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Complementary Pain Management For Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the US, more than 46 million people suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Even though the incidence of RA has been on the decline over the last several decades, it's painful and debilitating to those who suffer from it.

The modern mainstay of arthritis treatment is the use of a class of drugs known as DMARDs (disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs).  This class of drugs has done much for affected patients in terms of improving quality of life and slowing progression of disease. That being said, complementary treatments are still an important part of therapy for those affected by this condition.

What are these "complementary treatments" you ask?  Here are some examples:

Anti-Inflammatory diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are helpful in controlling inflammation. Some of the important elements of these diets include fish, vegetables, and olive oil.

Heat and cold therapies are effective for acute pain. For joint stiffness, heat seems to have best effect, while cold…

Practical Management Of Chronic Pain In The Elderly

The elderly population is probably at greater risk for chronic pain than their younger peers.  The wear and tear on knees, hips and other joints over the years is one big source of this problem, combined with the likelihood of other health issues such as diabetes, restless leg syndrome, Parkinson's disease, cancer, stroke, etc. Those with dementia may also suffer from pain--but their ability to effectively communicate this to caregivers is often diminished.

Due to the fact that multiple problems often coexist in this population, pain management can be problematic.  It's certainly not a good idea to ignore their pain; that would be inhumane  and could lead to a whole host of new problems including anxiety, depression, and insomnia.  But often times medication options are more limited due to an individual's prescription regimen for their current comorbidities. Fear not!  There are still ways to manage this issue.

Less severe pain can be managed using ice packs and/or heat a…

Scrambling Isn't Just For Eggs!

An emerging form of treatment, known as "scrambler therapy" was introduced to the 2016 meeting of the American Pain Society.  This type of therapy, also known as Calmare Pain Therapy Treatment, seems to be useful for various forms or neuropathic pain, including neuropathic pain following cancer chemotherapy.

This form of treatment involves using electrical stimulation to block nerve pain.  Treatments are given in cycles.  One cycle of treatment can produce remission for 10 days, 2 months, or even longer. If a patient's pain begins to re-emerge, another cycle of treatment can be initiated.  Study authors are also studying the possibility that other forms of chronic pain treatment may complement or enhance this new pain therapy.

You can read more about scrambler therapy and the Calmare Pain Therapy Treatment by clicking here.

Sources:  Calmarett.com; Pain Medicine News; Wikimedia

Codeine Products--Falling Out Of Favor In the World of Medicine

As a young pharmacist, I remember the popularity of codeine containing products--Tylenol® With Codeine, Empirin® with Codeine, and many formulations of cough syrups with codeine.  But as the years have gone by,  the rationale for using these products has fallen by the wayside.

First of all, codeine in and of itself is a prodrug. It does not have any pharmacological effect until it is converted by bodily enzymes into morphine, its active form.  Due to genetic variability some people do not possess the enzyme that is responsible for this conversion. When these persons are ordered codeine containing products for pain, or for cough, it does not provide analgesia or cough suppression. Conversely, there are also "ultra-rapid metabolizers" of codeine--in this group, codeine is very quickly converted to morphine, so quickly in fact, that the effect can result in toxicity. Since the medical field does not genetically test people routinely to see who can or can't metabolize codei…

Ten Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome Relief

Web MD has a great slide presentation about home remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome--they're all simple things most anyone can do to help manage this condition.





Here is a quick list of ten of the suggestions they present~~

keep a regular bedtime--helps combat fatigue and keeps symptoms in checkstretch before you sleep~leg stretches may help just before bed or following prolonged sittingeliminate caffeine~may worsen symptoms for some RLS suffererswarm bath before sleep~a classic way to wind down and relax before sleepexercise habit~one study found that exercise resulted in reduced leg movement/deeper sleepexercise your brain~crossword puzzles, knitting, etc. are good distraction techniquesleg massage~calf massage can help one to fall asleep more quicklyyoga~stretching, breathing and relaxation of can relieve mild RLS symptomsavoid alcohol and cigarettes~nicotine and alcohol can exaggerate RLS symptomsmedication review~some cold and allergy medicines and antidepressants can worsen y…

Canadian Researchers Discover Cellular Mechanism Of Opioid Withdrawal

Hot off the presses!!!



