admin

Pain Relief Blog

All posts by admin

Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Works

Morphine’s long-term efficacy and safety remains contentious. In studies, it has reduced pain by between one and three points on the numeric pain rating scale, so while it certainly has its place, more effective, safe analgesic therapies are desperately needed. Hope might come from an unexpected place: virtual reality software.

The Studies Supporting VR for Chronic Pain

In March 2017, researchers at Cedars Sinai Medical Center studied the effects of calming virtual reality content on 50 pain patients. They reported a 24% drop in pain—equal to that of morphine. Two dimensional video and music brought a 13.2% improvement.

Psychologist, Hunter Hoffman, tried out a different virtual reality environment called Snow World on burn victims during and after wound care. Patients reported 60% to 75% less pain during their sessions and 30% to 50% less afterwards.

The Brain Hijack

Researcher Brennan Spiegel thinks that virtual reality works as an “immersive distraction” that “hijacks the senses.” It keeps the brain from processing pain, an effect that still needs to be tested over longer periods of time. Spiegel has already begun a larger trial, which will look into how virtual environments affect the length of hospital stays.

The study isn’t as spurious as it may seem. The brain and mood’s impact on medical outcomes is well documented. Optimism not only encourages recovery from surgery, but lowers death rates.

Pain is a strange and stubborn creature. To endure it, you must use all your personal resources. Patients must alter their perceptions of what they feel and find optimism at a time when it’s least available. Many treatments support this difficult task.

Chronic pain constantly occupies a place in your brain, which leads to depression and insomnia. PainStop Clinic understands your suffering and will support you with a range of therapies that replace risky opioid-based medications.

 

Healthy Spine Tips to Prevent Back and Neck Pain

Lower back pain is responsible for more global disabilities than any other problem. It affects 80% of people at some point in their lives. Up to 90% will also suffer from tension headaches at least once, and posture, neck spasms, and stress can all contribute. The evolution of the human spine has been slow and, at times, painful. It’s simply not ideal for upright walking, so getting your pain under control requires a little effort and support. Causes include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle strain from overstretching or carrying heavy objects incorrectly
  • Poor posture and badly designed work stations
  • Sports injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Curvature

A typical strain creates swelling, sets your posture off balance, and causes spasms that create even more pronounced posture problems and swelling. Sports injuries, curvature, and even herniation can create a similar cycle, so two of the most important ways to bring healing are through stretching and spasm release. Physiotherapy, yoga, and stretching achieve this.

You can prevent back pain by

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lifting with your knees bent and your back upright
  • Taking walking or stretching breaks when you do desk work
  • Using ergonomic furniture
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Quitting smoking. Smokers have more spine problems than nonsmokers and recover from surgery more slowly.

Back Pain Associated with Aging

Osteoporosis, disk degeneration, and spinal arthritis often require more invasive solutions, but your lifestyle can greatly improve your symptoms. Solutions include:

  • Keeping calcium and magnesium levels optimal
  • Strengthening core muscles to support your spine better
  • Stretching and loosening your back muscles
  • Treating strains with ice and compression

The health of your spine is a core contributor to quality of life, and a little loving care can have powerful effects. Want to learn more about ways to relieve back pain? Ready for personalized care? Find a Pain Stop Clinic near you.

How Heavy Bags Cause Back Pain

The average sixth grader carries 18.4 pounds in his backpack, and the average handbag carries 6.27 pounds’ worth of lipstick and keys. Nobody seems to have done any research about the weight of the average briefcase, but man bags have done more than merely embarrass the fashion police—they’ve caused an increase in back and shoulder pain. That’s apart from the luggage you carry to the airport and the heavy lifting you do during your work day.

Back pain has become the norm rather than the exception throughout the world, and luggage is adding to the burden. It’s children’s spinal health that’s most at risk because bad back habits are easily entrenched, and young shoulders are prone to neurological damage, which can eventually affect finger dexterity.

Studies on Heavy Bags and Spine Health

A 2014 Spine study found that heavy backpacks cause disc compression that can have repercussions in adulthood. Pre-adolescents often carry as much as 30% of their body weight. The suggested upper limit is 10%, and this should be carried in a way that distributes weight evenly across both sides of the body. The core muscles should be doing most of that work, and for those with spinal curvature, even perfect carrying technique cannot prevent spasms and pain.

