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Chronic Pain

Cronic Pain

Chronic pain contributing factor:

  • Infection – residual viral, dental, chronic sinusitis..
  • Allergy – foods intolerance (incl glyten, lactose), environmental intolerance
  • Deficiencies – vitamins (Vit D, B12, C), minerals (Mg, K, Ca)
  • Hormonal – low oestrogen, hypo thyroid
  • Stress

 

Chronic Pain & Its Symptoms

Chronic Pain – The Facts & Myths

The Chronic Pain Cycle

Chronic Pain Syndrome Explained

Celebrities Who Suffer With Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain Syndrome & The Effect On The Brain

Chronic Pain & Decision Making

 

Why Is Chronic Pain Most Common In Women?

Chronic Pain & Hormones

How Chronic Pain Affects Relationships

 

Scientists Have Discovered A New Human Pain Gene

Chronic Pain Syndrome & The Weather

 

The Best Sleeping Positions For Chronic Pain Sufferers

Why Is Chronic Pain Worse At Night?

How To Ease Chronic Pain At Night

 

Eating Healthily To Combat Chronic Pain Disorder

How Dehydration Can Affect Chronic Pain Symptoms

How To Help Chronic Pain By Altering Your Diet

Vitamin D & Sleep To Ease Chronic Pain Syndrome

 

The Best Blogs For Chronic Pain Sufferers

Exercise To Relieve Chronic Pain

5 Unusual Pain Remedies For Sufferers

Coping With Chronic Pain Disorder

 

Chronic Pain & Its Symptoms

Any pain that lasts longer than three months is defined as chronic pain. It is now recognised as a genuine medical condition.

Chronic pain can be caused by a number of different factors including a back sprain caused by lifting something heavy, a whiplash injury, falling over, or an object falling on top of you. It can also appear as a result of a viral infection, brain abnormalities or an emotional trauma.

If you have had an accident and you still have pain after three months it’s recommended that you see your doctor. Chronic pain is thought to be caused by the nervous system which causes nerve impulses to send the brain messages about tissue damage that was never there in the first place, or that has come from a previous injury which has now healed. It is still a complex subject in the medical world and that is why it is sometimes so difficult to treat.

Examples of chronic pain are:

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can develop on its own, without a known cause, or it can come about through accident or trauma. It can be caused by any of the factors named above, a fall, a whiplash injury, a sprain or by an object falling on top of you.

The pain has often been described as the kind of pain in your joints and muscles that you get with a really bad dose of flu. It is intense and it is sometimes worse in the mornings. The symptoms lead to other problems such as lack of sleep and fatigue.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

This condition can be caused by muscle strain or injury and leads to pain in your muscles, which can flare up with stress or anxiety. It can give you painful symptoms in other parts of your body, which don’t seem to be related to the sensitive muscle points.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Fatigue is a long term tiredness throughout your whole body. It can give you muscle pain, exhaustion, headaches and cause lack of sleep. It can be brought on or made worse through an injury.

Chronic back pain

Chronic back pain effects your lower back and it makes sleeping comfortably extremely difficult. Lack of sleep then makes you anxious and unable to concentrate. Like ME it can brought on, or made worse by an injury.

Post whiplash injury syndrome

Whiplash can leave you with an aching neck and shoulders, ringing in your ears, dizziness and fatigue, which in turn can lead to stress, disturbed sleep and depression. You can suffer with whiplash as a result of tears to the tendons and the muscles in your neck.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

This is a type of arthritis that effects the spine, causing neck and lower back pain. It can be triggered by illness or injury. It sometimes causes the spine to curve or to fuse.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is caused by damage to the central nervous system. It affects your arms, legs, hands or feet and the pain varies in severity. It is usually brought about by an injury or a trauma.

Lupus

The most common signs of Lupus are a rash on the face, fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches. You might also suffer from skin lesions and dry eyes. The condition occurs when the immune systems starts to attack healthy tissue. It can be brought on by injury and emotional stress.

Other Effects

The symptoms of chronic pain can be described as shooting pains, a burning sensation, aching, soreness, or stinging. It is not only the pain that effects your way of life. It can have a knock on effect and alter the way you live completely.

Lack of Sleep
For example pain effects your sleep patterns, maybe you don’t sleep as well as you used to, consequently when you wake up in the mornings you don’t feel rested.

Fatigue
Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and this means that you don’t have the energy to do what you normally do through the day. You may not be able to work or look after your family.

Depression

Not being able to live your life as you did before you suffered from chronic pain can lead to depression. This means that you will withdraw from family and friends and you may become fearful and irritated. You may lose your job and stop going out altogether.

Lack of Libido
Chronic pain can affect your libido. This might cause problems as you may feel guilty, or your partner might not be understanding.

Family Stress
The fact that you are suffering will of course affect your family and that’s why it is important to recognise the symptoms of chronic pain and get the right treatment.

 

Chronic Pain – The Facts & Myths

When you suffer from chronic pain, it’s easy to get confused as different friends try to offer you different advice. Some may say exercise is the answer, other will advise rest! Some may want to tell you that the pain is all in your head, or that a course of medication will alleviate your symptoms for good, but is this true?

To help sort through some of the confusion, this blog will look at some of the most common facts and myths surrounding chronic pain.

Myth #1   You can cure chronic pain by treating the underlying cause

Although this can sometimes be true, chronic pain is often much more complex than that!

Anyone suffering from chronic pain must consult their doctor to see if an underlying cause for the pain can be found. However, if the cause of the pain can be determined, treatment of the underlying problem does not always mean an end to the associated pain. Sometimes that pain can linger. In other cases a doctor may not be able to reach a diagnosis, and the source of the chronic pain can remain a mystery.

Often those suffering with chronic pain will benefit most from a two-pronged approach; treating both the underlying problem and separately treating the pain as well.

Myth #2   Bed rest is the best way to treat chronic pain

Outdated medical advice for people with various types of chronic pain, was bed rest.

In some cases this may still be the best advice, for instance in the first couple of days after an injury. However, where chronic pain is concerned, often carrying on with your normal day to day tasks can be the most beneficial course of action. Bed rest in some cases can actually make things worse.

Of course, all cases are individual, and it is very important to get advice from your doctor.

Myth #3   Chronic or increased pain is part of the ageing process

This is particularly damaging myth! No matter what your age you should always go to see your doctor if you are suffering from chronic pain.

It is true that as you age your likelihood of developing painful conditions, such as arthritis, increases. But with the right diagnosis, most chronic pain conditions can be treated, with patients seeing a significant improvement.

Fact #1   You should see your doctor even if you only have mild chronic pain

No matter how mild your chronic pain, you should consult your doctor. The pain may signal an underlying problem, and often early treatment can prevent the pain from worsening and becoming difficult to treat.

Additionally, if patients put off seeing a doctor, it can lead to unhealthy ways of dealing with pain such as overuse of over-the-counter painkillers.   In some cases it can even cause depression, sleep deprivation, isolation and problems at work or in the home.

Fact #2   Chronic pain might not go away completely, even with good treatment

Unfortunately, with chronic pain, there is often no instant cure! Complex pain conditions can take time to treat, with a combination of traditional and alternative therapies.

With each case being unique, different solutions will work for different people. Although there is no guarantee that chronic pain can be completely cured, in most cases patients can expect to see an improvement in their quality of life with treatment.

Fact #3   Chronic pain and depression are connected

Studies have shown that chronic pain and depression do seem to be connected. With people who suffer from chronic pain, often suffering with depression, and vice versa.

This is a very complex issue. It is true people with depression can be more sensitised to pain, but this does not mean that the pain is ‘in their heads’, their pain is very real. In fact studies on the brain have shown that emotional pain and physical pain activate some of the same areas of the brain. Furthermore, some anti-depressant medications are successful at treating chronic pain conditions, even in those patients who are not suffering from depression.

Have you found this article helpful? We would love to hear your insights. Tell us about your thoughts and experiences by posting your comments below.

