UI Pain Management Expert Conducts Research

Armen Hareyan's picture

Kathleen Sluka (left), Ph.D., professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and director of the UI Neurophysiology of Pain Laboratory, recently traveled to Northern Ireland to conduct a series of research projects at the University of Ulster (UU) Centre for Rehabilitation Research.

An internationally recognized leader in the field of pain management research, Sluka has teamed up with UU Health and Rehabilitation Sciences professor Deirdre Walsh to investigate the effects of electrical stimulation on pain relief. Both Sluka and Walsh specialize in the mechanisms of action of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for pain relief. TENS is a nonpharmacological treatment commonly used by health professionals that uses electrical stimulation applied to the skin to control pain.


Sluka's visit was funded by Strategic Priority Funding and awarded to the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute from the United Kingdom's Department of Employment and Learning. In conjunction with the research, she delivered a presentation on the Neurobiology of TENS Aug. 8 at the UU Jordanstown campus.

Sluka and Walsh are currently conducting a review of the clinical research published on the effects of TENS for acute pain. They also plan to carry out a series of laboratory-based research studies within the Centre for Rehabilitation Research in a bid to advance knowledge on how electrical stimulation can be used to manage a range of pain conditions.

One of the first laboratory studies the pair will conduct involves testing a new glove electrode, which could have potential application for pain relief in arthritis of the hand. The knowledge gained from this laboratory study can then be used to plan a clinical trial, Sluka said.

Sluka's Neurophysiology of Pain Laboratory, located at the UI, studies the peripheral and central mechanisms of chronic musculoskeletal pain, and mechanisms of action of nonpharmacological treatments.