We're all aware the of the existing opioid and heroin epidemics going on in the world...and that the need to use more alternative and complementary practices to manage chronic pain is urgent. Sadly, we're also aware that chronic use of opioids has led many into addiction, and ultimately death. But perhaps new hope is in store!

An exciting study at the University of Calgary reveals that an existing anti-gout medication can help to ease the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.  Their findings reveal the cellular mechanism of withdrawal and can--and hopefully will--lead to new ways to approach the problem of opioid addiction.

Keep in mind that this study is still at the preclinical levels. Let's hope at a future date there is more good news in store. This cannot come soon enough!

You can read more about this very exciting news by clicking here!

Sources: EurekaAlert; Wikipedia

Complementary, Alternative, Or Integrative Medicine: What's The Difference???

After my last post, I realized that the terms complementary, alternative, or integrative medicine may seem to confusing to some readers. It is my hope that after reading today's post these terms will be better understood. So, without further ado, here is my attempt to explain--




Alternative medicine  refers to practices outside the scope of traditional medicine. Yoga practice, meditation, chiropractic medicine,  and nutritional supplements or herbal medicines are some examples of these practices.  The term "alternative medicine" implies that one ore more of these non-traditional methods is being used in place of traditional medicine for a given condition.

Complementary medicine  refers to using a combination of traditional and alternative medicine to treat a given condition. As an example, a migraine sufferer finds that attending yoga classes regularly helps to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. But this same individual is also under care of a physician who has pr…

Modern Pain Management: A Mixture of New And Old, Complementary and Alternative

Modern pain management practice is looking for alternatives to opioid prescribing...and as such, they are looking toward some very new approaches--such as the pain management devices that are coming onto the marketplace--and some very old methods--such as yoga, acupuncture, reiki, and nutritional supplementation. The question is--how can a patient tell what is safe and effective from what is not?




One good resource is the NIH--the National Institutes of Health.  If you go to the Pain Management Section of the site, you can find information on many of the topics in this field.

The Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, two prestigious medical institutions, also offer online health libraries that you can access if you have a computer, laptop. or smartphone.

WebMD is another good resource.  Many products--such as the devices on the marketplace--may have their own individual informational sites, and you can visit them for information.

A discussion with you medical care team may also be of help…

The Lesser Known Health Benefits of Knitting and Crochet

I've previously mentioned that having a hobby can do much to distract someone from chronic pain...and I've previously mentioned that knitting and /or crochet are helpful to those with stress and anxiety--two common problems in the chronic pain population.




Recently, I came across a post in "The Little Things" citing many reasons why knit and crochet are good for your health.  You can read the post in entirety here, but here is the short list of the benefits!

1) Knitting (or crochet) can reduce heart rate and blood pressure. This leads to reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can damage the circulatory system and the heart.

2) Knit/crochet help keep fingers nimble. Just as walking or other exercise is good for arthritic knees and hips, knitting and crochet serve to exercise muscles in the fingers and hands, which helps to keep them from becoming stiff and dysfunctional.

3) Math skills are improved in people who knit/crochet. Following patterns is all abou…

Who Is Responsible For The Opioid Epidemic?

Last summer, TIME magazine ran a very thoughtful article about the Opioid Crisis. The piece was written by Andre Machado, Chairman of the Neurological Institute of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. In this short editorial, he brilliantly lays out how we have arrived at such a critical juncture in the world of pain management, and how we can move forward to a better approach toward the treatment of chronic pain.

You can read this very timely article (no pun intended) by clicking here.

Sources: Time Magazine; Flickr

The Tsunami Effect of Opioid Dependence

In one of the first studies of its kind, the FAIR Health group released some very interesting information last fall.  This group used claims data from privately insured persons to illustrate some obvious, but very shocking conclusions about privately insured persons who are regular opioid users.
The data from this study looked at (non-identifying) data from insurers who cover upwards of 150 million patients. They noticed the following observations:
From 2007-2014, medical services for people with opioid dependence diagnoses skyrocketed more than 3,000%
Much of the increase in opioid dependence occurred since 2011, even though this period was marked by increased attention to the problem and a growing concern amongst advocates as they called on doctors to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.
Younger patients (19-35 years) were most likely to be diagnosed as “opioid dependent” relative to other age groups. (Dependence is defined by symptoms such as increased tolerance, withdrawal or un…

Everything You Wanted To Know About Pain But Were Afraid To Ask...