Celebrities Who Suffer With Chronic Pain

It’s not an easy life being a celebrity.  Not only do they have impossibly busy schedules but they also have to deal with constant tabloid scrutiny. However, for many stars, chronic pain can present an additional burden. And like the rest of us, even celebrities don’t always know when it’s time to get treatment for serious pain. They often don’t get help right away, they try and tough it out, and see medication as a sign of weakness.

But if celebrities deal with their pain, they will not only be helping themselves. Celebrities who come forward with their stories of chronic pain — and how they overcame their conditions — may serve as sources of inspiration for many of their fans who may also experience chronic pain of their own.

Here are some examples of celebrities who have battled with — and in some cases, continue to battle with — chronic pain.

Tobey Maguire
Famous for playing Spiderman, he has suffered from back pain and related problems for several years.  Maguire said his condition was probably worsened by the horse riding required by his role in the Academy Award-nominated “Seabiscuit,” during the previous year.
Although Maguire disclosed his medical condition to filmmakers, many actors may avoid doing so, even if it means performing dangerous stunts, rather than losing a top role because of chronic pain. Performing their own stunts gives actors credibility with an audience. But ultimately, if they are not properly trained, they may put themselves at greater risk for injury.

Paula Abdul
A former judge on “American Idol” and singer, Paula Abdul has suffered from severe chronic pain for over two decades. Her condition was caused by a cheerleading injury in high school. It was further aggravated by her involvement in a number of car accidents as well as a plane crash. Abdul was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Melanie Griffith
The Oscar-nominated actress was involved in a car accident in her 20’s, which left her with chronic neck and back pain. The lingering pain caused her to get addicted to pain relief medications, further complicating her situation.

George Clooney
Clooney suffered a serious head injury while shooting the movie Syriana in 2005. Following the injury, he suffered severe chronic pain from damage to his dura, a wrap around the spine which holds in spinal fluid.

Despite the agony he was in, Clooney ruled out taking painkillers because there’s a history of addiction in his family, but the pain got so great, that he considered suicide. Clooney’s complaints were dismissed until spinal fluid started leaking from his nose. He has since had numerous operations.

Bo Derek
She is better known for her appearance in the movie “10” but few people know of her back pains, which were aggravated by years of horseback riding – and which eventually led to a painful herniated disc.

In 2002, she together with a number of other celebrities who have battled pain, spoke out about her experiences at a New York event sponsored by Partners Against Pain, an organisation that brings together patients, caregivers and health-care providers, with the goal of advancing standards of pain care, through education and advocacy.

During the event, Derek discussed the importance of celebrities, and others in the public eye, sharing information about their pain.

Pain experts say that Derek’s advocacy could serve as an inspiring role model for others who suffer from chronic pain.

“It legitimises the condition, and it provides a role model of someone who is successful,” Kaniecki noted. “Perhaps because they’re more interesting, it’s more effective.”

Why Is Chronic Pain Most Common In Women?

No one appears to know why, but the vast majority of chronic pain patients are women. Women suffer disproportionately from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, osteoarthritis and many other conditions. Women also report more acute pain than men after the same common surgeries.

When researchers have asked male and female volunteers to subject themselves to experimental pain in a lab – women show lower pain thresholds and lower tolerance (they can’t tolerate intense pain as long).

But it’s only recently that researchers have begun to study the differences between the sexes. Most basic pain research is still done in male mice and rats.
McGill University pain geneticist Jeffrey Mogil has argued that men and women are so different in the way their nervous systems process pain that one day there may be ”pink pills for women and blue pills for men,”.

As more human research begins to address sex differences, there have been some fascinating results. Take hormones for example. Growing up, boys and girls show comparable patterns of pain until puberty, says Dr Navil Sethna, a pediatric anaesthesiologist at the Children’s Hospital Boston.

”After puberty, certain types of pain are more common in girls and, even if the incidence is the same, reported pain severity is more intense in girls than boys, especially for headaches and abdominal pain,” says Sethna. This pattern persists through adulthood; the lifetime prevalence for migraines is 18 per cent for women and 6 per cent for men.

Not all studies agree but many do show that, after puberty, women experience striking fluctuations in their response to pain at different points in the menstrual cycle. This has been noted in irritable bowel syndrome, headache and fibromyalgia. One explanation put forward by researchers is that oestrogen protects against pain at high levels and enhances it at low levels. (The male hormone testosterone seems to protect against pain.)

This theory fits with the observation that during pregnancy, when oestrogen levels are high, women often get fewer migraines. And it fits with the observation that, after childbirth, when oestrogen falls abruptly, the number of migraine attacks increases.

Dr Fernando Cervero, a pain researcher at McGill, suggests that it may not be the absolute level of oestrogen that matters, but the fluctuations in hormonal levels during the menstrual cycle. (Oestrogen levels climb in the first half of the cycle, then decline in the second half.) ”It’s the change that produces the change” in perceptions of pain, he argues.

What about a major hormonal change such as menopause (when oestrogen falls abruptly)? If low oestrogen really does result in more pain, women should experience more pain after menopause, but research results are inconclusive.

Several studies show that women who combat low levels of oestrogen by taking hormone replacement therapy end up having more back pain. Other studies detect no link between hormone replacement therapy and pain in older women and still others show that when women stop hormone replacement therapy, their pain appears to go up and they may get increased migraines.

One thing is clear: our culture encourages women to express pain and men to hide it. But this doesn’t mean that family, friends and doctors react sympathetically to women’s expression of pain. In the clinic, this often translates to gender bias and under-treatment of pain.
Women should not put up with any doctor who implies that they are needlessly whining. And neither should men tolerate doctors who don’t respect them or who trivialise their pain.

Scientists Have Discovered A New Human Pain Gene

Scientists have long suspected that genetic factors can predispose certain people to experience chronic pain in intensities others don’t. But now research has backed this up by identifying the specific genetic mark-up scientists think may be responsible.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston have reported on a novel human pain gene. People with minor variations in this gene showed clear differences in susceptibility to acute heat pain and chronic back pain. The discovery, uncovered in a genome-wide hunt for pain genes in fruit flies, will lead to the development of new pain medication, the identification of risk factors for chronic pain and improved decision-making about the suitability of surgical treatment for different patients, according to Clifford Woolf, director of the F.M. Kirby Center and Program in Neurobiology at the Children’s Hospital Boston.

Nearly 12,000 genes were targeted for mutations specifically in nerve cells, using RNA interference (RNAi) technology.

The team then exposed the different mutant flies to noxious heat, and identified the ones that failed to fly away – and focused on those with mutations that appeared to be specific to pain.

They found that a member of the family of calcium channels should be studied further. Other studies with mice demonstrated that this gene controls sensitivity to noxious heat in mammals as well as flies.

In addition to this, functional MRI imaging revealed that it controls the processing of thermal pain signals in the brain: the heat pain signal seems to arrive appropriately at the thalamus, an early processing centre, but does not travel to higher order pain centers in the cortex.

Together with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina, the team looked at four single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and found that certain less common SNPs were associated with reduced sensitivity to acute pain in a test administering a quick series of noxious heat pulses.
The international team plans further studies on the other pain genes identified in the fly screen.

In 2006, Clifford Woolf’s team identified the first pain sensitivity gene in humans, GCH1. “We are trying now to use a panel of the pain genes we’ve found— alpha 2 delta 3, KCNS1, GCH1 and others—to develop a genetic risk profile and then say, if you combine these polymorphisms you have a 60% chance of chronic pain after surgery, versus say, if you have another polymorphism mix, a 5% chance. This is another way to personalise medicine,” Woolf says.

Woolf has spoken about the role of genetic research in treating chronic pain: “Across a number of different kinds of pain, genes seem to be at least half the driver of how much pain you experience. Genes give us an amazing and powerful tool to begin to understand how pain is generated, and which functional pathways and specific proteins are involved,” he said.

