Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

Mar
17
2018

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Don Benedict hurt his lower back and tells about benefits of hot baths and saunas to relieve his chronic pain. He is a 70-year old former handball player. He played competitive handball for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest. His story is reviewed here. In order to stay in shape, he ran 5 miles every other day. But at the age of 57 he ruptured a disc in his back. In the following years he ruptured several more discs and had three back surgeries for that. Eventually scar formation set in and no more surgery was possible. This left him with a chronic pain syndrome, for which he received prescriptions for strong pain medications. OxyContin, Tramadol and anti-anxiety pills were on his prescription list. He needed to take 14 doses of pills per day to control his chronic back pain.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for chronic pain

Finally he remembered that as a younger man he was a summer river guide on Idaho’s Salmon River. When he and his wife had sore muscles they would relax in the hot baths of natural hot springs. Other people who visited these hot springs told him how having hot baths helped them for their aches and pains. For the past four years Don and his wife have been visiting the hot springs in Idaho City three times per week. This has decreased Don’s back pain significantly. He could reduce more than half of his pain medications and reduce the potency of the pain pills as well. The water temperature in the hot springs hovers between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). His wife, who has an asthmatic condition, reported that the hot soaks helped her muscle spasms around the throat.

Other treatment modalities to prevent chronic pain

13 years ago, when Don ruptured his first disc stem, cell treatments were not readily available. But if the same would happen today an unconventional stem cell therapy could be a treatment modality, and chronic pain could be avoided. I am mentioning this here, because Don’s suffering from chronic back pain was causing him a lot of unnecessary suffering. Discectomy surgery, which destabilizes the back and causes scarring, is not the first choice of treatment today.

Stem cell therapy

Instead stem cells are taken from the patient’s fatty tissue (liposuction) and from the bone marrow. A stem cell mix between bone marrow stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells (from fatty tissue) is made. Platelet rich plasma is added to this as an activator. The mix is injected into the disc space of the ruptured disc. Now the stem cells do their magic healing. The beauty of this medical procedure is that healing takes place without any scarring. The stem cells mend all of the damage. They do so by transforming themselves into identical body cells that overbridge broken tissues.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for heart

  1. 2016 study published in the Journal of Physiology describes a study that included adults in their low twenties. Their arms were intermittently exposed to 40.5°C (105°F) water temperature for 60 minutes over a period of 8 weeks. This lowered their blood pressure and caused the arteries in the treatment group to be more flexible.
  2. Scientists in Finland have focused on the benefits of saunas, which is a Scandinavian tradition. Their study in the American Journal of Hypertension followed more than 1,600 middle-age men for almost 25 years. The results showed that the more the men visited saunas, the less they were suffering from high blood pressure. These were the statistics:
  • Visited sauna 2 to 3 times per week: 24% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who had a sauna only once or not at all.
  • Visited sauna 4 to 7 times per week: 46% reduction of blood pressure.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding dementia prevention

2016 study out of Finland found that frequent exposures to saunas could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Compared to having a sauna only once per week (no reduction of dementia) these were some observations:

  • Visiting the sauna 2-3 times per week: 22% reduction of dementia.
  • Visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week: 66% reduction of dementia.

With regard to Alzheimer’s disease the corresponding figures were a 20% reduction and a 65% reduction.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for brain injuries

Dr. Burke from the Emory University Rehabilitative Hospital is investigating the benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding brain-injured patients.

He recommends 4 saunas per week for brain-injured patients. Dr. Burke said: “This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition, but can’t physically do some of the exercises.“

Caution regarding benefits of hot baths and saunas

Within 48 hours of a new injury, Dr. Burke says, it is best to use ice packs in order to reduce the swelling of the tissues. But subsequently he switches the patients to heat in form of saunas. Some patients have low blood pressure to start with. They may not be good candidates for hot baths as they may pass out when their already low blood pressure gets a further reduction. Always check with your own doctor before doing hot baths or saunas.