Today I am sharing an article from PhillyVoice. I don't want to paraphrase it because if I did,something would be lost in translation.  All I want to say about it is that we often wonder about these aspects of  the human body and pain...but no one really addresses these things. That is, until now.

You can read this short but informative article by clicking here.




Sources: PhillyVoice; Pixabay

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Have you ever experienced an uncontrollable urge to move your legs? If you have, one possible cause is restless leg syndrome (RLS).  This uncomfortable condition is very common, particularly in adults. The condition usually comes about after a period of rest--sitting at a desk, sleeping, etc.  Usually moving around a little bit helps to calm things down.  Typically, symptoms tend to be worse in the evening hours.




This condition comes under the auspices of chronic pain syndromes because it tends to be chronic, seeing that at present there is no known cure.  It is not overtly painful, but the restless sensation is described as "unpleasant."Some people describe it as creeping or throbbing. A doctor can diagnose RLS based on patient history, physical exam, and laboratory tests (especially for iron levels).

It's not clear what causes RLS but it's thought to be an imbalance of hormones in the brain.  Heredity may play a role, and sometimes women first notice the issue dur…

Are You A Victim Of Learned Helplessness?

Today's post is a little different..exploring the idea of "learned helplessness." This behavior phenomenon was discovered by two psychologists who conducted a series of experiments in animals a few decades ago. There were three groups of dogs in the study; two of the groups were trained to overcome a painful stimulus by different means, while the third group did not receive any of this training.  In the next phase of the testing, all of the dogs were subject to this stimulus while in a confined environment. The first two groups of dogs used the skills they had learned previously, while the third group did nothing because they believed that there was nothing they could do to prevent this unpleasantry.

This behavior can be observed in humans as well--those who try to quit smoking, lose weight, go back to school, get a new job, etc.  Some people have the skills to overcome the obstacles and succeed in these ventures, while others just sulk in their "learned helplessne…

Rehab For Body And Brain For Leg Injury

A new report out of Ohio State University states that athletes (and others) who suffer a knee injury known as ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear require treatment and rehab for the knee, but retraining of the brain as well.  According to the researchers, the way that the brain controls the knee joint changes following the injury.




Typical treatment of this type of injury requires surgery, followed by a period of physical rehabilitation.  This report followed persons who were treated following ACL tear and found that the brain relies more on vision than on instinct following this period. This is most crucial to certain athletes who rely more heavily on instinct during game play.  The team found that the re-training of the brain could be accomplished using strobe-effect glasses during therapy in order to help these persons regain instinct-based performance.

You can read about this in more detail by clicking here.

Sources: WexnerMedical/OSU; Wikimedia

How To Relieve SInusitis...The Drug Free Way!

Attention allergy and rhinitis sufferers!  Before you know it it will be spring, and all those pesky nasal symptoms will return.  If you suffer from frequent sinus pressure and sinus headaches, today's post is just what the doctor ordered!

This method is a beautiful thing because it can be used if you are already on medicine for your symptoms...or not.  Oral decongestants are effective, but they are not a good idea for people with hypertension or heart problems.  They can also cause the sensation of a racing heart (tachycardia) and can interfere with a good night's sleep.

So, without further ado, here is a graphic from Top Ten Remedies that will show you a very effective way to deal with this problem:




Sources: TopTenRemedies.com


New Study Suggests Shoulder Pain Can Be Indicative Of Heart Disease

A recent study released by the University of Utah illustrates that shoulder problems can emanate from injury, but that might not always be the case.  While shoulder problems can stem from repeated physical stressors, heart disease can also be a cause.

The research behind this claim is based on a study of over 1200 laborers.  The team found that those who already had risk factors for heart disease, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes also showed risk for shoulder injury.  Some of these had more than one cardiac risk factor, and some of those with prior shoulder injury had subsequent shoulder injuries!

The authors suggest that controlling the risk factors of heart disease may also help prevent this type of injury....that is certainly food for thought!

You can read the original story behind this post by clicking here.

Sources: Science Daily; Wikimedia

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!

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