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10 Steps from Patient to Person from ACPA

Scratching an acceptable quality of life out of the mud that is chronic pain is difficult, but not impossible. The American Chronic Pain Association suggests 10 coping skills that will clear your way.

1) Acceptance

Pain is a part of your life that may not be curable. Wishing won’t make it true, but acceptance of pain has been proven to improve treatment outcomes. It even improves your emotional state and social functioning.

2) Be involved

Patient empowerment improves outcomes, too, so becoming active in your care will help your emotional state and enable you to fine tune your treatments more effectively.

3) Prioritize

Your life is still important, even if it’s mired in pain. List your life’s priorities so that you use your “spoons” wisely.

4) Create realistic goals

Make sure you can accomplish them, then celebrate your successes.

5) Know your rights

As a patient and as a friend, you have a right to respect, to make mistakes, and to defend your boundaries without guilt.

6) Honor your feelings

Your emotions have a powerful impact on your physical wellbeing. Notice them and cope with them because they’re one of your most important tools for dealing well with your pain.

7) Find peace

Stress makes pain worse and harder to manage. Tools like mindfulness and meditation improve both pain acceptance and quality of life.

8) Stay Active

Exercise can keep your muscles flexible so that they feel less pain. Develop a strength and flexibility program with your doctor or physiotherapist that respects your abilities while improving your condition.

9) See the whole picture

Your rights, priorities, and goals will show you that pain needn’t be your primary focus in life. You can live a normal life.

10) Ask for help

One in three people live with chronic pain. That gives you an enormous resource for support and learning.

If you are ready to take control of your pain, schedule an appointment at Pain Stop Clinics today.

Risks of Long-term Over-the-Counter Drug Use

“Over the counter” is not a synonym for “no side effects.” Any medicine that can treat a symptom will also be powerful enough to cause harm. If you don’t know what to watch for, you put your health at risk, especially if your care isn’t overseen by a doctor.

Kidney and Liver Function

Any prolonged or chronic usage of medications can be harsh on your kidneys and liver, which are responsible for detoxifying the body. If you regularly take NSAIDS, opioids, and anti-convulsants, your doctor should be checking your kidney and liver function every six months.

Stomach Ulcers

While NSAIDS are some of the safest OTC pain medications on the market, they can have surprising effects on some patients. They’re harsh on the stomach, so prolonged usage can cause stomach ulcers and gastritis. This is why your package inset tells you to take them after meals and for no longer than 10 days in a row. Their harshness doesn’t stop at the stomach: some can cause irritation throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Aspirin is equally corrosive.

Heart Attacks

The FDA has issued a warning of NSAIDs increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.

NSAIDS and Blood Thinning

Aspirin and NSAIDS can thin the blood, making it difficult to clot, so they shouldn’t be taken with other blood thinners like Warfarin. Speak to your doctor about discontinuing them two weeks before surgery, too.


Tegretol and opiates can lower your sodium levels, causing cramps, headaches, drowsiness, and memory loss. It’s critical to have your sodium levels tested often if you take these drugs, and to treat these symptoms as emergencies until you know their cause.

Your doctor should be involved in your treatment, even if your medication is offered over the counter. Long-term use of any drug requires careful monitoring.

What is Biofeedback for Chronic Pain?

Neurofeedback techniques are heaving with contention, myth, and misunderstandings, so it’s no surprise they find themselves in evidence-based medicine blogs so often. The therapy works on the basis of abnormal brain patterns. Patients are hooked up to an EEG and trained to relax or focus. Neurologist Steve Novella calls biofeedback a cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches patients to “adapt and adjust”.

What Biofeedback Can and Cannot Do

It’s not possible to train the brain to have “normal” EEG patterns, but it is possible to learn how to relax. Your emotional state has a powerful effect on how well you cope with pain. It can even push your symptoms to new heights, throwing down the first domino in a complex anxiety/pain cycle. Neuropathic pain’s expression responds directly to stress, possibly because the chronic pain pathways intersect with the brain’s emotional center.

Neurofeedback is sometimes done with EMGs, which measure muscle tension. This may help patients to become more aware of their bodies’ response to pain. Relaxation techniques and mindfulness have a varied effect on different kinds of pain. Small trials suggest that lower back and neck pain may respond well to progressive muscle relaxation, which can be learned through EMG biofeedback.

Biofeedback’s reliance on brain wave patterns can distract from its role as a CBT technique. Any form of relaxation can benefit symptoms that are exacerbated by anxiety, including chronic pain. Since pain itself often causes depression and anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is a much needed and too often ignored treatment.

Magical Cures and Snake Oil

Alternative medicine practitioners have embraced biofeedback as a therapy for everything from ADHD to high blood pressure. Clinical trials have yet to show any results, but neurofeedback is as adequate as any other cognitive therapy for pain patients needing to reign in their anxiety.

