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Recent National Poll Finds Connection Between Sleep and Chronic Pain

Chronic and acute pain affect a person's ability to get sufficient good quality sleep. Conversely, the lack of sufficient good quality sleep contributes to the problems faced by those who are in pain--worsening pain, anxiety, depression, and the like.  You have to ask what came first--the chicken or the egg?  It seems like an endless cycle that's difficult to break.
A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation entitled "Sleep In America" sheds some light on this puzzling phenomenon and offers some evidence that there is a solution to the problem. According to a press release about the study, 
The 2015 Sleep in America ™Poll finds that pain joins two related concerns--stress and poor health--as key correlates of shorter sleep durations and worse sleep quality. But there are paths to resolving the problem: The sleep gap narrows sharply among those who make sleep a priority. 
"Taking control of your sleep by being motivated, setting a routine bedtime and creating …

Pain Management: Does Race Play a Role?

Have you ever wondered if certain factors caused provider bias in the realm of medical care..especially with respect to pain management? Today's post explores a study of racial factors in pain management.
A study conducted jointly by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has found that patient race, provider bias, and clinical ambiguity interact to influence a provider's assessment and treatment decisions.  The researchers suggest that understanding these factors and their influence might be important in terms of improving patient care.  Their results were presented at the 2014 meeting of the American Pain Society in Tampa, Florida.

Dr. Adam Hirsh, a psychologist, and his colleagues studied 110 medical residents and their interactions with twelve computer simulated patients, all of whom presented with acute pain. The highlight of their finding is interesting:  In the end, race mattered but not in a way you might expect. In situations where the diagnosis was uncertain…

Good Pain Management Requires a Good Manager!

Happy New Year!

I have to ask all of you who suffer from chronic pain..are you happy with how well your pain is managed?  Do you feel like the pain levels in your life have control over you more than you have control over them?  Now that the new year has begun, it might be time to think of a new strategy if you aren't happy with the old one.

Everyone will have good days and bad...some days will be better than others, and some days you just won't have the upper hand.  In a business, when a manager does not produce as expected--they may have to change their strategy to improve in the problem areas. The same is true in pain management.  If you think it's time to change some things up it might be time for a new strategy!

This is the purpose of my blog.  I hope you will keep reading it and that 2014 will bring you many new ideas to try in your personal pain management strategy.  Have a look around. I wish you all many more days of pain free living in this new year!

Original Po…

Non Drug Pain Management Ideas: Applying the 80/20 Principle

The idea for today's post comes from my husband, who has in recent years become a
follower of the paleo/primal diet.  Most of the time he is very strict about this diet, making sure not to eat anything taboo.  On occasion, he breaks from the rigidity of his new found way
of life and enjoys a few cookies, maybe a bottle of beer, or a new pasta dish.

Why, you ask?  He says that according to others who follow this course, there is an
80/20 rule.  This means that that if you adhere to the rules 80% of the time, you can allow yourself some leeway the other 20% of the time.  It is important to bring this concept to the readers of this blog for a number of reasons:

1)If you have been following this blog at all,
you know there are a lot of lifestyle changes that can tremendously enhance relief from chronic pain.  For a lot of people this not an easy thing to do.  By opting to follow the 80/20 rule these lifestyle modifications suddenly become much easier to follow!

2)If you find …

Don't Let Chronic Pain Take Charge of YOUR Life!

For this post, I am sharing an article I saw back in July..."Taking Your Life Back From Chronic Pain."  The author raises some very good many health conditions, such as migraine, can overwhelm our lives when they are in full force.  She goes on to say that.... in spite of increased scrutiny over some aspects of health care, including prescription medications...there are still many ways to get a handle on the problem before it gets a handle on you!

Many of the things she brings up are things that have been mentioned in this blog before--smoking cessation, weight loss, dietary measures, etc.  Now that the New Year has begun, maybe it's time to think about these things once again.  Even if medication is required to manage one's medical condition, adding healthy lifestyle changes to the regimen will further improve the treatment plan.

