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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.

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.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Myths vs Facts

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the result of a compressed median nerve in the wrist. It causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers that usually worsens at night.

Myth One: Work-Related Stress Causes CTS

Correlation and causation are distinct, and while repetitive strain is associated with CTS, experts think it’s the final straw rather than the actual cause. CTS is strongly related to poor health, and doctors believe general improvements and prevention programs can produce measurable results. If your career entails repetitive trauma, a human risk factor evaluation is well worth doing since there are preventative programs for high-risk patients.

Myth Two: Surgery is the Only Cure

Surgery can have dramatic effects on CTS, but those who’d rather do The Ice Bucket Challenge than face invasive care have other options. Ice therapy, resting, wrist braces, and steroid injections can postpone surgery. NSAIDS, when used in the short term, can provide temporary relief.

Myth Three: CTS is Not an Emergency

Muscle wasting and permanent nerve damage are medical emergencies that often go hand in hand with carpal tunnel syndrome. With surgery having success rates of between 75 and 90% in trials, cutting can mean a complete return to full health.

Myth Four: CTS Always Recurs

Only 3.7% of patients need revision surgery despite the fact that surgeons frequently warn patients of the possibility.

Myth Five: Endoscopic Surgery is Too Risky

The less tissue is damaged, the better. Meta-studies show that open and endoscopic procedures have the same efficacy and rate of complication. Keyhole surgery restores grip better than invasive procedures.

CTS can drastically affect your quality of life and even steal your independence. All its effects are entirely unnecessary, though, given the high success rates of its many treatments.

How Evolution Causes Back Pain

Mankind might be at the top of the food chain, but it’s not because we have perfectly adapted bodies. Evolution has done a fair job of providing opposable thumbs and an efficient brain, but perhaps the back could use some improvements.

A Body Made of Paperclips

Jeremy DeSilva said, “Evolution works with duct tape and paperclips,” and that applies more to the spine than most other body parts. It evolved to suit four-legged movement, and it’s not yet developed to suit bipedal postures perfectly. Richard Dawkins says the human spine is so similar to a gorilla spine that it’s barely adapted to a bipedal gate.

The back was built to arch like a bow so that it would carry the weight of organs in the undercarriage. Standing up threw the structure out of balance, curving the back in the other direction. This places pressure on the lower back, leading to pain.

The curvature of a normal human spine tends to cause a lesion between discs in the lower back. At its worst, it’s prone to scoliosis and sciatica. The spinal cord is also unable to heal fully if damaged because its neurons are too specialized.

Coping with Pain

The back is the most common region for chronic pain. Ergonomic living is an excellent preventative tool, but when the damage has already been done, more work is required. A pain management specialist may be needed to put together a treatment team for your unique problem. Stretches and other exercises may be used to release tight muscles, and specialized treatments such as low impact water therapy and neurological care may be indicated. Your Pain Stop Clinic will take a multi-disciplinary approach to your pain, giving you the best chance at relief.

Evolutionary Biologists Puzzled Over Pain

Painful tissue damage and inflammation tell you that they are there and need care, but even Richard Dawkins can’t find the evolutionary advantage of agony over a more tolerable, subtle ache or other signal. Without pain, you wouldn’t know that fire is dangerous or that your aching back needs treatment. Soreness is one of the crowning achievements of natural selection, but the body takes it to unnecessary heights.

Maybe the brain needs to tell us which sensations to prioritise. If you’ve not taken in fluids for two days, for example, your thirst is more important than your slightly bruised foot. If you’ve put your hand in a fire, though, it’s best to rescue your limb before you go hunting for the nearest stream. Varying intensities tell you what requires urgent action.

Neurology’s Viewpoint

People with disorders that prevent pain “usually come to a bad end,” says Dawkins. These patients must learn how to identify signs of harmful burns and breakages, but they often fail to adjust. They tend to suffer serious disabilities as a result.

It’s doubtful you’d take a more tolerable signal seriously, which lends credibility to the Darwinian explanation, but that doesn’t tell us the point of migraines and other painful disorders. Neuroscientist Vincenzo Bonavita believes that these seemingly useless pain signals force you to disengage from active life and get the necessary rest. In other words, even when that backache or headache isn’t pointing to tissue damage, you should take it seriously.

Pain is an important part of your health. Your nerves’ signals are as precise as a Geiger Counter. If you’re hurting, your body is telling you to hunt for a cause and some relief, so you need a pain specialist who takes your symptoms seriously. Pain Stop Clinics will do precisely that.

7 Bad Back Habits to Avoid

Back pain may result from a recent or past injury. It can develop gradually over time from repetitive motion, or from lack thereof. While seeking out assistance in diagnosing and treating your back can help clear up the problem, you can help yourself by avoiding these seven bad habits that cause back pain.

Not Exercising

Exercise prevents injury throughout your body by strengthening the muscles. Yoga, pilates and other core workouts strengthen the back and ease strain by also strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Poor Posture

Bad posture causes muscle strain and increases the level of stress on your spine. To improve posture, keep your shoulders back (to avoid slouching), sit against the back of your chair, and stand with a slight bend in your knees.

Improper Lifting

When lifting heavy items, bend your knees and use your leg strength to reduce strain on your back. Make sure you don’t curve your back over the object you’re lifting.

Baggage

As Erykah Badu soulfully reminds us, “Bag lady/ You gon’ hurt your back.” Remember that bags, briefcases and purses count as lifting. If you regularly carry a lot of stuff, consider a wheeled briefcase, a properly adjusted backpack or a downsized purse.

Smoking

There isn’t much good that comes out of smoking, and you can add back pain to your list of reasons to quit. Smoking cuts down blood flow to your disks, increasing back pain.

Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency

These nutrients develop and strengthen your bones. Discuss increasing your daily intake with your doctor, because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much calcium, for example, could result in kidney stones, which entirely defeats the purpose of reducing back pain.

Weight

The more weight you carry, the more your muscles and joints strain to support you. Of course, pain makes exercise more challenging. Set realistic exercise goals, eat a balanced diet, and discuss any issues you are having with your physician or professional.

Not Moving

If your back hurts, you might want to settle into the couch, but unless you have a serious injury, rest may be counterproductive. Stretch out and get the blood flowing instead.

Back pain can make everyday tasks difficult to perform. Although there may be deeper causes or complicated symptoms, improving your habits can reduce pain and improve your quality of life.

Service Dogs for Chronic Migraines

Dogs are truly amazing creatures. They can be trained to work with anyone and to identify all sorts of health-related problems. Due to their strong sense of smell, they can identify odors we humans can’t. As any dog owner knows, they are also extremely keen on our behavior and are able to pick up on subtle changes. If you or someone you love deals with chronic migraines, you may want to consider a migraine alert dog.

Early Warning Signs

There is nothing worse than a full on migraine. From time to time there are symptoms you can identify ahead of time. These early warning signs help you prevent the migraine from fully developing. Now, every individual has unique symptoms and you likely will be able to identify some of these triggers and patterns over time. You’ll also learn how to cope with some of these triggers. Yet sometimes, migraines still seem to come out of no where.

Migraine Alert Dogs

A migraine alert dog perceives changes in both physical and psychological behaviors that precede a migraine. Dogs are able to identify the prodrome phase, which often begins a migraine attack. The dog is then able to warn you so you can take yourself out of the situation or seek preventative treatment. The prodrome phase can start up to 48 hours before a migraine attack.

If you have a dog who seems to be trying to get your attention before you suffer a migraine, you might have a natural migraine alert system. In this case, consider training and certifying your dog as a service animal. Any breed or size of dog can become a service dog if they are intelligent and attentive, and if they undergo the appropriate training. Consider meeting dogs at your local shelter to find a good partner in pain management.

What Exactly Are Muscle Knots?

You probably know the feeling. You have a sore back, so you ask someone if they can work on it. As they blindly attempt to massage your back, their finger rolls over a lump that causes a twinge of pain. You might scream out while they proclaim they’ve found something, which they then attempt to “work out” by vigorously beating and kneading like so much bread dough.
This is what most refer to as muscle knots. But what exactly is a muscle knot? You might be surprised researchers haven’t arrived at a consensus.

Myofascial Trigger Points

Those who study and treat knots define them as areas of muscle that tense and relax repeatedly. This is caused by overuse or misuse. A good massage therapist can identify what side you sleep on or what hand you use for your mouse based on where your tension shows up. Of course, not every bump your buddy can feel in your back is a muscle knot. Connective tissues and bones can feel like tense muscles to the untrained hand, which is one reason why you might need to see a professional for long-term relief.

One theory purports that tension causes a lack of blood flow to the tissue, so you should always stay hydrated. Of course, hydration is generally an all-around good idea for health and wellness. Though good advice, it doesn’t untangle the knot mystery.

Knots Showing Up on the Scanner

Some researchers say muscle knots don’t exist because they do not show up on scans. Instead, they contend the soreness is caused by neural pain. The symptoms are real, but the cause might not be an area of particularly tense muscle.

Whatever it is, if your back hurts, you are probably more interested in relief than knowing the specific cause. Massage should help relieve the pain you experience, and it’s best done by a professional therapist to avoid complicating any underlying issues with your back or neck. If you experience significant increased pain or no relief at all after a massage, there may be another cause. Ideally, your massage therapist should be part of a team of pain relief professionals. That way, you can try to pinpoint and treat causes while undergoing treatments for pain relief.

Protecting your Knees When Lifting

As you get older, your number one goal will be to stay just as healthy and active as ever. One of the critical ways to maintain good health is by protecting your joints, including your knees.

Knees can be tight or achy, and they can occasionally pop. Knee pain is one of the most common reasons people reach out for pain relief. Even just a slight misalignment in your knee joint can lead to a major misalignment in your lifestyle.

Caring for your knees is something you can easily do at home. It’s great to be involved in a healthy, active exercise regimen, but there are other things you can do to ensure proper joint care.

Give Your Joints a Little TLC

Lifting from the knees will surely help your lower back, but it puts the extra strain on your knee joints. At work or when you exercise using therapeutic heat to boost circulation is something to consider. A thermal wrap for up to 30 minutes will loosen up your knee joints and give you that increased mobility you’ve been looking for.

Put the Freeze On

Applying ice is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation, and to help with chronic knee pain. You can always place a towel in between your skin and the ice if your skin is too sensitive. If you do a lot of knee lifts during exercising, then ice applied for 20 minutes or more will help your knees immensely.

Exercise Designed For You

Know your limits, especially if you are older or just getting started with toning your body. There’s a reason athletes warm up before starting an exercise regimen and the same goes for anyone doing knee lifts. In fact, the best way to protect your knees is with daily stretching and strengthening exercises. You don’t even need special equipment for stretching, so it’s easily attainable at home. Hamstring stretches can go a long way to protecting and strengthening your knees.

Lift and Bend the Right Way

It’s so easy to wrench your lower back when lifting something too heavy. You always want to have your feet spread apart, and stand as close to whatever you’re lifting as you can. Bend your knees, not your back. Tighten stomach muscles as you lift, and go slowly. Don’t twist your back once you raise up, but place the object where it needs to be.

There are ways to cut the pain out of your life. If you have questions about pain management in Phoenix, call today to make your knee pain a thing of the past.

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