Conditions

Pain Relief Blog

Category Archives: Conditions

Great Gifts For Pain Management

If a loved one suffers from chronic pain, a soothing care package could offer much needed support. Chocolate cures just about every ill, of course, but a more evidence-based gift would be appreciated just as much.

Gifts for Migraine Sufferers

Migraines are a neuropathic and vascular condition that can last days. Their cause isn’t well understood, but their triggers are. Light, noise, flashing, and certain food products are common triggers. Give a migraine sufferer:

  • a pair of tinted glasses.
  • total blackout blinds.
  • ice packs or an adjustable ice wrap.

Tension Headaches and Back Pain

When muscle tension causes pain, targeted heat therapy can relieve symptoms and make them feel tolerable. Give your muscle pain patient:

  • heated mattress pads with dual side control.
  • an infrared heat therapy pad for deeper heat delivery.
  • a deep tissue massage or spa voucher for serious spoiling.

Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Sensory diabetic neuropathy and ulcers are often worsened by poor circulation. Dry heat is needed, as soaking can prevent healing. Avoid heating pads, which can cause burns when used on numb feet. Give your diabetic family member:

  • podiatrist-recommended flexible slippers.
  • memory foam insets.
  • insoles designed specifically for those with plantar fasciitis.

Spasms

Many pain conditions are caused by spasms and are highly responsive to massage. Give your chronic pain sufferer:

  • a massage stick roller with comfortable handles.
  • an electric massage device or pillow.
  • an ergonomic chair.
  • a massage ball.

Better yet, take your loved one to Pain Stop Clinics for proactive medical support. Resist the temptation to offer miracle cures or solutions that worked for a completely different person with a completely different condition, as well-meaning gestures can create frustration.

Remember that the most valuable gift you can give is yourself. Pain can make life challenging, so offer your friend a shopping trip, frozen meals, or your baby-sitting services. Comfort is often in short supply when you’re not feeling well, and friendship is the warmest cure.

How Much Does Exercise Reduce Pain?

Chronic pain encourages a sedentary lifestyle, but recent research suggests that curling up in bed waiting for your aches to disappear could make your condition worse. Exercise not only improves lower back pain symptoms, but reduces your odds of ever developing the problem in the first place.

Positive Effects of Exercise on Back Pain

A daily walk, combined with patient education, reduces risk by between 27 and 33%.

If your lifestyle is currently inactive, you reduce your risk of developing lower back pain by up to 38%, simply by taking up exercise.

Occupational health specialist, Dr Rahman Shiri, suggests strengthening and stretching your core muscles, even if you’ve already developed spine issues. Muscle spasms set your posture off balance, which causes even more spasms, pain, and pinched nerves. By loosening up your back and strengthening your core, you encourage the right muscles to support your body weight.

Add some feel-good aerobic exercise to your routine, and you’ll flood your body with pain-reducing hormones. If you have poor posture, Pilates and yoga can teach you better habits.

The Wrong Kind of Exercise for Back Pain

If you have a painful condition, exercise can worsen your symptoms as much as improve them. Any movements that put your weight onto your back should be avoided. Substitute toe touches with half crunches. Avoid sit-ups, leg lifts, and any movements that place pressure on the hollow of your back. Avoid jarring exercise and take a moderate approach to stretching. If you’re unsure about your routine, your physician or physiotherapist is there to guide you.

Patients who exercise tend to be slow to ask for medical help or take necessary sick leave. It’s commendable to take your health into your own hands by exercising, but try not to view exercise as your only option for wellness.

Taking control of your health has mental benefits as well as medical payoffs. By taking action, you’ll find your emotional response to your pain will improve.

Opioids Rarely Help Bodily Pain: A New Pain Assessment

Pain rating scales have become a medical standard for excellent reason: They give doctors important information about changing symptoms and have led to better outcomes in clinical trials. The pain intensity numeric scale (PI-NRS) and patient’s global impression of change (PGIC) contribute to better care but bring a heavy dose of subjectivity to the consulting room. Partly as a result of this subjectivity, doctors may be too quick to prescribe opioid medication when other treatments would be preferable.

Anaesthesiologist Myles Gart proposes an objective way to assess acute pain. The metrics can be remembered with a cheeky mnemonic based on the acronym ORHBP: Opioids Rarely Help Bodily Pain.

Observation

Pain often shows in mood and behavior, but so do symptoms unrelated to pain. By ruling out hypoxemia and other conditions, physicians can assess whether a patient’s pain is intolerable. Gart suggests that analgesics should only be given to patients who have hit 10 on the PI-NRS scale.

Respiratory Rate

The link between respiratory rate and pain has not been proven in trials, but Gart believes that intolerable pain causes a rate higher than 20. He proposes that when rates fall below 12, opioid treatments should not be given.

Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Rehabilitation doctors often use heart rate to assess pain levels, a link that hasn’t yet been established in trials. A small University of Sherbrook study showed that men’s heart rates rise in the presence of pain. Women’s heart rates weren’t affected.

Similarly, pain might cause high blood pressure during the initial stages of chronic, but not acute, pain. However, studies show that pain often brings blood pressure down, making this an unreliable measure.

Pupil Size

Pupil size is used by anaesthesiologists to detect pain response. As long as the patient is not sedated and medicated with drugs that cause dilation, pupil response can add another layer of objectivity to pain assessment.

The medical world has been searching for an objective way to evaluate pain for decades. Gart’s proposals could bring doctors a step closer to achieving that goal, though it needs more evidence-based support. In its current form, it comes with the caveat that different objective measures, such as vital signs, mean different things for different patients.

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.

 

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.

Your Pain STOPS Here. Become a Patient