Offloading school backpacks can certainly help, but the problem has less to do with weight as it does off-axis loading. Ergonomic backpacks help children to carry their weight on their vertical axis while encouraging better posture. High seated, close fitting backpacks prevent the slouching traditional backpacks cause.

Adults can prevent baggage woes by developing core muscle strength, but the best solution is a simple one: carry less. Choose small briefcases and purses to remove the temptation of carrying too much weight. Make a habit of clearing your bags of clutter. As any backpacker can tell you, every little bit of weight removed helps.

 

Opioid Alternatives for Chronic Pain

Almost half of opioid overdoses in the United States involve prescription drugs. A thousand people a day receive emergency room care for misusing their prescribed painkillers. As a temporary measure, there are few medications quite as efficient at erasing pain than opioids, but this may change in the next five years. Kineta, Inc, a biotech company that specializes in immune modulating drugs, recently began phase one human trials for a new class of chronic pain treatment—and this one does much more than treat mere symptoms.

A New Non-Opioid Painkiller

For the moment, Kineta is calling their new drug KCP-400. It’s a chemical component of cone snail venom that blocked pain signals where they began in animal trials. The drug seems to act at the site of the injury, and its disease-fighting effects also promote healing and reduce inflammation. It will be administered as a weekly injection, and side effects remain unknown. Since it doesn’t cross the blood/brain barrier, it shouldn’t cause tolerance or addiction.

Alternatives to Opioids In Development

Kineta’s search for an opiate replacement is not isolated. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on a new molecular approach that binds opioid receptors along a different pathway than morphine. Researchers hope that by removing the risk of addiction, the new drug class could save thousands of lives and add quality of life to millions of patients.

The DEA is working on the problem from a different angle: by cutting down the production quota of drugs like morphine and oxycodone. Some pharma companies are supporting that effort by making their drugs difficult to crush to prevent patients from injecting them, but this does little to ease the legitimate suffering of chronic pain patients.

A new drug is desperately needed, but until it’s discovered, PainStop Clinics will guide you through your pain using non-opiate therapies whenever possible. Stop in for a consultation.

Offering Same-Day Appointments Benefits Patients and Doctors

The average patient waits 29 to 66 days for specialist consultations, and at least six days for primary care physicians. Lucrative procedures have shorter wait times, proving that the problem has less to do with overworked doctors than it does with profits and planning. The days or months patients wait to be seen to can be catastrophic for obvious reasons. They have a measurable effect on mortality rates, but there are less overt effects.

  • Dissatisfied patients tend to be less communicative with their doctors, which can influence the accuracy of their diagnoses.
  • It takes longer for patients to move from testing to diagnosis and treatment, which often means protracted suffering.
  • Patients may become dismissive of some of their symptoms as they get used to living with them, so doctors will receive a less-than-adequate picture to form their diagnosis.
  • During wait times, patients can become ineligible for the best treatments for their illnesses. Or, their insurance coverage might change.

On the surface, it can seem as though the problem is caused by a doctor shortage, but when you wade through the figures, it appears that’s an inadequate explanation. The problem seems to be caused by a poor distribution of staff. Doctors are relied on heavily, while mid-level assistants, nurses, and time-saving technology remain underused.

This is good news if you’re a proactive patient, because it gives you an idea of what to look for in the clinics you use. Automated digital support should be given to connect with you and ensure you’re sticking to your suggested treatments, because this frees up staff to focus on patient care. Same-day appointments result from a high level of organization; gone are the days when patients could judge the quality of care by the length of the waiting list.

No patient needs to accept inferior standards of care. Pain Stop Clinics work towards giving you genuine quality of life by providing for you responsibly.

Over Half of Opioid Prescriptions Given to Adults with Mood Disorders

Almost 10% of the U.S. population suffers from a mood disorder, and 19% of them use prescription opioids. Patients with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are vulnerable to highs and lows caused by medications that directly influence their moods, are prescribing them to this vulnerable group is a contentious issue. Some physicians suggest opioids as a last port of call for lifting depression, but this off-label effect is so short lived that it has little genuine value. To make matters worse, long-term opioid use frequently causes depression and manic episodes, and psychiatric patients are more likely to abuse their medications, due to the psychological drivers behind addiction.