Happy 2015!  Go for it!

Sources: Yahoo! News; Flickr
Originally posted January 23, 2015

Chronic Pain Management: How To Train Your Inner Dragon

Many people see chronic pain management as strictly a medical issue...and that, it is not.  Pretty much every person living with chronic pain can benefit from many alternative and complementary practices.  At first you might think it's crazy to see a psychologist for treatment of chronic pain. For some folks, the idea of going to a psychologist implies some kind of mental health problem, or that the pain your feeling is all in your head. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A psychologist can help a pain patient in some very significant ways. First of all, a psychologist can help an individual how to self-manage their pain. Think of it this way--many of us would go to a doctor about being overweight, but their are many weight loss plans and health clubs that can help us to get back in shape.  In a similar manner, a psychologist can help to explore which things in our lives improve or worsen pain levels and how to get those things into balance.

Secondly, a psychologist can hel…

Fighting Inflammation: Include These Foods!

A few weeks ago, Prevention Magazine posted an article about anti-inflammatory foods. While they can be easily included in the diet as smoothie ingredients,  I am taking the liberty to tell you that you don't have to be a smoothie lover to take advantage of their healthful properties.  You can read the article in entirety here. For those who want a quick synopsis, I will share some ideas in the following paragraphs...

1) Matcha powder is a powdered form of green tea.  It pairs well with peaches, mint, cocoa, coconut and vanilla.  It is said to be a powerful cancer fighting anti-oxidant and has an anti-inflammatory effect on immune cells (associated with inflammation).

2) Ginger has been used to quell stomach upset for years and years.  But it also has anti-inflammatory properties that can work as a natural ibuprofen!  This spicy root is a good additions to dishes with leafy greens, coconut, lemon, apple, pineapple, or chocolate.

3) Baby Kale is rich in vitamin K and magnesium, tw…

Inflammation: Friend OR Foe?

Inflammation is a natural body process.  It is a natural body response to disease--in response to infection, allergens, and other bodily invaders.  This can be a good thing because it can save us from things foreign to our bodies. But in can be a bad thing when it's a  chronic response to chronic illness.

Celiac disease is a good example of this.  Those diagnosed with this condition experience an inflammatory response to gluten, a component of wheat and some other cereal grains.  The problem is, the antibodies produced also attack the lining of the small intestine.  The resulting inflammatory damage causes reduced ability to absorb nutrients from food, causing diarrhea, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurological damage, etc. Rheumatoid arthritis is another condition in which antibodies to one's own tissue are produced, causing damage to body joints and internal organs as well.

Historically, anti-inflammatory medications have been tried to help halt the disease process. Some…

Chronic Wound Healing--New Study Shows That Opioids Help The Pain But Slow The Gain

Chronic wounds--often the consequence of diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses are a very expensive and very challenging problem the world of health care. In 2009 it was reported that 6.5 million Americans suffered from this problem. At that time the annual expense of treatment was estimated to be $25 billion and growing, primarily due to longer life expectancies and the sharp rise in the incidence of diabetes.

Typically these wounds are a source of pain--and being chronic wounds, the pain can also be chronic. Sometimes diabetic wounds in particular are very slow to heal due to changes in circulation to the limbs, and sometimes amputation is necessary.  Therefore it's logical to remediate the discomfort of these wounds with pain medications, including opioids.

But a new study released by George Washington University is causing second thoughts. After completing a study of 450 subjects who were victims of chronic wound problems, an interesting observation came about.  Accor…

"B Sure" to Avoid B12 Deficiency!

Vitamin B12--also known as cyanocobalamin is an important nutritional element.  The human body uses this vitamin to make red blood cells, DNA, and other important products.  Cyanocobalamin is also necessary for integrity of the human nervous system. In this regard, one of the symptoms of B12 deficiency is tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet. Other signs of deficiency include anemia, problems with balance, inflammation of the tongue, jaundice, problems with thought processes, weakness and fatigue. 

