in "Molecular Pain," hypothesized that resveratrol, a natural product found in the aforementioned foods, might be effective in the local treatment of post-surgical pain. They reasoned that activators of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) may represent a reasonable treatment option, because AMPK activators inhibit two important pathways involved in the sensitization of peripheral pain receptors.

Specifically, the scientists demonstrated that resveratrol profoundly inhibited ERK and mTOR signaling in sensory neurons in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion. Further, interleukin-6 (IL-6) is felt to play a role in pain; again, resveratrol had an impact, potently inhibiting IL-6-mediated signaling to ERK in sensory neurons, blocking the perception of pain. And, resveratrol administered at the time of incision completely blocked the development of persistent pain sensitization, preventing the transition to a chronic pain state.

Earlier this month, the praises of resveratrol echoed again in the medical literature, when it was announced that another mechanism of action of this compound involves tricking a cell into thinking it is deprived of energy, resulting in the increased production of energy-producing proteins by the cell. The authors of the report in the journal "Cell" feel that this discovery could lead to novel therapies for Alzheimer's, coronary artery disease and diabetes through the use of resveratrol or agents similar to it.

So, will we one day be recommending dark chocolate-covered peanuts washed down with red wine as therapy to prevent chronic pain and illness? Just leave a little room after you eat that apple a day.