The Depression/Pain Cycle

The opioid problem is so far ranging that the CDC has called for a new social policy to cure what it refers to as over-prescribing. Psychiatric illness poses a particular challenge to chronic pain patients. Depression can worsen your pain, and pain can worsen your depression and anxiety. There is no question that the toxic cycle needs to be broken, and opioids are far from the only option for doing so.

The reason 51% of opioid scripts are given to mood disorder patients is unclear, but it could be that depression and anxiety change the way people respond to pain. Doctors may also be more sympathetic to this group of patients. In other words, if your psychiatric health places you in this vulnerable demographic, it’s crucial that your pain be treated as proactively as your mood is. Every therapy must not only be assessed according to how effective it is, but also how it influences your psychiatric condition.

Surgery, physiotherapy, non-opioid analgesics, and occupational therapy all have an important role to play in chronic pain management. Pain Stop Clinics take a multi-pronged approach that takes our responsibility to whole patient health seriously.

Depression and Chronic Pain

Your frame of mind is inextricably linked to how well you cope with illness. Depression is not just chronic pain’s intolerable result, but its catalyst as well. The two are so commonly connected that 65% of depression patients suffer from pain. In the past, this link was poorly understood, and people with a desperate medical need were labelled malingerers. Researchers are still struggling with a chicken-or-egg riddle of which comes first. Does depression cause pain, or does pain precede depression? The answer seems to be both.

Research Findings on Depression’s Effect on Pain, and Vice Versa

To establish causation, researchers must find an unbiased way to assess these patients from the moment of their first psychiatric and physiological symptoms—and that’s a challenge that’s not been overcome yet. Researchers do, at least, know that physiological pain feels more intolerable when depression exists. The human body is remarkably reactive to feelings of optimism, as Amy Donaldson et al. discovered when they measured the pain intensity of coronary artery bypass surgery patients. The more optimistic they were prior to their procedures, the less pain they reported afterwards.

A sense of hopelessness and confusion can make symptoms more unbearable. Investigators have found that the more precise the diagnosis is, the less pain depression patients experience. Those with more than one symptom were also three times as likely to become depressed. Similarly, depression is linked to poorer outcomes.

Depression cannot simply be fixed overnight. If people with depression could simply decide to be more optimistic, there would be no depression. Understanding the link between depression and pain is not meant to discourage patients with both, but to examine ways that both can be treated to break the depression-pain cycle.

The studies of the last decade have led to a better understanding of how to care for people who have comorbid depression and pain. Specialists with a comprehensive understanding of these two conditions can mean all the difference for the prognosis of both. Pain Stop Clinics employ clinical staff from a range of different disciplines. This way, each unique case is treated from all angles by a clinical team.

Do Opioids Lead to Heroin Addiction?

Drug overdoses kill 29,000 Americans a year, with the majority of those deaths being from opiate and heroin abuse. While campaigners like to draw a link between opioid and heroin abuse, no studies have revealed anything beyond correlation. Most heroin abusers have used opioids before because most Americans have used opioids at least once in their lifetimes. By the same token, most heroin users have used soap in the past. This doesn’t mean cleanliness caused their addictions. The DSM, fortunately, provides a better idea of addiction’s cause.

Addiction vs Dependency

The DSM-V separates addiction into two separate diagnoses:

  • Substance dependency, which is a physiological tolerance to a substance without psychiatric involvement.
  • Addictive/Substance abuse disorder, which involves behavior.

The psychopathological model sees mental disorders as the cause of addiction. Saying opioid painkillers lead to heroin addiction is thus like saying razorblades are the cause of self-mutilation.

When Medication Creates Addiction

The circumstances surrounding a patient’s need to take painkillers should be carefully monitored. For example, if they are prescribed painkillers after undergoing a traumatic event, they may be at higher risk for self-medicating, which can lead to addiction.