While this is a significant development, it does not mean that scientists are about to develop effective ways to use genetic therapy to quell chronic pain. But it’s the latest finding in a long line of research and observation of the so-called pain gene that goes back almost a decade and will help us to better understand how and why pain occurs.

5 Unusual Pain Remedies For Sufferers

Ever heard that eating olives or sucking a lemon can cure motion sickness? The theory behind this remedy, according to Prevention magazine’s editor Rebekah George, is that:

Motion sickness causes you to produce excess saliva, which can make you nauseated. Compounds in olives dry out your mouth and can help soothe queasiness. Try eating a few olives at the first hint of nausea. Sucking on a lemon can also do the trick.”

As George explains, home remedies: “grew from necessity, when formal medical care either didn’t exist or wasn’t widely available to everyone. Our ancestors made do by using whatever they had on-hand to treat their various ailments, and then sharing what worked for them with their friends and neighbors.”

Inspired by this unusual cure, we decided to trawl the internet for some of the quirkier remedies that relate to pain relief for common fibromyalgia symptoms: ranging from more established methodologies to the simply bizarre.

It’s important to note that we’re unable to comment on the success (or otherwise) of any of these practices, and they certainly should not be considered as a replacement for the treatment prescribed by your GP!

With this warning in mind, we check out some of the more unusual treatments that have been suggested for fibromyalgia, and do a spot of myth busting along the way.

1. Sniff a green apple

Dr Alan Hirsch, of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation (Chicago), reports that the scent of green apples can reduce: “the severity and duration of migraine headache pain and may have a similar effect on joint pain…The scent seems to reduce muscle contractions, which are the main cause of pain in migraines.”

Although we can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this remedy, upon further investigation it seems that Dr Hirch’s research should potentially be taken with a pinch of salt, according to an article in the Chicago tribune.

Nevertheless, the link between scent, pain reduction and general relaxation is certainly an interesting topic to investigate and, if you’d like to find out a bit more how aromatherapy may benefit your fibromyalgia symptoms, some further info can be found here.

2. Pump up the volume

We’re all aware of the relaxing benefits that can be felt by listening to calm and soothing music, but did you know that listening to your favourite tunes may also have a positive effect on your fibromyalgia symptoms?

According to a study conducted by researchers at Glasgow University:  Both frequent music listening and a perception of music as personally important were… found to relate to higher quality of life. Also, personal importance of music was significantly related to listening to help pain. These findings suggest beneficial effects of music listening to long-term pain.”

3. Check out Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

According to researchers from Italy’s University of Bari, pain is felt less acutely when a subject is experiencing a work of art that they find to be aesthetically pleasing.  Now, whilst you may find it difficult to get to the National Gallery and see Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers (or one of your other favourite artworks) in person; most major galleries run an online shop where you can order prints and postcards of famous works in their collection and get them delivered to your door!

Also on the art front, you may also want to consider exploring your own creativity in the form of Art Therapy. Used as a complimentary treatment for a wide-range of illnesses (mental and physical); we look forward to reading the results of this recently completed clinical trial, by the Federal University of São Paulo, entitled: Art Therapy to Treat Women With Fibromyalgia’.

4. Balneotherapy

Whilst a good old-fashioned warm bath can do wonders for your aches and pains: balneotherapy takes this line of thinking one step further and generally involves a treatment course including hot baths, cold baths, or baths with mineral salts, and it is usually practiced in spas.

Balneotherapy is said to improve anxiety, insomnia and joint pains (amongst other ailments) and a study published by the US National Library of Medicine concluded that: “balneotherapy is effective and may be an alternative method in treating fibromyalgia patients.”

5. Bee sting therapy (ouch!)

Not for the faint hearted, according to an article in Everyday Healtha treatment involving controlled bee stings is thought to improve the function of the immune system and reduce pain and inflammation.

However, before you run out to the nearest bee hive, the founder and medical director of the neurOasis Headache and Pain Center (New York), Anthony P. Geraci, strongly warns against the bizarre form of therapy: “There are several problems with this treatment, including the fact that too many bee stings can cause harm and even death,” he explains. “Also, no scientific evidence exists for this therapy. Most doctors would not recommend it.”

Oh well, looks like bee sting therapy is off the list!


The Best Sleeping Positions For Chronic Pain Sufferers

For those of you that suffer from a chronic pain illness, such as fibromyalgia, it’s likely that you may also find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

According to the Sleep Foundation, approximately two thirds of adults who suffer from chronic pain, also report experiencing sleeping difficulties: “the combination of painand sleep disturbance is a double-edged sword: the pain makes sleep more difficult and sleep deprivation exacerbates pain.”

Whilst further research is required to establish and understand the connections between sleep and pain, the good news is that there are several ways that you may be able to improve you chances of having a good night’s sleep.

Health guru and rheumotology expert, Betty Keller (MD, FACR Board Certified Internal Medicine & Rheumatology), offers the following great advice and tips on finding the best sleeping positions if you suffer from fibromyalgia:

“Experiment with different pillow arrangements until you find one that is comfortable and gives you support where you need it most.”

We all have preferred habits when it comes to choosing a side to sleep on.  Let’s see what the experts say when it comes to choosing the side that will benefit your particular symptoms the most:

Sleeping on your side

Sleeping on you side can help to reduce pressure in the places where you tender spots are likely to be located in your:

  • Shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Chest
  • Back of knees

By slowly bring your knees to your knees closer to your chest you can help to rehydrate the disks in your back and ease lower back pain, according to sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD: “They naturally rehydrate as you sleep, and the only way to rehydrate them is to have them in an open position.”

Sleeping on your back

  • By placing a pillow beneath your knees and/or lower back, you can cushion your tender spots.
  • Raising your legs and torso (with a pillow or triangular foam wedge), may help with lower back pain says Breus: “By raising the legs at the knees, you can actually pull all the weight off the pelvis. And by increasing the height of torso between 17 and 20 degrees, you can absolutely neutralize any low back strain.”
  • If you suffer from neck pain, upper back pain or pain in the shoulder blades, it recommended that you sleep on your back using a very flat pillow.

Sleeping on your stomach

  • As you may have tender spots located in your neck, if you can only get to sleep on your stomach avoid placing a pillow in a place that may place pressure on your neck.
  • By placing a pillow beneath your stomach, it may help to prevent arching in your back.

Other sleeping tips:

  • Try a memory pillow
    Memory pillows are designed to mould to the contours of your head and neck and provide you with the maximum support during your night’s sleep.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
    Try not to consume any caffeine from the afternoon onwards: as it works as a stimulant it will affect your ability to settle. If you are craving a hot drink try a relaxing herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint.
  • Avoid too many naps
    Where possible try to keep a regular sleep schedule, avoiding napping too much during the day. “A lot of patients have circadian rhythm problems. Napping can throw you off. Any sleep during the daytime will be taken from your sleep at night” says clinical psychologist, Dr Mary Rose.
  • Gentle exercise
    Regular exercise has been said to both aid good sleep and improve symptoms of fibromyalgia for some sufferers.  There are plenty of good links to simple “fibro friendly” exercise routines on the internet.
  • See a Doctor
    If sleep disruption has become a serious issue for you and you feel that you may be suffering from a disorder, such as insomnia, you should consult your GP for further advice.

 

 

 

Coping With Chronic Pain Disorder

In the UK, almost 10 million people suffer from pain on an almost daily basis and, as a result, their everyday lives are affected. For those suffering with chronic pain disorder, continuous pain is an everyday occurrence and it can be difficult to remain calm and positive. Coping with chronic pain can be difficult, but not impossible. Read our blog to discover helpful tips and tricks.

Just like every other condition, there are many myths and facts about chronic pain disorder and, after being diagnosed, it’s important to separate what’s true from what’s false; if you read something that isn’t true, it could make things worse for you. As a sufferer, you probably have a few questions about chronic pain, so here a few known facts about the condition:

Fact 1 – Women Feel More Pain

According to studies, women experience pain differently to men; they feel pain more intensely resulting in a more painful experience. In fact, some animal studies have proven that females need twice as much pain medication as men to feel the same level of relief.