The Relationship Between Emotional and Physical Pain

The space between physiology and emotion grows smaller with each passing study, and the reasons are more obvious than you might think: The physiological and emotional pain centers in the brain overlap.

fMRI studies show that pain intensity shrinks when the hippocampus reflects patients’ optimism, and other studies have shown that chronic pain damages some sections of the brain in the same way psychological trauma does. The anterior cingulate cortex is responsible for feelings of rejection and pain, but there are other, more important, regions involved in both. Some forms of emotional and physical pain share a neural pathway, which seems to respond to acetaminophen.

The Studies

In 2013, researchers found that Tylenol dulls your response to grief. More recently, 62 people were given acetaminophen or a placebo for three weeks and exposed to social rejection. A second study used MRIs to find out how the drug affected emotional pain. Chief researcher DeWall will be doing follow-up studies to find out if the aggression, risk taking, and overeating so often related to social rejection might be kept at bay by analgesics, too. The trials were small ones, but they follow years of research that’s showed similar results.

When Pain is a Healthy Response

The question emerging from these trials is whether turning to painkillers is the answer to life’s ordinary emotional ups and downs. Of course, when depression or other mood disorders are a part of the picture, medical treatment is critical, but if you’re facing nothing more than a broken heart, feeling your emotions might be necessary since numbing everyday pain is unhealthy enough to create an entirely new set of symptoms.

Medicating normal feelings is a disorder in itself. The best (and only) way out of emotional pain is through it, because numbness only postpones difficult emotions for later. As with physical pain, treating the cause beats treating the symptoms, and meaningful treatments often take time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help if you are really hurting, because you could benefit from short-term or long-term therapies. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about your quality of life.

Opioid Deaths Among Veterans Highlight Need for Better Treatments

Between 2000 and 2012, opioid painkiller prescriptions rose by an alarming 270%. Fatal overdose rates were twice the previous national average, and veterans were twice as likely to die from opioid overdose. The Wall Street Journal blames the Nineties prescription epidemic.

Opioids are also fueling heroin addiction, as users build tolerance to milder painkillers. Half of vets who were involved in Middle East conflicts report chronic pain, so the problem is dire for more than one reason. Alternative therapies such as physiotherapy and off-label prescriptions can help greatly. Opioids should not be the first port of call.

Signs of Addiction

Dependency and addiction are different things. The former refers to a physical set of symptoms, which arise in response to tolerance of the drug. If you have a dependence, your body has become so used to your painkillers that you will develop side effects when you stop using them, so your body may need help to wean off opioids safely. Since you will also crave opioids when you stop, it’s important to get professional support.

In contrast, substance abuse disorder includes these symptoms:

  • Repeated failure to fulfill social, work, and family obligations.
  • Repeated use that puts you in harm’s way.
  • Recurrent legal problems.
  • Continued use even though social and physical problems are exacerbated by it.

Opiate dependency can cause rebound pain and mood swings. As a vet, it might also exacerbate PTSD. This raises your odds of a fatal overdose, which is why opioid addiction among veterans has produced such startling effects.

Military-specific help is available for counseling to support recovery from addiction or psychiatric-behavioral issues. However, your chronic pain treatment partner is also core to your recovery. Pain Stop Clinics will cope with your symptoms without over-prescribing painkillers. You deserve reduced pain that doesn’t have negative consequences.

Can Placebos Relieve Pain?

When doctors run clinical trials on animals, they have to do so in a way that doesn’t trigger the placebo effect. If this odd medical quirk is powerful in four legged creatures, how much more potent is it in humans? Ted Kaptchuk decided to find out. His study of sham acupuncture treatments and genuine asthma inhalers found that the placebo effect changed the way patients perceived their breathing, but did not change their lung function. Yet contrary to popular belief, the placebo effect isn’t a magical cure, and this must be respected.

Placebos and Pain Management

Chronic pain patients are particularly prone to suggestion. The pain threshold rises and falls in direct relation to your thoughts. When researchers told their subjects that ice water would improve their pain, they tolerated it better. When they were told the opposite, their pain tolerance shrank. The challenge of treating pain lies in taking patients’ reports seriously while simultaneously activating the placebo effect. Your mind is powerful enough to reframe your pain, help you to relax into it more, and endure it more easily.

Placebos vs. Evidence-Based Treatments

In another study, migraine patients who took a placebo labelled as a migraine therapy experienced almost half the pain relief of patients who took a genuine migraine therapy. There is thus no substitute for evidence-based treatments. Physicians who treat pain syndromes must never use the power of positive thinking as a substitute for genuine therapies. They must take place in an environment that is honest, positive, and empathetic, but doctors must also get to the core of the problem.

Remove the cause and you remove the pain, which is why Pain Stop approaches interventions at their root. Patients don’t merely want their pain to stop, but to stop permanently and with minimal side effects. That is what they deserve.

What are trigger points?

The term “trigger point” comes with enough contention to make a doctor drop her stethoscope. It’s said to be an area of sensitive connective tissue that radiates pain, and while myofascial tissue is prone to painful reactions to repetitive contractions, myofascial tissue isn’t limited to isolated trigger points. Aches in these areas are believed to be peripheral nerve pain or spasms. Diagnosis based on trigger point science is sketchy, so it’s important that any widespread pain be assessed under the banner of musculoskeletal medicine.

