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The Pain News - August 2011



Smokers have more chronic pain than non-smokers

Researchers from the University of Kentucky School of Public Health surveyed more than 6000 women to assess the link between smoking and chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Study subjects were categorised according to age and smoking status, including daily cigarette intake. They were also asked about pain symptoms and if they had been diagnosed with musculoskeletal pain disorders, such as low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, nerve pain, fibromyalgia, joint pain and pain all over the body.

The study findings showed that smokers are significantly more likely to report chronic pain than non-smokers. Daily smokers were twice as likely to report pain than non-smokers, and those who smoked a pack or more a day were most likely to report high levels of chronic pain.

The authors noted that smoking-induced coughing increases abdominal pressure and back pain; and nicotine may also lower pain thresholds. These findings suggest that smoking cessation treatments could be helpful for chronic pain management therapy.

Source: American Pain Society





The Pain News - July 2011




Keeping your chin up could help you tolerate pain better


Standing up straight and expanding your chest can really decrease your sensitivity to pain, according to a study by Scott Wiltermuth, Assistant Professor of Management Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Vanessa K. Bohns, Postdoctoral Fellow at the J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

The study, "It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That)" published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people felt more powerful and able to handle more pain than people who adopted a submissive stance (such as curling up in the foetal position). Bohn's and Wiltermuth's research suggests that actually, curling up into a ball may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain.


Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body, may also raise testosterone levels, which are associated with increased pain tolerance, and decrease cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful.


Source: Amy Blumenthal, University of Southern California


Massage can help to relieve low back pain for up to 6 months


A recent US study was conducted to find out if there was a difference between back pain sufferers who had a massage and those who did not.


The study included 401 members of a large group health plan who had moderately severe back pain related to strains and sprains (but not connected to any disease). The average age was 46, two-thirds of them women, and three quarters of the members selected had had pain for more than a year.


The groups were divided into three categories, randomly assigned. All three groups used other therapies in similar amounts, including painkillers or sedatives, back exercises and bed rest. Among the divided groups some received therapeutic massage therapy, which targeted specific musculoskeletal contributors to pain and aimed to release restrictions on muscles causing the distress. Others received relaxation massage, a full-body technique intended to induce a generalised sense of relaxation to ease low back pain. The third group received no special care and served as controls.


The study showed that after 26 weeks of treatment those in the control group continued to function less well than those who had received a massage.


The authors concluded: “Massage therapy may be effective for treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least six months. No clinically meaningful difference between relaxation and structural massage was observed in terms of relieving disability or symptoms.”


Source: Annals of Internal Medicine,


The Pain News - June 2011



New study shows painkillers can lower the risk of colon cancer


There is growing evidence that regular use of painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce a person's risk of developing colon or rectal cancers.


“The (risk) reductions that we saw here are not inconsequential,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ruder of the National Cancer Institute, the study's lead author.

Using questionnaire data from more than 300,000 adults, Ruder's group analysed how often people took any of 19 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain medications, including  ibuprofen, aspirin and others.


Overall, taking any of the NSAIDs was associated with a 20 percent drop in the risk of colorectal cancer over 10 years. The more frequently subjects used a painkiller, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer.


However the researchers did not weigh the potential benefits of the medications against their drawbacks. “We're certainly not advocating that people take NSAIDS to reduce the risk of colon cancer,” she told Reuters Health.


The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.


SOURCE: The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online March 15, 2011.


An experimental treatment may give relief from a painful prostate condition


New findings show that treatment with a specific “alpha blocker” medication helps reduce the symptoms of chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS), which include persistent pain in the bladder, testicles, and penis.


In a study at Queens University, approximately 60 per cent of men reported feeling better after treatment with a specific alpha blocker, versus 30 per cent of participants who were given a placebo. It seems the alpha-blocker works by relaxing the muscles in the bladder neck and prostate.


Reference: Queen's University (2011, May 18). Experimental treatment offers relief from painful prostate condition, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from­/releases/2011/05/110517151303.htm


Research shows peppermint helps to relieve the pain of IBS


University of Adelaide researchers have shown for the first time how peppermint helps to relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which affects up to 20% of the population. In a paper published in the journal Pain, the researchers explain how peppermint activates an “anti-pain” channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.


Dr Stuart Brierley says while naturopaths have commonly prescribed peppermint for many years, there has been no clinical evidence until now to demonstrate why it is so effective in relieving pain.


“Some people find their symptoms appear after consuming fatty and spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, but it is more complex than that. There appears to be a definite link between IBS and a former bout of gastroenteritis, which leaves nerve pain fibres in a heightened state, altering mechanisms in the gut wall and resulting in ongoing pain.”


