The latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest examines psychological interventions for the treatment of chronic pain, including the gap between the evidence of the effectiveness of several psychological interventions and their availability and use in treatment.
Pain is the body’s way of alerting the brain to injury and disease. Without a robust pain response, physical trauma could go unnoticed and untreated. Some people, however, experience chronic pain that lasts long after an injury has healed or has no easily identifiable cause.
Unfortunately, treating chronic pain with over-the-counter and prescription medication has its own health risks, including adverse side effects and addiction. In the latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSPI), a team of researchers explores how psychological interventions can be part of a comprehensive plan to manage chronic pain while reducing the need for surgeries and potentially dangerous medications.
As many as one in five Americans suffer from chronic pain, an often intractable problem that costs the country more than $600 billion in treatments and lost work-time and has helped fuel a deadly opioid epidemic.
But new CU Boulder research, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, provides some of the strongest evidence yet that a non-drug, psychological treatment can provide potent and durable relief.
This study suggests a fundamentally new way to think about both the causes of chronic back pain for many people and the tools that are available to treat that pain.
People with dementia may experience increased levels of pain 16 years before their diagnosis, according to new research. The study, funded in part by NIA and published in Pain, is the first to examine the link between pain and dementia over an extended period.
Dementia and chronic pain both cause changes to the brain and can affect a person’s brain health. Although many people who have dementia also have chronic pain, it is unclear whether chronic pain causes or accelerates the onset of dementia, is a symptom of dementia, or is simply associated with dementia because both are caused by some other factor. The new study, led by researchers at Université de Paris, examined the timeline of the association between dementia and self-reported pain by analyzing data from a study that has been gathering data on participants for as many as 27 years.
The researchers used data from the Whitehall II study, a long-term study of health in British government employees. Participants were between the ages of 35 and 55 when they enrolled in the study. Using surveys conducted multiple times over the course of the study, the researchers measured two aspects of participant-reported pain: pain intensity, which is how much bodily pain a participant experiences, and pain interference, which is how much a participant’s pain affects his or her daily activities. They used electronic health records to determine whether (and when) participants were diagnosed with dementia.
Out of 9,046 participants, 567 developed dementia during the period of observation. People who were diagnosed with dementia reported slightly more pain as early as 16 years before their diagnosis, driven mostly by differences in pain interference. These participants reported steadily increasing pain levels relative to those who were never diagnosed with dementia. At the time of diagnosis, people with dementia reported significantly more pain than people without dementia.
The researchers note that, because the brain changes associated with dementia start decades before diagnosis, it is unlikely that pain causes or increases the risk of dementia. Instead, they suggest that chronic pain might be an early symptom of dementia or simply correlated with dementia. Future studies that include data on the cause, type, location, and characteristics of pain and the type and seriousness of a patient’s dementia could help define in more detail the link between dementia and pain.
As a long time sufferer of lower back pain, I have tried a plethora of physical therapies for relief. This one sounds like it has some positive possibilities. For the record, I have experienced acupuncture and acupressure in the past with very good results.
A recent study finds that acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine technique, can improve chronic pain symptoms in the lower back.
Michigan Medicine illustration
“Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied with a finger, thumb or device to specific points on the body,” says Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine and lead author of the study. Continue reading →
I suffer from severe arthritis at the base of my thumbs. This means that virtually anything I do with my hands – hurts. Buttoning, unbuttoning, turning a key, working a zipper, you name it – pain. In the past 10 years I have written about a number of topical treatments for arthritis pain. Frankly, they are too numerous to mention, but if you are curious, type arthritis into the SEARCH BOX at the right and you can find all of them. For the record, I started suffering from arthritis pain in my hands in my 50’s. That was more than 25 years ago, so I have lived with the pain for a considerable time.
What is the good news? One of my neighbors who I often encounter when we walk our dogs, told me about Calendula Officinalis tablets. maybe you have heard of them under their more common name – pot marigold. I had not previously heard of either. Continue reading →
I have a bad case of arthritis in both my hands. I use exercise balls, ice packs and CBD oil for temporary pain relief. That is pretty much the only pain I deal with regularly. So, I guess I have a lot to be thankful for as a guy who turns 79 in January. I do realize, however, that many seniors are not so lucky. For them, I recommend these tips from the National Institute on Aging.
Exercising when you’re in pain can be hard. You might think that you should rest until your pain disappears. But depending on the type of pain you’re experiencing, exercise can help reduce your pain and improve your mood.
Most people living with chronic pain can exercise safely. In fact, research has shown that exercise combined with education can reduce one’s risk of lower back pain.
Follow these tips for exercising with pain:
Pace yourself. Begin your program slowly with low-intensity exercises and work up from there.
Talk to your doctor. Pain usually doesn’t go away overnight, so talk with your health care provider about how long it may take before you feel better and about what exercises you can do safely.
Know which exercises to do. Endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises all have their own benefits, so doing a combination of exercises may be best.
Don’t overdo it. Listen to your body. Avoid overexerting yourself when you feel good. If you have pain or swelling in a specific area, switch your focus to another area for a couple of days.
Chronic pain is complex. Research over the past 25 years has shown that pain is influenced by emotional and social factors. These need to be addressed along with the physical causes of pain. Chronic stress is one factor that contributes to chronic pain. The good news is that you can get natural pain relief by making relaxation exercises a part of your pain-management plan, according to WebMD.
Too often folks combat stress and pain by eating. That is a bad coping strategy. Herewith five good coping strategies from WebMD.
“Relaxation exercises calm your mind, reduce stress hormones in your blood, relax your muscles, and elevate your sense of well-being. Using them regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress.
Don’t get stressed trying to pick the “right” relaxation technique for natural pain relief. Choose whatever relaxes you: music, prayer, gardening, going for a walk, talking with a friend on the phone. Here are some other techniques you might try: Continue reading →