Europe’s history of hot baths and saunas

Saunas have a long history in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

Hot baths have a century-old history in Europe and Japan.

Father Sebastian Kneipp invented hydrotherapy, where cold and hot water baths are applied sequentially. The present resurgence of interest in the benefits of hot baths and saunas for healing purposes is nothing new. What may be new is that the medical profession at large is finally paying attention to the research of Father Sebastian Kneipp. He knew that there were benefits of hot baths and saunas.

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Conclusion

There are benefits of hot baths and saunas. This is what was spelled out in the studies cited in this review. The fact that heat can heal was something that Father Sebastian Kneipp knew long time ago. Medical facts have a way to recirculate. But now we know that it can lower blood pressure and can improve the flexibility of arteries. It can help with tissue perfusion and reduce chronic pain. But it also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition it helps patients with brain injuries to recover faster than without hot baths and saunas.

Advantage of heat treatments

The advantage of heat treatments is the fact that no side effects occur like with the use of drugs. Heat treatments are natural, but drug treatments are artificial. Hot baths and saunas can easily be part of one’s lifestyle. If you feel you need more of it, you can go ahead and do it, but if you feel you don’t need as much, use less. Make it fit into your lifestyle. It is also obvious that too much of a good thing is no longer a good approach to wellness. Limit the temperature in hot baths and don’t exaggerate the time you spend in a hot sauna.

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Sep
10
2016

Crazy Food Trends

CNN wrote about strange, crazy food trends that seem to receive a following. I thought it would be interesting to analyze them medically and point out to the reader what’s right and what’s wrong.

Crazy food trend one: Ashwagandha

In India this herb, also known as Indian ginseng has been used as part of the Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.

At the 22nd Annual Anti-Aging (A4M) Las Vegas Conference in mid December 2014 Pamela Smith gave a presentation entitled ”How To Maintain Memory At Any Age”. She gave a comprehensive overview of what you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Smith recommended many other supplements, which I will not explain in detail here: B vitamins, vitamin E and C, carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, boron, ginger, coenzyme Q-10 (or CoQ-10), curcumin, vinpocetine, zinc, grape seed extract, blueberry extract, Ashwagandha, glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline, SAMe, huperzine A and DMAE and others. She specifically pointed out that she felt Ashwagandha was very powerful. It helps people preserve their memory, more so than regular drugs that doctors prescribe.

When the benefits of taking CoQ-10 were discussed, Dr. Smith reminded the audience “whatever is good for the heart, is good for the brain”. She recommended reading Dr. Perlmutter’s book from which this phrase was borrowed (Ref. 1).

Ashwagandha is an herb with multifaceted effects. Here is a review by a doctor about the various effects of Ashwagandha.

It does not belong into foods; it should only be in use as a supplement, if your doctor agrees with it.

Crazy food trend two: astrologically farmed eggs

Picture biodynamic farming of eggs with the guidance of the moon. Now you are producing astrologically farmed eggs. The Hemsley sisters insist you should eat these astrologically farmed eggs for breakfast. I don’t buy into this. This is hokey! It smells like somebody is trying to lure money out of your pocket by trying to convince you that there is health benefit to “astrologically farmed eggs”. There isn’t.

What does make sense is to buy eggs that do not have antibiotic residue in them and that came from free-range hens. Yes, I buy organic eggs that are somewhat more expensive. If you like to buy organic omega-3 eggs, this would also be scientifically superior to ordinary hen eggs. There is also the difference of “free run” and “free range” hens. “Free run” does not give you any guarantee for a healthy product, as the birds live in crowded barns and are likely receiving medications to combat diseases. “Free range” birds are hens that have access to the outdoors, and there is less of the overcrowding that is common in a barn.

