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Peter Abaci, MD

Chronic Pain Blog


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Medical Marijuana for Nerve Pain

Sunday July 11, 2010

Well, we found something else medical marijuana can help: chronic nerve pain. This comes from the International Anesthesia Research Society, or IARS. Using a compound similar in makeup to marijuana, they were able to significantly reduce neuropathic pain symptoms in adults. What's even better is that this compound, currently called MDA19, successfully treated chronic nerve pain without the usual painkiller side effects.

This is great news, considering how hard it is to treat neuropathic pain. Often, pain doctors prescribe painkillers originally designed for other uses, such as anticonvulsants or antidepressants. Even then, pain may not be well controlled.

Here's hoping that MDA19 research carries on! This could be a major breakthrough for people who suffer from chronic nerve pain every day.

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Happy Independence Day!

Sunday July 4, 2010

Today we celebrate Independence Day. This is a holiday filled with celebrations, gatherings and of course lots of explosives. Having recently had a baby, however, this is a holiday during which my husband and I will be leaving the party early so that we can put our daughter down in time for her bedtime. And our plan to still join in the celebration, minus the fireworks, got me thinking: anyone with any chronic pain condition can still enjoy a holiday. You just have to moderate!

So, rather than indulge in too much picnic food, have a little taste of your favorite barbecue fare and load up on the veggies. If sitting outside and craning your head to watch the fireworks leaves you in pain, why not watch a display on television? If heading out of the house is too much today, why not just give your friends and family a quick call, and let them know you are thinking of them this holiday?

Having chronic pain doesn't mean you can't enjoy the same things you used to: sometimes it just means you have to find another way to work a holiday into your life. Happy fourth. Enjoy it any way you can!

Articles of interest:

Coping Strategies for Chronic Pain

Wednesday June 30, 2010

I talk about coping strategies for chronic pain pretty often. In fact, I have an entire page devoted to coping strategies for chronic pain shared by readers. And today, I have three new strategies to share.

As an occupational therapist, I am frequently tasked with the job of making life easier for people in pain. Here are some strategies I learned back in the college days that still apply today:

  • Energy conservation. Energy conservation revolves around saving your body some effort during routine tasks. For example, sitting instead of standing in the shower can prevent fatigue.
  • Work simplification. Work simplification involves taking your day to day routines and making them easier. Buying wrinkle-free clothing can save you from some of your weekly ironing.
  • Joint protection. Joint protection techniques prevent unnecessary strain on your joints during daily activities. One example is using a jar opener in the kitchen.

Check them out, and see what techniques you can apply to your daily routine. It can only help!

Spotlight on Neuropathy

Saturday June 26, 2010

What is neuropathy?

Neuropathy is one of six main types of chronic pain. It's pretty common, so chances are good that you or someone you know has one of the many different types of neuropathy. Neuropathy is another term for neuropathic pain, a condition that occurs when the body's nerves are damaged or simply not functioning properly.

While many cases of neuropathy are caused by disease (such as multiple sclerosis) or nerve irritation (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), some cases are a mystery (such as phantom limb pain). One thing is certain, however: treating neuropathy is often a challenge.

Now's your chance to chime in: do you have neuropathy? If so, how do you cope?

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Painkillers and Heart Disease

Wednesday June 23, 2010

Listen up: if you take NSAIDs for day to day aches and pains, you may be increasing your risk of heart disease. According to a recent study, this may be true even if you are healthy and have no history of heart disease.

It seems like every time I turn around there is a new warning about painkillers. This one says that high doses of ibuprofen (more than 1200 mg daily) can increase a healthy person's risk of stroke by as much as 29 percent. 29 percent! Diclofenac (also known as Voltaren) had a 91 percent risk of death from a cardiac incident. Remember Vioxx? Vioxx was associated with a 66 percent risk.

You may be wondering if any NSAIDs are safe. Actually, yes. The study found that Celebrex did not appear to increase the risk of cardiac events. In addition, low doses of naproxen and ibuprofen are actually still considered safe.