A deficiency of this vitamin can be caused to a number of different things.  Some of the more common reasons people are deficient include the following:
Proton pump inhibitors--while wildly popular for their ability to quell heartburn and GERD and treat ulcers, chronic use of these medications interferes with the absorption of this crucial vitamin from the GI tract.Metformin, one of the most popular drugs used to treat type II diabetes can deplete B12 levels over time.Advanced age-…

"Stepped Care Model"--Offers New Hope For Management of Chronic Pain

For the 100 million plus Americans in chronic pain, there are sometimes more questions than answers. Many suffer day in, day out, with little to no hope for better solutions to their problems.  I would say to you all--there is hope out there...sometimes it takes time to figure out the best solution to one's problems, but there are many remediations already out there, and a lot of research into new and better solutions in the future. There is no "cookie cutter "solution to this problem; at best it is complex because pain is a unique experience to every individual.

One of the newest things on the horizon is known as the "Stepped Care Model For Pain Management" (SCM-PM).  Recently published in the Journal of Pain Research, this approach to pain management has three levels:

In the first step, a patient's pain concerns are identified by their clinician.  The patient and provider discuss the issue and focus on treatment based on self-management and intervention w…

Polyneuropathy: Diabetes Is Not The Only Cause!

You may be well aware that one of the complications of type II diabetes is neuropathy.  When caused by diabetes, the nerve damage is attributed to elevated blood glucose levels over extended periods of time.  But diabetes is NOT the only cause of neuropathy.  Some forms of neuropathy develop following illnesses, such as shingles, or physical damage to our bodies following injury, accident, or general wear and tear. The term polyneuropathy is used to describe multiple affected nerves as opposed to only one affected nerve (also known as mononeuropathy).

A new study of polyneuropathy from a team at the University of Michigan unveiled another way that this condition can develop.  According to study authors, pre-diabetes and obesity are also factors that contribute to development of this most uncomfortable condition.

For those who are weight conscious, this is a winning situation. By being careful to maintain a healthy weight you are able to fend off pre-diabetes and ultimately diabetes,…

What's Your Game Plan?

Whenever two football teams play a game, each of the teams has a strategy. The same goes for baseball teams, basketball teams, tennis players, those who play poker and other card games, chess, checkers, and so many other things. In medicine, a treatment algorithm helps guide practitioners in treating various medical conditions. The common denominator in all of the above is strategy.

You can use this same kind of thinking to battle chronic pain issues.  That is why it's so important to have many different pain management tools available.  Every individual experiences pain differently--so knowing yourself and what to try first is a good place to start. The next step is to have a "plan B" so that you have a second treatment option on hand if your first option doesn't quite do the job.  From there you may want to add subsequent steps to your treatment plan.

Multimodal pain management is highly recommended for people with chronic pain.  The beauty of this is that not eve…

Quantifying Pain: The Oswestry Disability Index

There are many ways by which pain can be evaluated.  For instance, there are a couple of scales I discussed in an earlier post (Some Thoughts On Quantifying Pain). In this post I specifically discussed the 1-10 scale that is commonly used when people are able to verbally relate their pain to a caregiver or health care provider.  I also provided an example of the FACES scale, by which a nurse or other caregiver can assess pain by the expression on a person's face.  FLACC is the third example I shared in this post, which is primarily used when a patient is unresponsive but thought to be in pain.

The above examples are all useful in assessing acute pain--following an injury, during an acute illness, surgery, etc.  But they do not really apply to chronic pain patients because chronic pain can come and go or feel better or worse on any given day.  For chronic pain it's more appropriate for a health care team to use their own questionnaire to assess the kind of pain a patient has, …

New Type of Migraine Identified?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, seventy percent of migraine sufferers are women. About sixty to seventy percent of these women report a correlation between migraine attacks and the menstrual cycle.  Most commonly this is attributed to the fact that a woman's hormones levels fluctuate throughout their cycles. This change in hormone levels over time is said to be what precipitates migraines.