If you’re taking opiates due to a substance dependency, the odds are excellent that you’ll never pick up heroin. If you have an underlying pathology like substance abuse disorder, your drug of choice is probably “more”—of anything, whether it be heroin or stronger opioids or a bottle of vodka.

It’s critical that opioid users receive the correct diagnosis because a substance abuse disorder requires specialized care. Those who have developed a dependency are generally able to take narcotic medications without abusing them, but those with substance abuse disorders should avoid that entire class of drugs, from benzodiazepines to pseudoephedrine and Oxycodone.

This doesn’t make dependency a pleasant problem. If you’ve developed a tolerance and are suffering from severe rebound pain, you deserve freedom from a toxic cycle that’s likely leaving your body in constant crisis. Besides, long-term side effects can create more health problems down the road. At Pain Stop Clinics, we treat pain with a holistic approach based on each unique patient profile.

Steroid Injections for Back Pain

Back pain is notoriously challenging to treat, but steroid injections could give you weeks of relief without drugs. The risks are rare, but significant, so your physician will try more conservative approaches before recommending them. They’re an invasive option given the sight of the epidural, but if you’re waiting for surgery or are struggling to cope with short-term pain, they may bring much-needed freedom.

Conditions Treated with Steroid Injections

Back pain isn’t a single diagnosis, but a symptom of a titanic collection of conditions. Epidural injections have proven themselves effective in two conditions: inflammation or nerve damage and spinal stenosis. The former usually affects the lower back and neck, with shooting pain that radiates into the limbs. A herniated disc is frequently the cause. If your spine has narrowed, whether from a herniated disc, misplaced bone spur, or tumor, steroid infections might ease your symptoms, too.

What to Expect from Steroid Injections

Your epidural should be effective for a few weeks. If your first one does its job well, you may be prescribed up to three a year, which means they can’t be a constant source of support. They’re also no substitute if surgery is needed. It’s important to approach this form of treatment from the right angle. Studies haven’t turned up any long term benefits, so they’re largely symptomatic.

Your injection will be given as near as possible to the source of your pain, which is why epidurals are only an option if your condition is highly concentrated to one area. Dispersed pain demands a more general approach.

Cortisone and steroids may be used as anti-inflammatories. Lidocaine or bupivacaine are often included, not only for their anaesthetic powers, but their tendency to flush inflammatory agents out of the area, too.

As always, to determine which treatment might be best for you, work with a caring medical team. If your back pain is affecting your quality of life, contact Pain Stop Clinics for a consultation.

Does Pilates Improve Posture?

You’d be hard pressed to find a fitness guru more obsessed with posture than your average Pilates instructor (perhaps a classical ballet instructor? We digress). Both forms of exercise focus on moving efficiently, and that requires core strength. If you’re relying on your superficial muscles to support you, you probably suffer from at least a little pain. Headaches, pinched nerves, and hip pain can all happen as the result of slouching, and Pilates will address the problem from a few different angles.

Why is Good Posture Important?

If your spine is poorly aligned as you work and play, some muscles must compensate while others become knotted and contracted. Your range of motion will be limited and some of your organs will be compressed. Inflammation can result from nerve compression, too.

Pilates teaches balance, which requires you to rely on core strength while teaching you to balance your weight onto the middle of your foot. You’ll learn a neutral spine position, which keeps your curvature relaxed and natural. If you overcompensate by opening your chest too widely and pushing your shoulders too far back, you will lose your balance, so the process teaches you good habits intuitively.

Pilates for Back Pain

Core strength is an obvious support for back pain, but flexibility has a role, too. By stretching out the muscles around the spine, it releases contractions while reinforcing a healthy curvature. Pilates is so effective at its job that trials have demonstrated improved endurance, flexibility, and posture within only 12 weeks. You needn’t turn your exercise into an obsession to enjoy results. Even mild Pilates routines, when performed twice weekly, have an impact.

Pilates specifically targets the hunched kyphotic lordotic posture, which brings hip spasms, neck tension, and weak abs. Your back pain deserves a proactive solution, and Pain Stop Clinics can help you design a treatment plan.

Your Pain STOPS Here. Become a Patient