Crazy food trend three: Cordyceps

There are about 400 subspecies to these sac fungi. Cordyceps has been used in Chinese medicines to help as an aphrodisiac, help improve kidney function in the elderly and also with regard to some anticancer activity. There are very few clinical review papers to substantiate any of these claims; yet traditional medicine insists on using Cordyceps for these purposes. If you want to see a traditional Chinese doctor, do so on your own. But don’t consume food that is prepared with Cordyceps.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s morning smoothie cost more than 200$, so if anything, I would be more concerned about bankruptcy than real nutrition with this type of breakfast drink.

I have my doubts that Cordyceps that kill ants to sprout their spores in their corpses (see Wiki link above) could be of any objective benefit to humans.

Crazy food trend four: blue majik

Blue Majik is just another name for a common antioxidant, phycocyanin. It derives from algae, Arthrospira platensis.It has some similarity with the green spirulina. But just because it seems fashionable right now, does not mean that it is superior to vitamin C as a cheap antioxidant or vitamin E. The creators of blue majik are cashing in on color effects and selling false hopes of better health. You can live very well without it.

Crazy food trend five: cannabis

When I heard that people are starting to mix cannabis into foods, it reminded me about a story I heard from one of my patients in the mid 1980’s who worked in the shipyards of North Vancouver. One day he saw some cookies on a tray in the lunchroom. A co-worker offered some to him and he ate it. After 5 minutes his head started pounding with an excruciating headache and he became nauseous. Shortly after he vomited and started getting a rapid heartbeat. His co-workers laughed and told him that these were very special cookies that they treated with marijuana.

I suspect that whoever baked these cookies used a higher dose of marijuana and my patient experienced a marijuana overdose.

This example illustrates that cannabis has special properties that affect the body.

In the brain it binds to cannabinoid receptors. These are not only present in brain tissue, but also in lungs, liver and kidneys. Even the immune cells have cannabinoid receptors.

There may be a place for chronic pain patients under the guidance of a physician to get medical marijuana. But keep cannabis away from your food. Don’t consume it! You have no idea what you are doing to your body that is full of receptors for cannabis. Cannabis requires treatment like a drug. This means a doctor should prescribe marijuana and the patient s should take it according to doctor’s orders. Like with any drug there will be effects and also side effects.

Crazy Food Trends

Crazy Food Trends

Conclusion

Out of five crazy foods reviewed there are only 2 that merit consideration, but not mixed into food. These are Ashwagandha as a supplement (part of memory loss prevention and others) and cannabis for chronic pain. A physician should supervise both. The remainders are fashion crazes. Unfortunately many people will fall for these fashion trends and lose a lot of money. This will make someone who peddles these items very rich. Is this what you want to do: throw your money out and toss it right into the pocket a huckster? Rethink what you want to do. You may just want to buy organic eggs from chickens that happily scratch away in a farmyard. This is very much down to earth, and nothing “astronomically farmed” is needed.

References

Ref 1: David Perlmutter, MD: “Grain Brain. The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar-Your Brain’s Silent Killers.” Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2013.

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Aug
06
2016

Pain Treatment

General practitioners see a lot of patients with various pain symptoms for which they seek pain treatment. The underlying conditions might be from an arthritic problem that suddenly becomes symptomatic, or an acute back injury may send pain from the lower back into one of the legs. Others may experience excruciating headaches like migraines or tension type headaches. Often these painful conditions require some immediate pain relievers to treat the pain, but this can turn into a nightmare of drug dependency and may even lead to the development of chronic pain. Here I like to review an article that I found in the June edition of ConsumersReports.org.  In my review I included most of the content, but added a few newer pain treatment modalities.

Acute pain

Here I’m discussing back pain as an example. When a disc bursts in the lower back because the person was lifting an object too heavy to lift, acute pain develops in the lower back. This is often located at the lower lumbar spine level (L5/S1) causing radiating pain into one of the legs.

In a case like this it will often take several weeks before the body can heal this condition.