Fact 2 – Chronic Pain Can Worsen In Cold Weather

If your chronic pain worsens during winter, it’s not in your imagination. Studies have shown mixed results, but experts do think that change in barometric pressure can affect joint pressure which makes pain less bearable.

Fact 3 – Losing Weight Can Help Pain

Being lighter and having less pressure on your joints and back can help to relieve pain. If you’re overweight and suffer from chronic pain syndrome, losing weight could be the answer to your prayers. Similarly if you’re a smoker, you should consider quitting; Bruce Vrooman, a specialist in pain management stated that smoking cigarettes can actually worsen pain over time.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pain, you may find that ordinary medication doesn’t work for you. Instead, your doctor may recommend that you attend a chronic pain management clinic to alleviate pain. At the moment, there are approximately 300 pain clinics in the UK and most are in hospitals, each complete with their own team of experts, such as therapists, physiotherapists and nurses.

Living with chronic pain isn’t just hard from a pain perspective; it can also put strain on your relationships with loved ones, particularly your spouse or partner. If this happens, it’s important to work through the difficulties and remember that communication is key. All in all, maintaining a strong relationship while suffering from chronic pain can be difficult, but can also result in a stronger bond.

 

Chronic Pain Syndrome & The Weather

Any pain that lasts for longer than a period of 12 months is classed as chronic pain and for sufferers, it means constant pain everyday. As we say goodbye to summer and hello to the cold wintery months, we are discussing the topic of chronic pain syndrome and the weather, providing sufferers with some useful tips to follow in order to feel comfortable during the cold.

Although various studies have shown little or no correlation between chronic pain syndrome and various weather factors, including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed, chronic pain sufferers have a different story to tell; a study of 800 Europeans with osteoarthritis found that 67% experienced increased levels of pain during cold weather.

One thing that can help chronic pain disorder sufferers when the temperature drops is heat therapy, something that can be introduced into a daily routine to decrease stiffness and improve circulation. For full effectiveness, heat therapy products should maintain their heat, preferably at a warm temperature; if the heat is too hot, it will do little to improve comfort and could instead cause painful burns.

Here are some ideas for introducing heat therapy into your daily routine:

Apply heat directly to the painful area by using a warm towel or heat pad. Doing this for a short period of time may be enough to temporarily relieve pain.

For some, something as simple as swimming in a heated indoor swimming pool or taking a hot bath can relieve pain.

Hot water bottles tend to stay warm for 20-30 minutes and are a great way to apply warm heat to a painful area.

Heat wraps are available in most supermarkets or pharmacies and can retain heat for up to 8 hours at a time.

All in all, the weather can be unpredictable but, when the temperature starts to drop, there are steps that chronic pain disorder sufferers can follow to feel comfortable and at ease. If heat therapy and light exercise doesn’t work for you, contact your GP for medical advice.

 

Eating Healthily To Combat Chronic Pain Disorder

We know that a balanced diet can reduce symptoms of chronic pain disorder, but why? Find out.

Chronic pain is uncomfortable to experience for sufferers, typically involving extreme pain that has lasted for longer than 12 weeks. Some time ago, we produced a blog post that briefly discussed how having a healthy, balanced diet can help to subside pain and combat symptoms of chronic pain disorder. In this blog post, we delve a little deeper to better understand exactly how certain foods can help as well as revealing which foods are beneficial and which should be avoided at all costs.

Although there are no studies that actually show proof of food being used to relieve pain, maintaining a healthy diet is something that’s recommended to everyone, especially those who suffer from chronic pain.

Foods To Help Pain
Ginger – Mostly recommended for easing nausea, ginger contains specific compounds that are notorious for fighting inflammation, which is a common cause of pain.

Olive Oil – Researchers believe that those who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil have fewer health conditions related to inflammation. In fact, experts have found that olive oil contains compounds that are similar to ibuprofen, making it a great addition to your daily diet if you suffer from chronic pain.

Salmon – Rich in omega 3, salmon is great for reducing inflammation, full of healthy fats and calcitonin, something shown in clinical studies to protect against osteoarthritis pain.
Turmeric – Also known as curcumin, turmeric is a spice that can be added to curry and other Indian foods. In studies, researchers have found that turmeric is great for its anti-inflammatory benefits and can be eaten to ease rheumatoid arthritis pain.

Red Grapes – Red grapes contain resveratrol, a chemical compound also found in peanuts and berries, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Resveratrol has been found to stop cells in the body from responding to inflammation, helping to fight and reduce pain. In addition, researchers have found that the combination of resveratrol and turmeric holds a whole host of benefits to those suffering from chronic pain disorder.
Thyme – Commonly used in cooking to enhance flavour, thyme is a herb that is said to contain certain compounds that interfere with how pain is perceived. In the lab, thyme proved to be successful as a method to improve inflammation and pain perception in mice.

Foods To Avoid
Sugar – If insulin levels increase, pain will typically worsen. To avoid this, it’s advised to limit sugar intake. So, think about swapping your sugar for sweeteners or your fruit juice for fresh whole fruits.

CaffeineFibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that is often linked to lack of sleep and extreme fatigue. Due to this, sufferers are tempted to turn to caffeine for a boost of energy, which can do more harm than good; caffeine shouldn’t be used as a substitute for sleep and is more likely to actually keep you awake.
Pasteurised Dairy – Most chronic pain sufferers find it difficult to digest dairy products, such as milk, which can result in abdominal pain, gas, or diarrhoea.

Junk Food – As always, it’s advised that junk food such as chocolate and crisps should be avoided; weight gain can put a strain on your joints and muscles and as a result can increase pain and worsen symptoms. In addition, junk food is said to disrupt sleep and compromising your immune system.

All in all, we would always recommend maintaining a healthy, balanced diet to improve your overall health and wellbeing which can also go towards relieving symptoms of chronic pain disorder. As well as taking our advice on board, we would always recommend that you liaise with your doctor to better understand how your diet could be improved to adhere your specific case.

 

The Best Blogs For Chronic Pain Sufferers

Suffering from chronic pain syndrome can be a daunting and isolating experience. However, to make things a little easier for patients, there are a number of chronic pain syndrome blogs out there that act as a form of support for all sufferers of the condition. To find out which blogs are our favourite, continue reading.

1. Chronic Babe
Blogging about her life and how she copes with a multitude of chronic illnesses, Jenni from ChronicBabe writes with the aim to help fellow sufferers gain confidence and feel fabulous. In 1997, Jenni was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at the age of 25 and struggled to cope after taking multiple tests and medications. Now, she’s found balance and feels positive about life, blogging to create a community of support for sufferers with helpful advice.

2. Counting My Spoons
Counting My Spoons is headed up by Julie Ryan, a freelance writer living in Huntsville, Alabama. Julie created her blog to inform and inspire sufferers who are living with chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The blog itself is incredibly useful for chronic pain syndrome sufferers, with a plethora of informative blogs and inciteful interviews available at the click of a button. Earlier this year, Sue Hadden, our head of marketing, featured on the Counting My Spoons blog to share her journey. Take a look here.

3. Cranky Fibro Girl
Jenny Ryan from Cranky Fibro Girl developed fibromyalgia at the age of 35 after recovering from an infection and found it difficult to cope as a result. However, after overcoming the anger she felt towards her fibromyalgia diagnosis, Jenny now shares a collection of her thoughts and experiences on her successful and supportive blog.

4. Graceful Agony
Jolene, a 36-year-old mother suffering from chronic pain, created the blog Graceful Agony to bring people together and offer a source of inspiration, support and encouragement for sufferers just like her. Although she finds herself held back by her unmanageable pain from time to time, Jolene has successfully created a blog that’s perfect for all patients to connect with one another.

5. Painfully Optimistic
After being diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), Ross began his blog, Painfully Optimistic, to achieve his goals of raising awareness and educating others in the hopes that a cure is found. In addition, Ross wanted to create a place where he and fellow sufferers could go to and share just what CRPS sufferers go through on a daily basis.

