Dec 182013
 


By Karen Weintraub
Special for USA TODAY

Fibromyalgia affects 1% to 5% of Americans, mainly women, but until recently, scientists had no idea what might be causing its severe and mysterious pains. For decades, doctors told patients their agony was imaginary, the result of emotional hysteria, not a physical ailment.

But this year, researchers finally began to get a handle on the condition.

“What’s happened is in 2013 there’s been this absolute explosion of papers,” says neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “The whole view on this has shifted.”

Oaklander published two studies this year showing that half or more of the cases of fibromyalgia are really a little-known condition affecting the nerves. People with this small-fiber neuropathy get faulty signals from tiny nerves all over the body, including internal organs, causing an odd constellation of symptoms from pain to sleep and digestive problems that overlap with symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Neuroscientist Frank Rice and a team based at Albany Medical College also discovered that there are excessive nerve fibers lining the blood vessels of the skin of fibromyalgia patients – removing any doubt that the condition is physically real.

These fibers in the skin can sense blood flow and control the dilation and constriction of vessels to regulate body temperature, Rice says, as well as direct nutrients to muscles during exercise. Women have more of these fibers than men, he says, perhaps explaining why they are much more likely to get fibromyalgia.

“Blood vessel nerve fibers are an important target that haven’t been in our line of thinking to date in chronic pain conditions,” says Rice, now president and chief scientist at Integrated Tissue Dynamics LLC, a biotechnology research company in Rensselaer, N.Y.

In recent years, scans of patients with fibromyalgia have revealed brain changes associated with pain, but the new research suggests these are a symptom rather than the cause of the condition. Read the full article…

Dec 142013
 

Stress Meter w credit w creditThursday, June 21, 2007
By: Eve Reddin Lennon, CPCC

This is the time of the year when we find ourselves surrounded, if not bombarded, by a multitude of media messages suggesting what we should be doing for the holidays and how we should be doing it. These messages are designed to conjure up sugarplum visions of beautiful, festive, picture perfect, storybook holidays with smiling families and all the trimmings that will surely bring us all peace and joy and incredible holiday happiness. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Hollywood movie, or even our own romanticized memories of tradition-soaked holidays past, these images are seductively appealing—but the problem is that they aren’t real. They are fictionalized, idealized versions of the holidays.

Consider for a moment the expectations we have placed on ourselves to make our own holidays fit these perfect, but imaginary and unattainable images in our heads. Way beyond our genuine and heartfelt desires for the Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmases, and Happy Hanukahs, we enter the season believing we are somehow obligated to follow a set of unwritten rules prescribing just what and how much we should be cramming into a few short weeks: “Deck the Halls!” (Inside and outside, upstairs and down until everything glows, sparkles, or twinkles, and smells like pinecones and spice.) Or, “It’s the season to open your hearts and be generous” (meaning shop till you drop, wrap it all up, and defer payment until January when you open the bills and go into stress overload).  It is also the season to “Gather your family” (whether you want to be with them or not,)to be the perfect hostess, to set a beautiful table and serve up at least one feast (dust off those cookbooks, shine up the silver, polish the crystal), and of course, to dress up, put a smile on your face, and attend all the parties, functions and festivities within a 250 mile radius.

Somewhere deep in our own heads is a list longer than Santa’s—of all the things we believe we need to or should do to make the season merry and bright. But the fact is that in order to do so we would each have to be a Martha Stewart clone with a staff of forty and the stamina of the Energizer bunny.

Wow. It is a recipe for exhaustion for nearly anyone, but for those of us with chronic illnesses like FM, it can be a recipe for a holiday disaster that results in unrelenting pain, brain fogs, and that deeply rooted, energy leeching fatigue that leaves us incapable of functioning; feeling isolated and depressed. Continue reading…

Sep 242013
 
A Map of Chronic Pain

A Map of Chronic Pain

Brain’s white matter may determine susceptibility to chronic pain

Scientists used the structure of the brain’s white matter (green lines) to predict whether a subject would recover from low back pain. Red dots represent differences in white matter structure between subjects who recovered and who suffered chronic pain. Courtesy of Apkarian lab, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients. The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

“We may have found an anatomical marker for chronic pain in the brain,” said Vania Apkarian, Ph.D., a senior author of the study and professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Chronic pain affects nearly 100 million Americans and costs the United States up to $635 billion per year to treat. According to the Institute of Medicine, an independent research organization, chronic pain affects a growing number of people.

“Pain is becoming an enormous burden on the public. The U.S. government recently outlined steps to reduce the future burden of pain through broad-ranging efforts, including enhanced research,” said Linda Porter, Ph.D, the pain policy advisor at NINDS and a leader of NIH’s Pain Consortium. “This study is a good example of the kind of innovative research we hope will reduce chronic pain which affects a huge portion of the population.”

Low back pain represents about 28 percent of all causes of pain in the United States; about 23 percent of these patients suffer chronic, or long-term, low back pain.

Pain in the Brain with Dr. Vania Apkarian
Apkarian on Pain

Watch Dr. Vania Apkarian discuss the relationship between lower back pain and the brain.
Scientists have thought the cause of low back pain could be found at the site of injury. However, recent studies suggest that the brain may be more involved with chronic pain.

“Currently we know very little about why some patients suffer chronic low back pain,” said Debra Babcock, M.D., Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. “The earlier we detect pain will become chronic, the better we may be able to treat patients.”

Dr. Apkarian and his colleagues addressed this by scanning the brains of 46 people who had low back pain for about three months before coming to the hospital but who had not had any pain for at least a year before.

Continue reading full article…

 

Aug 282013
 

Young Man Holding His Lower Back In Pain w creditBy Graham Gillies – Lake Country Calendar
Published: August 28, 2013 3:00 AM

In this column I am going to focus on the treatment of chronic muscle and nerve pain and why it can be so difficult to find a solution for this type of pain.

It is estimated that over one third of the adult population in North America suffers from chronic pain.

That is a staggering statistic. This means that one of out of every three people out on the street is dealing with ongoing daily pain.

Research shows that suicide is nine times more prevalent in people with chronic pain than with depression and it is estimated that, in the United States, chronic pain affects more people than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined.

So, is chronic muscle and nerve pain so common?

To understand this question we have to look at the gradual process that happens to all of our bodies to some degree over many years.

Read full story…

 

Aug 282013
 

Psychological Components of Chronic Pain Management

Dr. Grinstead – I believe that to effectively manage a chronic pain condition it is very important to understand exactly what type of pain you are experiencing. When people are in pain they experience both physical and psychological symptoms. To understand the language of pain, we must learn to listen to how the pain echoes and reverberates between the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of the human condition. Pain is truly a total human experience that affects all aspects of human functioning. Please watch my video below and then watch the remainder of this post.

The psychological symptoms include both cognitive (thinking changes) and emotional (uncomfortable feelings) that lead to suffering. Most people are not able to differentiate between the physical and psychological. All they know is “I hurt.” For effective chronic pain management people need to learn all they can about their pain.

The easiest way to understand pain is to recognize that every time we feel pain our body is attempting to tell us that something is wrong. Pain sensations are critical to human survival. Without pain we would have no way of knowing that something was wrong with our body. So without pain we would be unable to take action to correct the problem or situation that is causing the pain. There are also two types of pain that need to be understood: acute and chronic pain.

Read the full article…