Chronic pain

It can happen in many cases that the pain will still be there 3 to 6 months down the road. If a disc fragment pushes on the nerve root in the nearby canal through which the nerve root travels, this will cause the muscles supplied by the nerve root to melt away in the leg of the affected side. If nothing is done about this, the acute pain turns into chronic pain, which is much more difficult to resolve. The initial physician may refer the patient to a neurosurgeon who will review the case together with the help of an MRI scan that shows the underlying pathology. The neurosurgeon may determine that a mini discectomy will reduce the pressure onto the nerve root.

Relief of pressure on nerve root from mini discectomy

This surgery may be able to prevent chronic pain from setting in. Once the pressure is relieved, the nerve can start the healing process. It is critical to not miss the point where acute pain crosses over into chronic pain. This happens at around 2 to 3 months into the pain condition. Chronic pain is much more difficult to treat as some of the neurological pain pathways that form after such injuries can persist within the spinal cord or even within the central nervous system, even after successful disc surgery that is done too late. With respect to the example given above, if the patient is operated on too late (1 to 2 years after the injury), the procedure may not be effective in relieving the pain. A chronic pain syndrome has started.

How pain treatment is done

  1. Avoid bed rest

In the past (up to the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s bed rest was the accepted initial mode of treatment. Even though patients often felt some relief of pain initially, this led to muscle atrophy (literally a melting away of muscles) in the muscles that are supporting the spine. These structural changes destabilized the spine and often made the pain more chronic until physiotherapy treatments and active exercises rebuilt the supporting muscles again.

  1. See a physiotherapist

Physiotherapists can use different treatment modalities like traction, a TENS machine, active exercises that all can help to alleviate back pain due to muscle spasm. If there is only a strain, this will often help to resolve your back pain within 4 weeks. But if there is an underlying disc herniation as previously explained, you need to be assessed by a physician in an urgent care center, primary care setting or by an emergency physician in the emergency department of a hospital. When the examination confirms an abnormal reflex from a nerve root compression, a referral to a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon is usually made as previously explained.

  1. Chiropractic treatment

Some people have their backs treated periodically to prevent back troubles. When they get an acute back pain they likely will see the chiropractor again. In cases of a back strain, where one or more muscles are pulled, this approach will be helpful together with some home exercises and swimming to build up muscle strength along the spine. However, in the case of a herniated disc chiropractic adjustments should not be done (physicians say they are “contra-indicated”). Instead the patient should be referred to either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon.

  1. Medication for pain

Often physicians prescribe Tylenol with codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) or morphine for pain relief. All narcotic medication have side-effects; they can cause constipation, can cause vomiting, make you feel dizzy and can lead to falls, particularly in elderly patients. These falls can cause hip fractures and other fractures that complicate the recovery from the original pain. Never exceed the dosage of pain medicine prescribed on the label, and if it does not relieve the pain, see your physician again for a reassessment to rule out any complications.

Depression with back pain

Often people with back pain also have depression. To address this issue your physician may prescribe an antidepressant like duloxetine (Cymbalta), which has been approved by the FDA for treatment of lower back pain. But there are two rare, but important side effects to know about. Cymbalta can cause lowering of blood pressure, which leads to dizziness. This can cause serious falls with the danger of fractures. The other complication is the risk of liver failure.

Side effects of pain treatment

Pain pills can be addicting

While there seems to be an urgency to treat a patient who is in pain with pain medication, the treating physician must not forget that pain medication is potentially addicting and patients often use higher doses than advisable. However, pain medication has a narrow therapeutic window meaning that the toxic levels are not much higher than the drug levels necessary to relieve pain.

Some medications are only marginally effective

There are medications that are only marginally effective, if at all. Glucosamine and chondroitin are used for relief of arthritic pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. They are eliminated by a liver enzyme system that also eliminates blood thinners. If a patient is on blood thinners, the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin can lead to dangerous bleeding. Instead of using glucosamine and chondroitin when you experience pain and inflammation in joints, reduce your activities, but stay as active as you can to avoid your symptoms from getting worse.