6. Chronic Mom
Wife, mother and fibromyalgia sufferer, Shelley, started the Chronic Mom blog to let fellow sufferers know that they’re not alone and that there are people out there just like them who can help. Shelley is a firm believer that laughter makes everything better and this really shines through in her blog posts.

 

 

The Chronic Pain Cycle

Chronic pain syndrome is a painful condition that can be caused by a number of things, such as an accident, injury or illness. Approximately 28 million adults in the UK suffer from chronic pain syndrome, with 8 million describing their pain levels as moderate to severely disabling. At Brian Barr, we have vast experience in handling chronic pain compensation claims and, as a result, understand the condition well and know how poorly understood it is. Due to the painful symptoms of the syndrome, sufferers often experience a disruption to their everyday lives and know too well how vicious the cycle of chronic pain can be. In this blog, we explain what the chronic pain cycle is and how you can beat it once and for all.

Not only is chronic pain syndrome painful, it’s also constant, leaving sufferers with a never-ending battle on their hands. As always, pain comes with its own set of side effects, including stress, frustration and depression and, with all of these combined plus the usual effects of chronic pain syndrome, patients will start to feel worse as part of what’s known as the ‘chronic pain cycle’.

The chronic pain cycle is divided into five steps, outlined below:

  1. Step 1 begins with the pain itself, which is unbearable for sufferers, making their lives difficult on a daily basis.
  2. Step 2 then moves on to the fear of injury that sufferers may feel after experiencing severe pain. Due to how painful their symptoms are, they may become worried about incurring further injuries and pain in the future.
  3. Step 3 is similar to the above; to avoid further injuries, chronic pain patients will experience a fear of movement, making their lives sedentary as a result.
  4. Step 4 comes as a result of the above; due to the fear of injury combined with the fear of movement, many sufferers will lead an inactive lifestyle and will gain weight, leaving them with increased pain levels and problems sleeping.
  5. Step 5 is where chronic pain sufferers experience physical and mental side effects as a result of weight gain and the feeling of fatigue. These side effects include depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation.

As you can see, chronic pain syndrome has the ability to impair both your physical capabilities and psychosocial state; the strain put on your body due to the pain you feel can lead to secondary issues with your mood and behaviour. Below, we reveal our tips on how to cope.

Seek Advice

First and foremost, if you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, increased pain levels due to weight gain or are feeling anxious and/ or depressed as a result, seek advice from your doctor who knows both yourself and your condition well. Whether or not you receive a form of medication depends entirely on the cause, however your GP should be able to provide some sort of resolution.

Exercise

So long as your doctor approves, taking part in light exercise is a great way to keep you from slipping too far in the chronic pain cycle; if you can manage your weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it will help. Although you won’t want to take part in any form of exercise due to your pain, give it a try and focus on the benefits it could have for you.

Support

Having the emotional support from friends and family is hugely important when trying to manage pain and overall wellbeing. If you’re having a bad day, arrange to have a chat with someone close to you and let it all out. Keeping your feelings hidden away is bad; eventually, things will become too stressful and you’ll have bad thoughts, so don’t let this happen.

Pain Management Clinics

For some, ordinary medication doesn’t do the job when it comes to chronic pain. In this instance, your doctor may suggest that you attend a pain management clinic to alleviate your pain and benefit from alternative treatments. For more information on how to find a pain management clinic and what to expect, read our blog.

All in all, living with chronic pain tests your emotional, mental and physical strength. If you suffer with the condition as a result of an accident or injury, you may be entitled to chronic pain compensation. If you’d like to find out more or get in touch with our qualified team to discuss your case, call us

 

Chronic Pain Syndrome Explained

Chronic pain is a term used to define pain that has persisted for over 6 months, although some physiologists argue that three months is a reasonable length of time to class pain as chronic. Chronic pain affects approximately 1 in 10 people and can be brought on by a number of causes, which is why it’s such a difficult condition to diagnose.

In some instances, patients and doctors find it difficult to pinpoint the initial cause of pain, which ultimately causes a great deal of stress and frustration for all parties involved, especially patients. Chronic pain can stem from an injury or incident; the impact from an accident, such as a car crash, can cause severe damage to the nerves and, consequently, chronic pain. There are, however, a large percentage of chronic pain sufferers who haven’t experienced a prior injury, meaning that their pain is seemingly unexplainable.

Symptoms of chronic pain

Chronic pain presents itself in a number of ways and in different areas of the body. Symptoms of the condition include persistent headaches, fatigue, severe pain and a weakened immune system, all of which can go on to leave the patient feeling extremely irritated, stressed and anxious. To find out more, head over to our blog which outlines the symptoms of chronic pain syndrome in more detail.

Types of chronic pain

Much like the symptoms of chronic pain, the types are also varied. These range from:

  • Neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to the nerves that are responsible for passing messages on to the brain and spinal cord from the skin, muscles and other parts of the body.
  • Nociceptive pain, which is caused by an injury to the body or a disease beyond your control. In these situations, sufferers may be entitled to chronic pain compensation.
  • Visceral pain is centred around your internal organs, particularly those around your chest cavity and abdomen.
  • Somatic pain concerns the outer body, such as the skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Misdiagnosis

Chronic pain can be misdiagnosed for a number of reasons, by both the patient and the physician. As a sufferer, people may not believe that they actually have the condition; instead, they may associate their pain with ageing. In addition, many sufferers may consider their pain too mild to class it as chronic, which is a common misconception and can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Working with chronic pain

Another, and possibly the most, frustrating part of suffering from chronic pain syndrome is having other people not believe that you’re in pain and truly suffering. As chronic pain doesn’t present itself as obviously as a broken bone would, sufferers may find it difficult to work and can often feel neglected by their employers and colleagues due to a poor understanding.

It has previously been reported that 47% of chronic pain sufferers have had to reduce the amount of work they take on and have even had to step down completely due to added pressure and strain. Further surveys have also shown that on average, chronic pain sufferers miss 28.5 work days per year.

Although it may seem impossible to continue working while suffering with chronic pain syndrome, it isn’t and there are certain things that you can do to improve your working life forever.

In many cases, sufferers will have developed chronic pain as a result of an accident. In this instance, patients would be required to take time off in order to recover from any injuries they incur from the initial incident, plus would need to continue their leave from work as a result of the after effects of chronic pain. If absence from work persists, which it generally does for those who continue to go untreated, people will incur unpaid sick leave, which then adds stress. If you suffer with chronic pain syndrome and have found yourself in this situation, you may well be entitled to chronic pain compensation or an ill-health early retirement pension.

Living with Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain is tough, unbearable and can often leave sufferers with a general feeling of helplessness. Unlike acute pain, which usually comes in short bouts on an ad-hoc basis, chronic pain is much more complicated. This is largely due to that fact that chronic pain is influenced by the way our brains perceive pain signals. Though the pain may seem like an endless battle, there are a number of coping mechanisms for chronic pain sufferers which can be integrated into everyday life to help alleviate pain and discomfort, some of which are briefly outlined below.

Distraction techniques have been described as a great starting point on the road to recovery and pain management. In order to direct your attention away from the negative imagery you picture when in pain, distraction techniques can be actioned to incite a feeling of positivity and comfort.

Relaxation training is a fantastic coping mechanism for chronic pain syndrome; although it’s not as straightforward as simply relaxing and breathing, perfecting the art of relaxation will serve you well for the rest of your life, so it’s worth investing time and energy into it.

All in all, chronic pain syndrome is a complex condition that’s often wrongly met with skepticism. As an expert law firm with vast experience in handling chronic pain compensation claims, we have a wide knowledge of the condition, working on behalf of sufferers on a regular basis. If you’d like to get in touch with us to discover whether

 

How To Help Chronic Pain By Altering Your Diet

When suffering from chronic pain, most people reach for comfort food. Would you still make the same choice if you knew this could be aggravating your chronic pain symptoms?