Other articles of interest:

Pain Doctors Charged in Painkiller Overdose Deaths

Saturday June 19, 2010

Things are pretty bad when you can't even trust your own pain management doctor.

This article describes the terrible case of a pain management clinic under investigation. Apparently, their patients have an unusually high chance of dying from a painkiller overdose. In their service area, nearly 20 percent of all deaths from painkiller overdose were patients from their clinic. The clinic, which is run by a husband and wife doctor team, is also being investigated for health care fraud and money laundering.

This is about the most despicable thing I have heard since Michael Jackson died unnecessarily. Who are these doctors? Do they start out with no morals, or does something happen to change them along the way? As a health care worker, I just can't imagine valuing money more than a person's life. Not to mention the lives of 68 people...

Some articles of interest:

Back Pain: Is Surgery the Right Option?

Wednesday June 16, 2010

It's unfortunate, but true: surgery does not always fix back pain.

I can't tell you how many patients I work with who are disappointed following their back surgery. Many wake up in worse pain than they had before their surgery. Granted, some of this is a result of normal post-surgical pain. For some, however, pain persists long after the surgery should have healed.

Does this mean you should reject back surgery if your doctor suggests it? Not necessarily. Back surgery tends to be the last resort, when other more conservative treatments have failed. And for some people, it really does fix the problem. I think, however, in light of this recent bit of research, that back surgery should not be considered "the final fix" - because in many cases, it isn't.

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In Pain? Try Acupuncture.

Saturday June 12, 2010

I've never been a giant fan of needles. I've tried acupuncture, but I have to admit that the anxiety and anticipation of the needles piercing my skin probably outweighed any of the potential benefits. I can't say that the needles caused me pain; more like a great deal of distress and discomfort. For many, however, they bring a welcome sense of relief.

I recently read an article on yahoo news about acupuncture for pain control. While it's not exactly a new treatment (acupuncture has been around for thousands of years), the research suggests that it may do more than we originally thought. Apparently, acupuncture needles triggered a release of a chemical that reduces inflammation and pain signals. How about that?

Of course, this is one single study. But definitely something to keep an eye on!

For more about how acupuncture works, check out this article by about.com's Guide to alternative medicine.

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Beware of Contaminated Supplements!

Wednesday June 9, 2010

I'm not trying to scare you here, but this is serious news: a recent article in the New York Times reports that many dietary supplements contain some undesirable substances. In your ginko biloba, for instance, you might find such extra ingredients such as mercury, lead and pesticides. While most of the supplements tested did not contain dangerous amounts of the heavy metals, over a third of them contained more than the legal amount of pesticide.

Ok, back up for a minute. There's a legal amount of pesticides for dietary supplements? Which leads me to my next question: do you actually know what is in your supplement?

The study also found that many dietary supplement manufacturers make false claims regarding the so-called healing properties of their products. While it's true that supplements can have positive health benefits for people with chronic conditions, it's also against the law to label them as "treatments" without FDA approval.In fact, many supplements are not currently regulated by the FDA.

That may change soon. In a few weeks, the senate will be discussing a new food safety bill which may affect the way supplements are handled. We will have to wait and see what happens with that. In the meantime, however, you should not only check your labels, but investigate your supplements out at ConsumerLab.com.

Other articles of interest:

Bono's Back Injury

Saturday June 5, 2010

Add Bono to the list of celebrities who suffer from back pain. A recent article in the LA Times reported that Bono's back injury caused U2 to postpone it's upcoming tour of America, which was due to begin this month. Apparently, he had a ligament tear and a herniated disc that was causing severe nerve compression: so severe that it warranted emergency surgery.

Wow. I can't think of any of my patients who had emergency surgery for their back pain....then again, none of my patients are celebrities! In all seriousness, though, I am very proud of Bono and the decision his doctor made. Instead of trying to tough it out, or packing on the addictive pain medications, Bono is resting and recuperating from his operation. Of course, I can't say all of his fans will agree with me. Hopefully they will come to understand that this move may save him from a lifetime of pain.

Here's hoping Bono has a speedy recovery and is back on stage soon!

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