Tests for severe migraines

When a patient has a severe migraine headache it is tempting to want to rule out a brain tumor. But a CT scan exposes the patient to dangerously high radiation doses that over time could cause brain cancer or leukemia. There are physical examination methods to rule out a brain tumor. If the findings are positive, an MRI scan can be used to get much more detail of the brain than a CT study would reveal. MRI scans do not have undesirable side effects.

Use gentle movement to remobilize the painful joints

Before you rush into using anti-inflammatory drugs, use gentle movement to remobilize the painful joint, back or limb. Activities like swimming, walking or yoga can reduce pain and allow you to recover from a painful condition according to a Cochrane Library analysis of 61 studies.

Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSADs)

For more pain relief NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for a brief period will also help. The problem with long-term use of NSAIDs is that it can cause kidney damage. With longer use of NSAIDs there is also a danger of stomach bleeding, heart attacks and strokes.

Toxicity with Tylenol

The pain drug acetaminophen (Tylenol) has a narrow therapeutic window and is less effective in pain relief than the NSAIDs. The FDA has recommended as the highest daily dose 4000 mg of acetaminophen. But if you are a heavy drinker or you have liver disease, your daily dose of acetaminophen should not exceed 3250 mg to avoid liver toxicity. Long-term use of acetaminophen can also damage your kidneys, therefore the recommendation to use acetaminophen only for a short period of time (a few days).

Side effects of triptan drugs for migraines

Migraine headache drugs: The newer migraine drugs, called triptans temporarily narrow widened blood vessels. This relieves severe migraines within about 2 hours. However, these medications are not recommended for those with high blood pressure, chest pain, heart disease or circulation problems in the legs, as blood vessel constriction could bring on heart attacks or worsen circulation problems.

Common sense approach to pain treatment

The key for any pain condition is to treat the pain right away to minimize the impact that pain has on you and to prevent developing chronic pain, which is more difficult to treat.

Here are some examples.

Migraine headaches

If you have a migraine headache, use an over-the-counter pain reliever like naproxen or ibuprofen to treat the migraine pain very early. A combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine (like Excedrin Migraine or a generic copy) will also do. This will stop the release of prostaglandins, which would send pain signals to the brain. Heat packs or cold packs on your head can also help in the treatment of a headache. A 2013 study from Germany has shown that migraine sufferers can get rid of their migraine headaches in 60% by having sex. It sounds like a nice idea, but what they have not considered may be the fact that somebody who has a splitting headache is not feeling like sex at all!

Triptan pills for migraines

If your home remedies did not help, see your physician for one of the triptan pills. Sumatriptan or a similar drug constricts blood vessels to the brain. The doctor will also look for common triggering factors that can bring on a migraine. Weak neck and shoulder muscles may respond to physiotherapy strengthening. In women a condition called estrogen dominance is associated with migraines and can be treated with bioidentical progesterone to balance estrogen and progesterone in the body by elevating progesterone concentration.

Acute lower back pain 

Acute lower back pain usually follows an event where the person lifted something too heavy or injured the back from a fall. The important part is to rule out a fracture. Most of the time there is no underlying fracture, just a muscle strain. A muscle strain usually sorts itself out in time. Stay active as much as possible. But if the back pain does not resolve within a few days, see your physician for more tests. X-rays can delineate structural changes like a fracture. As explained earlier, an MRI scan can rule out a disc herniation. Instead of neurosurgery, further options nowadays are prolotherapy, stem cell therapy or a combination prolotherapy/stem cell therapy. This type of therapy will also work for knee injuries (meniscal or ligamentous tears).