A new study points to the idea that this is not the only mechanism by which a menstrual migraine can come about.  According to researchers at the Carolina Headache Institute, cyclic "end menstrual migraine" (EMM) can be the result of anemia. This anemia is the result of dropping ferritin levels due to blood loss of menstruation  The authors go on to say that more study is necessary to firm up this theory.  The good news is that the affected women in the Carolina study responded favourably to iron supplementation.  
Here again, more study is necessary to substantiate the findings...…

Alcoholism Can Contribute To Chronic Pain--And Other Health Issues,Too!

It's not surprising to hear...or to be... someone who drinks, or drank as a minor. Those crazy teenage and college years are what memories are what made of, right?  In these early years of life we don't always take the time to think about the long term consequences of our choices; instead we focus on having a good time our friends and forgetting about our troubles for a while.

It's really too bad that the human brain works this way.  A new study about long term consequences of alcohol consumption during the adolescent and early adult years gives us insight as to how alcohol abuse in the early years can contribute to health issues several decades later. The study was conducted by interviewing middle aged to older persons about their drinking habits during their earlier years and their current health status.  The main conclusion was that drinking heavily or excessively in the earlier years was strongly correlated with more health problems in the later years. The study menti…

Pain Management For Musicians

Americans are very interested in professional sports.  We love our Great American Pastime- Baseball, and NFL Football and of course, NHL Hockey. We generally like our college and high school sports as well.  An when an athlete is injured during play, it's natural to send them to a sports medicine practice for treatment.

We like our music as well.  And musicians are prone to injuries of many sorts, depending on which instrument is being played, and most uniquely, the human voice. I'm not a gambler but I'd bet most of us would not think about going to someone who specializes in injuries related to musical performance!  This is an emerging field; there are as of now only a few medical practices dedicated to this area. But there are many ways that musicians can prevent or manage chronic pain using devices or techniques particular to their specialty.

Here are some examples:

Guitar players...
My husband is a guitar player.  He learned of a device known as a "Neck Up"…

Medications: When more is NOT Merrier!

I believe in living simply.  And when it comes to medications, it appears that this is a good philosophy. Apparently, the folks at agree with me. This agency is an advocate for consumers--it provides informations about drugs, devices and the pros and cons of using these things.

Getting back to why they agree with me (or vice versa):

When a person takes a medication, it is important for them to know as much about it as possible

What is the name of this medication?
What is this medication used for?
What are the directions for use?
What are the possible side effects of this medication?
and lastly,
What are the potential drug interactions of this medication?

This last point may not seem any different than the others at first glance, but it is in fact, a very important point.  Drug interactions can occur in several different ways, so let's take a look at some possibilities.

Drugs can interact with other drugs.

Most pharmacies will run a drug interaction checker listing all…

Safe Disposal Of Unused Medications

Do you have medications that you are no longer using in your medicine cabinet?  It might be a good idea to have a look. No one wants a young child or potential addict to have access to these things!

My suggestion to you is twofold:

If the medications are still in date, consider donating them to a free clinic.  It's always a nice "pay it forward" for someone who can't afford a medication but could really make use of it.

If the medication you have is outdated, the FDA has suggestions for you on how to get rid of it. Here is their advice on medication disposal:


Tips for Using Medication Safely

Most everyone will find the need to take some kind of medication some time in their lives. And whether that medication is a pain medication or not, there are some general rules that apply for the safe use of all medications. While this list is not all inclusive, here are some safety tips that apply to all.

Store medications as per package directions. Some medications can be keep at room temperature, while others need to be refrigerated or perhaps frozen.  Every prescription or over-the-counter drug comes with information as to ideal storage temperature.  If you are unsure about a specific medication, ask your pharmacist.

Keep all medications out of the reach of children.

Take medications as per package directions.  Do not exceed recommended dosages.

Do not share prescription medications with other individuals.  Medications should always be used only by the person it is prescribed to.

Read package information or patient education leaflet and talk with your pharmacist about the correct usag…