Nowadays, whether you suffer from chronic pain or not, the majority of people consume more calories than recommended. To make matters worse, many of these foods are high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. Not only will this put you on the fast track to obesity but may also increase pain intensity.

Foods to embrace

Salmon:
Contrary to popular opinion, not all fats are bad for you. Salmon is rich in Omega-3, a fatty acid that can reduce inflammation often associated with chronic pain. Other foods that contain omega- 3 are sardines, herring and mackerel.

Onions:
Onions are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant that fights enzymes that contribute to inflammation. Other foods that provide a good source of quercetin are grapes, broccoli, red wine and apples.

Garlic:
Rich in sulphur compounds, garlic is one of the most anti-inflammatory foods to alleviate your chronic pain. Garlic stimulates the production of T helper cell, which also boosts your immune system.

Olive oil:
Whilst arguably most well known for ensuring mediterraneans maintain a youthful complexion, some studies claim olive oil contains compounds similar to ibuprofen, making it a great addition to your diet to help chronic pain.

Blueberries:
Rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, blueberries help relieve chronic pain. Like all antioxidants, anthocyanins battle free radicals easing your chronic pain.

Foods to avoid

Caffeine:
For some chronic pain sufferers, sleeping is disturbed. While a hot drink may seem like the perfect midday pick me up, caffeine lingers in your system for hours and can go on to cause sleep issues and thus contribute to worsened chronic pain symptoms. Try drinking decaffeinated tea or a more health conscious green tea option.

Yeast and gluten:
A recent study shows that chronic pain sufferers seem prone to gluten sensitivities. The theory is that yeast and gluten found in baked food can cause the growth of yeast fungus contributing to chronic pain.

Sugar:
High insulin levels from sugar heighten inflammation and pain levels. Limit sugar intake by avoiding fruit juices and opt for fresh fruits to reduce chronic pain.

Junk food:
Always try and maintain a healthy, balanced diet coupled with exercise. Junk food, such as crisps, biscuits and takeaways encourage weight gain, which in turn puts strain on joints, which can increase chronic pain levels.

As you can evidently see, there are notable links between diet and pain levels. However, everyone is individual and different foods affect people with chronic pain in different ways. Take our advice on board, speak to your doctor and work out what is best for your personal needs.

 

Exercise To Relieve Chronic Pain

Chronic pain syndrome is a condition that currently affects around 1 in 10 people, consisting of pain that has persisted for a period of 6 months or over. For some, chronic pain has been diagnosed as a result of an accident or injury, while others have a seemingly unexplainable diagnosis and experience pain for no apparent reason. For all sufferers however, there are certain things that can be incorporated into everyday life in order to ease symptoms, such as regular exercise. In fact, a recent study has revealed that exercise has the ability to help patients cope better with chronic pain. In this blog post, we provide suitable exercise ideas, so you can give them a try to ease your pain and discomfort.

According to the study, titled “Physical Activity Behaviour Predicts Endogenous Pain Modulation In Older Adults”, taking part in physical activity lowers a person’s pain perception and has the ability to help older adults cope better with painful stimuli. The study concluded that those who had a more active lifestyle had significantly better pain inhibition and, as a result, felt an improvement in symptoms.

If you suffer with chronic pain syndrome however, it can be extremely difficult to feel energetic and have a get-up-and-go attitude; which is why we would recommend choosing a form of exercise that’s good for you and enjoyable. Which light exercises are recommended and what are the benefits of each? Find out here!

Walking – It’s an extremely beneficial form of light aerobic exercise, complete with its own set of healing benefits. While walking, not only will your muscles receive oxygen and nutrition, you will also feel a boost in energy and experience a reduction in stiffness and/or pain. As a chronic pain syndrome sufferer, you should avoid long distances. Instead, pace yourself and split longer workouts into shorter bursts, in order to prevent strain.

Yoga – This form of exercise is relaxing and helps to improve your flexibility, muscle strength, metabolism and energy. In fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Pain Research, yoga is great for reducing symptoms of chronic pain, both physical and psychological. The results of the study showed that participants felt less helpless and more accepting of their condition after taking part in yoga. Certain positions may feel uncomfortable for you depending on where you experience the most pain, so feel free to change the poses you’re struggling with. After all, there are no set rules. Alternatively, you could find an instructor who understands your condition well, as they may be able to recommend certain poses to ease your pain.

Stretching – Similarly to yoga, stretching has the ability to loosen tight muscles and relieve creaky joints, improving your level of movement. If you are thinking of trialling stretching as a means to reduce your chronic pain, make sure that you don’t overdo it and remember to never stretch to the point of pain or hold stretches still for over a minute.

Tai Chi – This particular exercise is a form of martial art rooted in Chinese culture and philosophy. When practicing tai chi, participants will take part in meditation and strong breath control, performing gentle motions to direct the flow of energy throughout the body. Chronic pain sufferers should take part in Tai Chi to improve quality of life, sleep, pain levels, psychological state, functional mobility and anxiety levels. A healthy mind makes for a healthy body.

Swimming – It’s another form of aerobic exercise that has shown promise for helping chronic pain sufferers. Swimming is rhythmic, low impact and ideal for improving endurance levels and flexibility. As an exercise, swimming uses each of the major muscle groups and is simple enough for people of all fitness levels to take part in.

All in all, exercise definitely has its benefits for relieving symptoms of chronic pain syndrome.

 

Why Is Chronic Pain Worse At Night?

Chronic pain is an extremely painful condition that has a tendency to worsen at night, but what’s the reason behind this?

We regularly witness first-hand how debilitating the condition can be and are therefore able to empathise with our clients who approach us to work on their case. When chronic pain flares up, there is no standard remedy to reduce or eliminate the agony it causes, which is why it’s so important for sufferers to be fully in tune with their condition; by acknowledging which elements contribute to their torment, patients have the ability to seek out their own courses of treatment to undo and prevent flares from occurring. The majority of chronic pain syndrome sufferers report particularly high levels pain at night, which is unanimous in patients of rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions, such as fibromyalgia, CRPS, and ankylosing spondylitis. Physicians are contributing this pattern to a number of physical and environmental factors, each of which are outlined in this blog.

Lack of distraction: During the day, people are more likely to be preoccupied with everyday tasks and events, such as taking care of priorities and partaking in hobbies, which leaves less time to dwell on painful symptoms. However, at night in the darkness, it’s easy to concentrate solely on pain which, in turn, escalates symptoms and brings them to the forefront of people’s thoughts. For those who are prone to experiencing chronic pain at night, experts suggest physically exhausting yourself during the day by taking part in regular exercise activities that are linked to reduced symptoms, such as walking, yoga, and swimming, as well as distracting yourself mentally with stimulating activities.

1) Sleep deprivation: As pain has a tendency to flare up at night, many chronic pain sufferers have trouble sleeping. The correlation between chronic pain and sleeplessness is a vicious one, since lower sleep efficiency and poorer sleep quality is known to worsen pain by causing irritability, anxiety, and agitation. To prevent snowballing symptoms and the vicious chronic pain cycle, doctors recommend establishing a stable sleep routine and experimenting with pillow combinations to find the ideal position that relieves tender spots.

2) External factors: Chronic pain sufferers are particularly vulnerable to external factors, such as changes in the weather and the inhalation of perfumes, cleaning products or dust. By identifying potential triggers, however, sufferers are able to take action to prevent onset pain; for example, if the weather forecast predicts low temperatures, a chronic pain sufferer should prepare their sleeping space by turning the heating on or having an extra blanket to hand.

3) Body pressure: During the night, joint linings are prone to becoming congested with excess fluid to bathe cells while the joints are immobile for an extended period of time. Arthritis, a condition known for causing joint swelling, often coexists with chronic pain syndrome, which means sufferers are likely to be aggravated and be woken up by pain. People with chronic pain also suffer with vitamin D deficiency and high stress levels, which can lead to the common cold and many other viral infections. When the body is battling with an illness, the body can stiffen and ache, triggering chronic pain symptoms. By maintaining a healthy life, however, chronic pain sufferers are able to proactively fight outbreaks of pain to prevent this. This may involve taking vitamin supplements, altering the diet or avoiding smoking.

