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Airing Pain 79: Side Effects, Placebos and a Brief History of Nerve Pain

Making sense of side effects, the power of placebo, and the improving treatment of neuropathic pain

This edition has been funded by friends and supporters of Pain Concern.

Tens of thousands of soldiers in the First World War survived with limb amputations, but doctors and wider society were unprepared for and often unsympathetic to the long term pain they experienced. Professor Andrew Rice brings us up to date with developments since then in treating pain caused by nerve damage and explains what makes neuropathic pain different from everyday pain.

Although the drugs used to treat neuropathic pain may have improved, side effects are still a major problem for many. Researcher Sheena Derry discusses how we can balance out the risks and benefits.

Understanding the harm caused by a drug can be challenging because even research study participants given sugar pills rather than real drugs may experience adverse effects. Psychologist Lena Vase explains that the latest research on the placebo effect shows that it’s always worth a doctor’s time to listen sympathetically to a patient.

Issues covered in this programme include: Medication, neuropathic pain, side effects, placebos, medical history, medical research, comorbidities, psychology, amputation and veterans.


  • Andrew Rice, Professor of Pain Research, University College London
  • Sheena Derry, Senior Scientific Officer, Pain Research Unit, University of Oxford
  • Lena Vase, Professor of Psychology, Aarhus University
  • Michael Clough, army veteran.
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