The Problem of Pain and Diagnosis

Trigger points are traditionally linked to fibromyalgia, a poorly understood disorder with no solid diagnostic tests. It’s possible that this kind of chronic pain is the result of a quirky nervous system that deals with pain signals differently. Since it often coexists with depression, it’s critical that effective therapies be found. This can only be done if your physicians take a broader look at your symptoms and all their potential causes.

Trigger point therapy stretches out the trigger points to relieve pain, either with physical manipulation or injections. Call it a combination of massage therapy and physiotherapy if you will, because these modes of care come with plenty of evidence. Chronic, non-malignant pain usually responds well to massage, and injections are even more powerful.

Myofascial pain syndrome is said to describe chronic, aching, generalized pain—a description that could be used to describe arthritis, early M.S., repetitive strain, and any number of other disorders. Trigger points are thus not adequate diagnostic or treatment tools on their own. Your doctor will use them to identify referred pain patterns after other conditions have been thoroughly tested for. Pain Stop Clinics will comb through your symptoms and ensure you receive the most efficient treatment for your unique problem.

This is Your Brain on Pain

Chronic pain is more than a frustration or a nuisance, it can truly impact every aspect of your life. It reduces your quality of life.

Pain can be challenging to treat. Medications work in the short-term. However, due to the risks of pain medication, many doctors and scientists are researching and endorsing other methods of pain management. This research has led to numerous studies on how pain impacts your brain.

Pain and The Thalamus

The thalamus is the connection between the spine and the higher areas of the brain. Any time you sustain an injury or feel pain, the thalamus creates a passageway through which the “pain message” is transmitted. Once pain subsides and an injury is healed this passageway essentially closes. However, some research now indicates that for those who suffer from chronic pain this passageway remains open.

Pain and The Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is the control center for our emotions and dictates much of our personality and behavior. Studies have indicated that there is a link between chronic pain and a decrease in the volume of the prefrontal cortex.

Perception and Pain

Pain can also affect your perception. If you suffer from chronic pain you may have trouble pinpointing the location of exactly what hurts. You may also notice changes in how you perceive touch. Research indicates that this may be due to a change in how cells communicate with each other.

The good news is that these impacts can be reversed. Pain causes change, not permanent damage. Effective pain management is the key to reversing this impact and improving your quality of life. Contact Pain Stop Clinics today to help find the best solutions and techniques to manage your pain.


How to Cope with Painful Episodes

If you experience chronic pain, you know your pain levels fluctuate. Sometimes it’s tolerable, and sometimes it takes over entirely. Some people can predict episodes based on their triggers, while for others the pain strikes unexpectedly. Managing these painful episodes greatly improves your quality of life. Here are some methods you can use that don’t involve medication:


The more tension your body carries, the worse pain will be. Professionals use machines to release muscle tension and slow down the heart rate. These machines train the body to relax at will. Once the technique is mastered, the patient can learn to relax without the help of machines.

Distraction Methods

There’s nothing wrong with a little distraction when it reduces the intensity of your pain. Patients are encouraged to listen to music, talk to friends or read a book as a positive distraction. You can also concentrate on pleasant mental pictures and memories.

Relaxation Training

This is another method of releasing muscle tension with the help of slow, deep breathing and thinking calming thoughts. Relaxation tapes are made available to patients which guide them through the process of achieving a more tranquil state of mind.

Pain Transfer or Transform

With practice, these techniques can be highly effective. Pain sends a signal to your brain, and this is essentially your brain sending a signal back that says “yes, message received, but no thank you.” You can concentrate on an area of your body that isn’t hurting, for instance, or send your aching neck on a river cruise while the rest of you goes about your day.


This technique is used to reduce the patient’s awareness of pain. Hypnosis is carried out by a professional therapist, who plants a post-hypnotic suggestion to reduce the sensation of pain. In some cases, patients can also learn to hypnotize themselves.

Remember, painkillers may provide quick relief from chronic pain, but they carry many risks. If you’re ready to take control of your life by controlling your pain, visit one of our pain professionals for a free consultation.


Benefits of Warm Baths

Many people suffer from musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. If you have been suffering from painful conditions, consider perhaps the oldest form of alternative therapy: soaking in warm water. Here are some of the benefits of this ancient technique, explained in modern language:

Enhances circulation

Heat improves blood circulation around aching muscles and joints. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients that promote healing. When you experience pain, drink a glass of water to help increase blood flow.

Eases the stiffness

Warm water treatment helps relax the tendons that make the muscles and joints feel stiff, reducing pain and improving your range of motion.

Reduces compression

When you submerge yourself in water, you relieve pressure on your joints. Move the aching muscles and joints to stimulate blood flow and enable the joint loosen up.

For best results, soak in the warm water for at least 20 minutes. Make sure it’s warm, too, not lobster boil hot. Your nerves are likely to respond to unwanted heat levels with a pain response, so keep it comfortably warm. Of course, if you recently injured yourself and are experiencing painful swelling, you should probably hold off on any kind of heat treatment until the inflammation goes down.

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