Hip or knee pain

Conventional medicine usually treats osteoarthritis with NSAIDs, but may not warn you about the possibility of gastric erosions that can lead to massive stomach bleeding, heart attacks or strokes when using NSAIDs. It also can lead to kidney damage that can cause sudden kidney failure. The key is to use anti-inflammatory medication only for a few weeks. If arthritis persists, it is wiser to seek the advice of a naturopathic physician for prolotherapy treatment. One or two treatments of prolotherapy can give relief of pain. If prolotherapy does not succeed, it is best to move on to mixed stem cell therapy with bone marrow and mesenchymal stem cells (from fat cells) as well as PRP (platelet rich plasma). This usually leads to complete healing of osteoarthritis and eliminates the need of total knee or total hip replacement.

Neck and shoulder pain

This often develops because of poor posture, shoulder tendinitis or neck muscle spasm. Physiotherapy is often successful treating this. If not the physiotherapist can use intramuscular stimulation (IMS) with acupuncture needles. This may be more successful in interrupting the abnormal neuropathic pain pathways. Alternatively electro acupuncture with a TENS-like device can also be successful. The newest treatment modality is the Weber medical system using a low-dose laser applicator. Prolotherapy can also be used for shoulder and neck problems, if the ligaments are lax. It requires a lot of experience on behalf of the health professional to choose the right treatment protocol for the condition.

Tension headaches

Anxiety, stress and fatigue can all lead to tension headaches. Initially you may want to drink liquids, as dehydration is related to tension headaches. If your headache is still present after one hour, use naproxen or acetaminophen. Take a warm or cold shower and lie down with a cool cloth on your forehead. If you still have a headache, check with your doctor whether it is indeed a tension headache or a migraine. You may have jaw clenching or teeth grinding during your sleep. If your bite seems off, see a dentist. For stress control use relaxation techniques.

Other ways to treat tension headaches

Some suggestions sound mundane enough, but they can be effective: Get enough sleep, get enough exercise, and work on improving your posture. A physician trained in trigger point injections with local anesthetics (often anesthetists or general practitioners) can freeze your suboccipital and supraorbital nerves with lidocaine, which I have seen to work in 60% to 70% of cases in my former practice.

Pain Treatment

Pain Treatment

Conclusion

Pain treatment can be confusing as pain itself can be very multifaceted. The key is to search for the cause of the pain. Then treat pain very quickly. This way it has time within 2 to 3 months to turn into a chronic pain condition. Chronic pain is much more difficult to treat. The physician should treat acute pain successfully. Conventional medicine has to yet learn from naturopathic medicine and alternative medicine practitioners. They use prolotherapy, stem cell therapy, IMS and trigger point injections with local anesthetics.  In addition low-dose laser therapy (Weber medical system) are valuable alternative methods to treat pain. These methods can successfully treat pain conditions. The physician can incorporate them into general medical practice.

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Apr
01
2008

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Chronic pain can be an affliction that turns normal living and functioning upside down. Quality of life will be negatively affected, and often depression and anxiety are resulting mental problems. Effective pain relief is crucial, but often there are undesirable side effects to pain medication, and the patient will explore other avenues that bring a measure of relief. Amy Burleson, Psy.D. of the Cleveland Clinic’s chronic pain rehabilitation program found that chronic pain patients were physically deconditioned due to chronic pain and a chronic lack of physical activity. Depression and other mood disorder also were very common. A 10 minute exercise program was added to the treatment of a group of 28 patients who suffered of various chronic pains: back pain, fibromyalgia, neuropathy and migraines. Patients started a simple routine of walking on a treadmill, starting with a low speed of 1 mile per hour and increasing the speed every few minutes, till they walked at a speed of 3 miles per hour, a speed which was manageable for all patients. After 3 weeks patients found that their physical endurance had increased. They also experienced less depression and anxiety. Even more remarkable was the fact that the patients’ pain perception had diminished.

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Likert scale scores which were used in the assessment of pain perception showed a drop from 7.32 in the beginning of the program to 2.75 at 3 weeks. It is obvious that even mild exercise has benefits for patients with chronic pain: the overall well being receives a noticeable boost through an approach that has no pharmacological impact, no side effects and has no high cost of health care.

