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Release: Aug. 19, 1999

UI physical therapy researcher receives National Institutes of Health grant

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kathleen Sluka, Ph.D., University of Iowa assistant professor of physical therapy, has received an $880,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant, which lasts through February 2004, will fund a study of the neurobiology of chronic muscle pain.

Chronic musculoskeletal pain affects 14 percent of people in the United States. Sluka wants to establish and characterize a new model that better mimics chronic, widespread muscle pain. The current models of musculoskeletal pain typically produce short-term hyperalgesia (extreme sensitiveness to painful stimuli). However, chronic muscle pain is long-lasting, persisting for months or even years for some individuals.

"These proposed studies will help in the understanding and potential treatment of chronic muscle pain, including such conditions as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain and low-back pain," Sluka said.

Sluka, who joined the UI faculty in 1996, is focused on studying joint and muscle pain in animal models. In addition to her new project, Sluka is looking at the analgesic effects and neural action mechanisms of physical therapy treatments on inflammatory pain. She also is investigating the role of calcium channels and second-messenger systems located in the central nervous system in pain processing.