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer as to why chronic pain escalates at night; there are many contributing factors and, much like the diagnosis of chronic pain syndrome, it is a complex process to determine each patient’s unique situation. Using research acquired from over 19 studies, the NHS reports that 140,000 adults and 43% of people in the UK suffer from chronic pain and, although their diagnosis is the same, their associated symptoms, triggers, and affected body parts may be completely different. Finding the triggers of pain is hugely important for chronic pain sufferers; once these have been found, actions can then be taken to relieve symptoms, which can then lead to improved symptoms at night.

 

Vitamin D & Sleep To Ease Chronic Pain Syndrome

Scientists have discovered that vitamin D, paired with quality sleep, has the potential to prevent chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, as well as make treatments more effective.

Vitamin D is something our bodies need to stay healthy and in tiptop condition; not only does the vitamin prove essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles, it also has the potential to support the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system. Thanks to a recent study, experts have discovered that vitamin D, paired with a good night’s sleep, could help chronic pain syndrome sufferers better manage their pain and that it has the ability to improve the effectiveness of treatments, something which could change the lives of many patients for the better. To learn more about the science behind the discovery and how you could increase your vitamin D levels to improve your quality of life, continue reading our blog.

Researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo, who were led by Dr Monica Levy Andersen, conducted the research and discovered that vitamin D supplementation, combined with quality sleep, had the potential to increase the effectiveness of pain management treatments for a diverse range of conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome and fibromyalgia. The results of the study, titled ‘The interfaces between vitamin D, sleep and pain’, appeared in the Journal of Endocrinology and provided insight into how vitamin D levels have an important role in the relationship between pain and sleep.

Results of the study have been described as exciting and novel; although a link between pain and sleep disturbance has already been established, a role for vitamin D has never been fully investigated before. Now, researchers are able to unravel the mechanisms of how vitamin D is involved with complex processes to better understand if a good night’s sleep and sufficient vitamin D levels could be an effective pain management method.

If you suffer with chronic pain and want to know how you can increase your vitamin D levels, we have provided a few recommendations below:

1) Increase your sun exposure, but remember to take it easy. Aim to spend around 20 to 25 minutes outside in the sun per day – even on a cloudy day.

2) Despite what you may have heard, egg yolk is a great source of vitamin D. Rather than throwing the yolk away next time you make an omelette, make sure you add it to the pan!

3) Oily fish can be a good source of protein, including salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel.

4) If any of the above don’t work for you, have you considered trialling daily supplements?

This being said, however, it’s important to remember that, although we understand chronic pain conditions well, we are not medical experts and you should visit your doctor to discuss things in more detail before you decide to increase your vitamin D levels.
Have you ever experienced positive results with vitamin D, sleep, and your chronic pain symptoms? If so, we’d love to hear your story, so get in touch with us on

 

How Chronic Pain Affects Relationships

Chronic pain syndrome has the ability to affect anyone at any time, causing a wide range of symptoms, such as fatigue, mental fogginess and, of course, extreme pain. As a condition, chronic pain has a ripple effect; not only does it have the power to cause disruptions to your everyday life, it can also affect the relationships you have with your loved ones, as a result of the physical limitations and emotional strains caused by chronic pain.

The relationships you have with your loved ones will largely depend on how much pain you’re experiencing and how you relate to each specific person:

Spouses: Partners of those who suffer with chronic pain syndrome face a number of challenges. As well as worrying about the pain you feel constantly, it’s likely that your spouse will feel completely helpless as they are unable to help in any way. The pain you feel will limit what you can do; intimate relations with your spouse will be difficult and, due to mobility problems, you’re less likely going to be able to help with housework, resulting in your partner carrying most of the workload. In addition, chronic pain isn’t cheap; soon, the cost of treatments, specialist equipment, and medication will start to add up, resulting in money worries for the both of you. However, if your condition is as a result of an accident or injury, chronic pain compensation can help to reimburse you for these extra costs.

Children: Seeing your parent in pain is difficult for any child, particularly for those who witness their parents in pain everyday as a result of chronic pain syndrome. Young children may be confused as to what is happening and, if you’re having a bad day and understandably have a short temper, they’re likely going to take things personally, which may lead to them believing that they are the problem. On the flipside, they may feel angry that you’re no longer as available as you once were before chronic pain affected your life.

Friends: As a chronic pain sufferer, you will have good and bad days. Sometimes, your symptoms are too painful and uncomfortable to handle, leaving you with no choice but to cancel plans you’ve made with friends. Unless your friends are also chronic pain sufferers too, their understanding of the condition will likely be poor, just like so many. Due to them not being able to relate to the pain you go through everyday, they may take your cancellations personally and will feel like they’ve been snubbed. In addition, chronic pain has the ability to change the way you are, whether it be by affecting your confidence or changing your outlook on life. As a result, the friendship you once had with a friend may no longer be the same.

Now that we’ve gone through the ways in which chronic pain has the ability to affect your relationships with the various people in your life, it’s now time to provide tips on how you can better manage those relationships and ensure they aren’t defeated by chronic pain.

Communication is key. Don’t keep everything bottled up and keep communication strong between you and your loved ones. If you’re having a bad day, tell them. If you’re having a good day, also tell them. Staying silent will detach you from them, making you feel both isolated and alone. When communicating, it’s important to remember to keep a balance and bear in mind that your conversations will differ depending on who you’re conversing with; for example, when talking through things with your children, you’ll need to avoid talking about pain and discomfort, so they don’t feel down and depressed.

Stay close to your spouse. In addition to communication, maintaining a physical relationship with your spouse is also important. Just because you have chronic pain syndrome, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay intimate. Plan for encounters with your partner around your medication schedule and monitor daily pain to estimate when your pain levels will be lowest.

Make others feel useful. Unfortunately, chronic pain is incurable, which makes it difficult for loved ones, particularly spouses, who feel helpless and unable to help. Sometimes, asking for help from your family or friends is a great way to make them feel of use and closer to you. If you’re experiencing pain, ask your partner to help you relax. If you’re struggling with an activity, ask your friends to help you. By helping you, they will feel accomplished.

Don’t cancel, compromise. Instead of cancelling plans with family or friends, try to compromise as much as possible. If you’re experiencing a flare-up, invite whoever you’ve made plans with to the comfort of your own home, so you can feel as relaxed as possible in their company. Alternatively, if you think you could manage some level of activity with the pain you’re feeling in that moment, don’t cancel plans and don’t let chronic pain win. Instead, follow through with your plans and get yourself out there; after all, it’s not healthy to keep cooped up all the time.

Do as much as you can. Similarly to the above, try to help out as much as you can at home. Your spouse is there to look after you through sickness and in health, however, they would appreciate the help from time to time. When you feel able, offer to help them with simple tasks and try to stay active. If your family members can see that you’re making an effort, they will appreciate it, even if you can’t be of much help.

All in all, chronic pain is extremely frustrating, however, communicating with family and friends is key to keeping them close. Although chronic pain will directly affect you as a sufferer, it will also have a huge impact on the lives of your family and friends and you must remember that. Without them, you’d feel alone, so remember to be understanding of what they’re going through too.

 

 

 

Chronic Pain Syndrome & The Effect On The Brain

Chronic pain syndrome is a difficult condition to live with, affecting everything from activity levels and ability to work, to personal relationships and emotional states. As well as this, chronic pain syndrome is also known to have a negative impact on the brain, affecting the way it works and functions. In this blog, we discuss exactly how chronic pain affects the brain and what this means for sufferers.

Chronic pain has a profound effect on the brain. Our brain is the hub of our nervous system, made up of 100 billion nerve cells. We rely on it to process what we are experiencing and help us react accordingly. However, when acute pain shifts to chronic pain, it can cause marked changes in brain activity and the way the brain works.