More information on the right dose of exercise: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/right-dose-exercise/

Reference: Pain Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 1, Page 88-141 (January/February 2008)

Last edited November 3, 2014

Apr
01
2007

Disc Transplantation New For Herniated Disc

Back problems can be a source of chronic pain and it is a significant reason for disability in the general population. Often the patient lives with the problem, and treatment with pain killers or over the counter remedies proves to be useless. Once the symptoms are becoming more severe and there is a feeling of numbness that extends into the leg or foot, even the most stoic back pain sufferer will seek out medical advice. Tests such as a CAT scan or MRI scan will reveal that the reason for the chronic pain is a herniated disk.

The only treatment that could be offered has been a discectomy which is performed by an orthopedic surgeon. So far fusion surgery has been the modality of choice, which has the unfortunate consequence of predisposing patients to degeneration in other levels of the spine as the wear and tear following fusion surgery is higher at the adjacent levels.

Dr. Dike Ruan from the Navy General Hospital in Beijing reports about a new treatment in the form of disc transplantation instead of fusion. Artificial materials have been tested and the results have been very variable. Contrary to organ transplantation it is possible to work with donor material from non-related persons as the inert disk material does not cause transplantation rejection. The herniated disc is removed including the adjacent end plate and a fresh-frozen composite disk with end plate is introduced. Five patients who underwent the procedure had improved neurological status after three months. Also the bony union at the end plate was nearly complete after three months. Long term follow up, which continued for at least five years, continued to show improvement.

Disc Transplantation New For Herniated Disc

Disc Transplantation New For Herniated Disc

Contrary to organ transplants in which anti-rejection drugs have to be used, the disk transplants caused no immunological reaction. Motion and stability remained excellent, and only minor degenerative changes were observed after five years.

With further refinements, such disc transplants will likely become an effective alternative treatment for degenerative disc disease.

More information about disc herniation treatment suggestions: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/lower-back-pain/treatment-low-back-pain-2/disc-herniation-treatment-suggestions/
Reference: The Lancet, 2007; 369-993 and p.999

Last edited November 2, 2014

Feb
01
2006

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

Chronic pain can be an undermining force in people’s well being. Often it is more perceived as a nuisance or an inconvenience. How serious it really is as a health risk, has been emerging only in more recent observations.
Two well designed, population based studies in the UK are showing that there is an increased risk in people with chronic pain to die prematurely or to develop cancer.
In a study by J. Mc Farlane, MD individuals with chronic back pain or patients suffering of fibromyalgia show an increased risk for premature death and cancer. Often pain sufferers have not only one pain condition but also multiple ones. Mc Farlane quoted an excess risk of 30% for premature mortality in pain patients. At the same time he states that the risk is “relatively modest”. Another study noted that patients who suffered of widespread pain over a 10-year period had a 50% increased risk of developing cancer than those who were pain free at the baseline. Statistically it means that 2.5% of patients with widespread pain over a time of 10 years will develop cancer, which remains a small percentage.
The author notes that there is no reason to feel overly threatened by these results. More research will tell more. For the practical application the results point to the need for effective treatment and pain control before chronic pain patterns become detrimental to the patient’s health.

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

More information on:

Pain can affect many areas:  http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/pain/

Cancer risks: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/epidemiology-cancer-origin-reason-cancer/

Reference: The Back Letter, December 2005,Vol.20, Nr.12, page 139

Comment on Nov. 11, 2012: Chronic pain can indicate that the patient may be hormone deficient. When hormones are tested, some patients may be hypothyroid, others may lack steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone or DHEA as is normal with the aging process. In these cases often restoration of the hormone balance with bio-identical hormones can treat the pain condition successfully and can prevent cancer by restoring normal immune function.

Last edited October 30, 2014