Major grant bolsters Penticton doctors research on pain

Local research team is headed by Penticton rheumatologist

Penticton rheumatologist Dr. Michelle Teo is part of a local research team looking to help fibromyalgia patients deal with chronic pain. The Canadian Rheumatology Association has provided a $91,000 grant to the group.                                Submitted photo

Penticton rheumatologist Dr. Michelle Teo is part of a local research team looking to help fibromyalgia patients deal with chronic pain. The Canadian Rheumatology Association has provided a $91,000 grant to the group. Submitted photo

A major research grant has helped bolster Penticton-based efforts to treat Fibromyalgia patients struggling to deal with their pain.

The Canadian Rheumatology Association has provided more than $91,000 to a local research team headed by Penticton rheumatologist Dr. Michelle Teo and Dr. Nelly Oelke, an assistant professor at UBC-Okanagan.

Related: Penticton research team leads pain treatment options

The funding also helps promote a local Medical Research Fund being established through the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.

Fibromyalgia is chronic pain condition that affects about two per cent of the population. It is characterized by diffuse body pains, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood and cognitive changes.

Multi-component treatment is now being viewed by a growing number of specialists as being superior to drug treatments for pain.

“They’re developing a systemic team approach for treatment of fibromyalgia in the community,” said Dr. Tom Ashton, a retired Penticton cardiologist who is involved in the project. “People have pain all over their body and they don’t know what’s going on.”

In 2014, Teo and Oelke and other local clinicians and researchers launched a two-year pilot study in which people with fibromyalgia participated in a community-based, multi-disciplinary group intervention. A special fibromyalgia/chronic pain symposium drew an overflow crowd to the Shatford Centre in June 2016.

However, since then, the fibromyalgia group has faced a lack of sufficient funding, until now.

In addition to the Canadian Rheumatology Association grant, a new endowment fund through the community foundation will provide another source of research revenue for future studies.

“The research fund was created to provide local scientists and researchers with seed money to test made-in-the-South Okanagan solutions,” said Aaron McRann, executive director of the community foundation. “Our region has always worked hard to be independent and proactive in meeting our health care needs.”

Some funding for the research committee has been provided through the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation. However, creation of the new endowment fund at the community foundation will allow for more growth in locally planned and completed research.

“As two of the largest funding organizations in our region, I think it’s really important that we find ways to partner and work together,” said McRann.

Carey Bornn, executive director of the SOS Medical Foundation agreed.

“What’s most important is that everyone teams together to help alleviate the pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers,” Bornn said.