Dr Brierley is one of 25 researchers who work at the University of Adelaide's Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory, hoping to find cures and treatments for a range of intestinal diseases.


Reference: Andrea M. Harrington, Patrick A. Hughes, Christopher M. Martin, Jing Yang, Joel Castro, Nicole J. Isaacs, L. Ashley Blackshaw, Stuart M. Brierley. A novel role for TRPM8 in visceral afferent function. Pain, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.01.027



Super foods that may give pain relief


Recent research suggests that some so-called “super foods” may pack as much pain-fighting power as common pain medications.


Red grapes: Dark-coloured grapes contain resveratrol, a powerful compound that blocks the enzymes contributing to tissue degeneration. In preliminary research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, resveratrol protected against the kind of cartilage damage that causes back pain. Blueberries and cranberries are also rich in resveratrol, and contain other powerful antioxidants as well.


Ginger: Historically used to help digestion, ginger is also an effective painkiller. Almost two-thirds of patients with chronic knee pain reported less pain upon standing and when walking 50 feet after taking a ginger extract, according to a six-week study from the University of Miami. Two to three teaspoons a day should do the trick, the researchers say.

Soy: Add some soy to your diet, and you may find your osteoarthritis knee pain reduced by 30 percent or more. An Oklahoma State University study found that consuming 40 grams of soy protein daily for three months slashed patients' use of pain medication in half. The secret lies in soy's isoflavones — plant hormones with anti-inflammatory properties.


Turmeric: A recent Thai study found that the spice common in many Indian foods fights the pain of rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as ibuprofen. Turmeric also seems to slow down the destruction of joints from arthritis, according to National Institutes of Health-supported research on rats at the University of Arizona in Tucson.


Cherries: High amounts of antioxidants called anthocyanins are the key to cherries' pain-fighting power. In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, participants who ate 45 cherries a day for 28 days reduced their inflammation levels significantly. Pain-calming anthocyanins are also found in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

Fish: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish that help keep your heart in good shape may also tame the pain or inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, and some autoimmune diseases, including Crohn's disease. Even chronic neck and back pain patients can benefit. In an open trial at the University of Pittsburgh, 60 percent of respondents experienced some relief after taking fish oil for three months, and almost as many dropped their pain drugs altogether.

Crossing your arms may help you feel less pain

When you have stomach pain, it’s instinctive to cross your arms across the middle of your body to make it feel better. It seems there may be a scientific reason: crossing your arms confuses the brain and helps reduce the intensity of pain, according to recent research.


Scientists from University College London (UCL) who reported the finding in the journal Pain said they think the reason for the phenomenon is conflicting information between two of the brain's maps – one for the body and one for external space.


“When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore,” he said, leading to less effective processing. This means that stimuli such as pain can perceived as weaker.


The researchers hope their discovery could lead to the development of new pain relievers that exploit the brain's way of mapping the body.


Source: Pain, June 2011.


The Pain News - APRIL 2011



Doubts remain about the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain control


Investigators from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth (Exeter, UK) and the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (Daejeon, South Korea) have critically evaluated 56 systematic reviews of acupuncture as a treatment for pain. They reported in the journal PAIN® that there is little truly convincing evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain, and in some cases it actually does more harm than good.

“Acupuncture remains associated with serious adverse effects”, commented lead investigator Professor Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, Laing Chair in Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK.

 The investigators grouped adverse effect case studies into three categories: infection (38 cases), trauma (42 cases) and other adverse effects (13 cases). Many of these adverse side effects were not associated with acupuncture per se, but rather resulted from malpractice of acupuncturists. The most frequently reported complications included penetration of the thorax, bacterial and viral infections. Five patients died after their treatment.

In an accompanying commentary, Harriet Hall, MD, states: “When a treatment is extensively studied for decades and the evidence continues to be inconsistent, it becomes more and more likely that the treatment is not truly effective… In fact, taken as a whole, the published (and scientifically rigorous) evidence leads to the conclusion that acupuncture is no more effective than placebo.”

Article: “Acupuncture: Does it alleviate pain and are there serious risks? A review of reviews” by E. Ernst, Myeong Soo Lee and Tae-Young Choi.
Commentary: “Acupuncture's claims punctured: Not proven effective for pain, not harmless” by Harriet Hall, MD. Both appear in PAIN®, Volume 152, Issue 4 (April 2011) published by Elsevier.

Vibration– a new therapy for chronic pain?


We all know that a rub or massage can be helpful in alleviating pain. Now researchers have found that another kind of touch therapy, vibration, can help reduce certain types of pain by more than 40 percent.

“The vibration truly represents an analgesic effect,” said Roland Staud, M.D, a professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “This is exciting because it is something