This means that untreated or undertreated pain exposes chronic pain sufferers to more than just intensifying levels of discomfort. It can also cause damage to the brain, while having an affect on a person’s mental abilities.

The challenge of developing treatments for chronic pain syndrome has led to considerable research on the brain’s role in the condition. Recent studies have discovered that the areas of the brain involved with processing acute pain differ to those that process chronic pain. In fact, multiple research studies have confirmed that chronic pain does not affect a singular region of the brain; instead, it results in changes to many areas. For example:

  • Chronic pain shrinks the brain’s grey matter by as much as 11% a year. It is believed that chronic pain sufferers experience this shrinkage because the nerves involved in communication are continually firing, and this constant activity causes the brain to rewire itself as a form of protection.
  • Chronic pain shrinks the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain regulates emotions, personality expression and social behaviour. Research shows that people with chronic pain have constant, excessive activity in the brain nerves within this area, which causes the neurons to die prematurely. Fear, worry and anxiety tend to become more pronounced in people with chronic pain as the loss of prefrontal cortex causes inability to control these feelings.
  • Chronic pain causes the thalamus to remain open. The thalamus – often described as ‘the border of the brain’ – acts as a gateway between the spinal cord and higher brain centres. When you sustain an acute injury, the thalamus opens to pass information from the affected parts of the body to the brain. When the injury is healed, this border closes once again. In people with chronic pain syndrome, the thalamus remains open and every nerve signal that crosses it gets intensified, resulting in heightened pain.
  • Chronic pain leads to a smaller hippocampus. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that helps to regulate emotional responses and is associated with learning and memory processing. People with chronic pain syndrome show a decreased volume in this part of the brain, which can lead to increased anxiety as well as learning and memory problems.

The more positive news is that, while the effect of chronic pain syndrome on the brain may seem overwhelming, research indicates that brain changes are not necessarily permanent and are reversible when patients receive appropriate treatment. The key is to receive effective treatment for chronic pain as early as possible to avoid brain changes in the first place.

 

 

 

How Dehydration Can Affect Chronic Pain Symptoms

How many litres of water do you drink per day? According to experts, two litres of water per day is a healthy amount. Drink less and you could be at risk of dehydration, which is a danger, particularly for those with chronic pain syndrome, as it can make symptoms worse and more painful. In this blog, we discuss more about the link between dehydration and pain, and provide tips on how you can stay dehydrated at all costs, even if you do not enjoy the taste of plain water.

Approximately 60% of the adult human body is made up of water, so it is no surprise that the body needs to be refuelled with water during the day. As humans, we naturally lose water throughout the day through sweating, urinating, and even breathing. In some cases, medication, diet, exercise, stress, and environmental changes can also have an impact on the amount of water our bodies lose per day. Replenishing our body with water is crucial in order to prevent a whole host of symptoms brought on as a result of dehydration.

Dehydration is uncomfortable, particularly when extreme. Most medical professionals separate dehydration into three stages; mild, moderate, and severe. Mild and, more often than not, moderate dehydration can be reversed through the intake of fluids, however, if untreated, some instances of moderate and severe dehydration can lead to serious consequences.

Some of the main symptoms of dehydration include the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Decreased urine output
  • Darkly coloured urine
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Confusion

Avoiding dehydration is particularly important for those of you who suffer with chronic pain syndrome, as the above symptoms could lead to increased pain and discomfort. Connective tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and collagen fibres house the majority of the body’s water. As the body loses water from these connective tissues, it becomes more prone to physical injuries, which leads to inflammation, which is something that is known for causing more painful symptoms for chronic pain sufferers.

The bottom line is that optimal hydration levels are key to a healthy body. To help, we have provided a few tips to follow, so you can ensure you are hydrated at all times.

  • Drink plenty of water. If you do not enjoy the taste of plain water, then perhaps you should invest in a fruit infuser cup, which will allow you to add the fruit of your choice to your drink to give it more flavour.
  • As well as liquids, food can also help to tackle dehydration. Some foods, such as melon, tomatoes, and strawberries are naturally rich in water.
  • If you are planning to take part in a morning workout session, be prepared and drink plenty of fluids the night before, so you can prevent yourself from waking up in a dehydrated state.
  • Try to avoid fizzy drinks and opt for still alternatives, such as juices or coconut water, but remember to check the sugar levels, as drinks that are high in sugar should be avoided.

 

Chronic Pain & Decision Making

Recently, a new study, conducted by the University of Arizona, has discovered that the pain caused by conditions, such as chronic pain syndrome, may have an impact on the way in which sufferers think and make decisions. The results of the study have opened our eyes further to how much of a negative impact chronic pain syndrome has on a patient and that more of a focus needs to be directed towards the detrimental consequences caused by chronic pain, in addition to the pain caused. In this blog, we discuss the topic in further detail and analyse the results of the study to understand exactly what they mean for sufferers. To find out more, continue reading.

In 2016, it was revealed that almost half of the adult population were living with chronic pain, with around 28 million UK adults being affected by some type of chronic pain in one way or another. This statistic shows just how prevalent the condition is. Typical symptoms of chronic pain syndrome include pain that consists of throbbing, burning, shooting, soreness, weakness and stiffness, as well as the side effects of pain, such as fatigue, a loss of appetite and mood changes.

For this particular study, researchers investigated how pain impacts cognitive flexibility (the ability for the brain to learn and understand new information), using rats as their test subjects. In order to provide a direct comparison between those with and without pain, two sets of rats were tested; one half with neuropathic pain and the other without.

Once the study had reached a conclusion, the researchers discovered that the set of rats that suffered with neuropathic pain were able to learn the basic task of pulling a designated lever to receive a food reward at the same rate as the ‘normal’ set of rats. This being said, however, the rats with neuropathic pain were much slower in comparison to adapt when the conditions changed, as a new lever was introduced.

Steven Cowen, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, believes the findings could provide insight into how pain can hinder cognitive flexibility in humans.

“If you are suffering from chronic pain, your ability to make good decisions or adapt to new information might be compromised,” he says.

“This might be an unforeseen consequence of chronic pain that hasn’t been studied enough. In the past, we have focused more on the immediate effect of just the pain itself, which is very important, but some of the more detrimental consequences may be in the poor decisions that are made.”

As this is a particularly recent study, further research will likely need to take place in order to explore this discovery in further detail.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Ease Chronic Pain At Night

Many chronic pain sufferers complain of increased pain at night. In this blog, we provide tips on how you can overcome this.

Chronic pain is extremely debilitating, having a negative impact on the lives of patients forever. Sufferers of chronic pain experience extreme pain, major discomfort and irritability on a daily basis. Symptoms can often be so bad for patients that the prospect of continuing on with life alongside the condition is seen as unbearable. The severity of symptoms varies from day to day, however, most people who suffer with chronic pain often experience worsened symptoms during the night. The exact answer as to why chronic pain becomes worse at night remains a mystery, although experts believe sleep deprivation, external factors and body pressure are all contributing factors. With worsened pain comes increased discomfort, which increases your risk of becoming dangerously sleep deprived, leading to a never-ending vicious cycle. Although the exact cause remains unknown, there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable during the night, ease your pain and get a good night’s sleep for once. Read on to find out more.

– Heat up

At night, the temperature drops, which can affect your perception of pain and make it worse. Combat the cold by investing in a heated blanket or pad, as they can be a great treatment for those with pain, particularly back pain. If you are still feeling the cold, try turning the heating on to warm the interior of your home throughout.

– Remember to relax

This may seem obvious, but relaxation is key. However, this is easier said than done. Nighttime is notorious for being the prime time for overthinking and anxious thoughts, which in turn will increase your pain and discomfort. Before going to bed, take some time out to wind down and rid yourself of bad thoughts. This will make falling asleep much easier. Have a bubble bath with calming oils, drink a cup of green tea, listen to some relaxing music and rejuvenate.

– Comfort is key

Make sure your room is as comfortable as it can be. Invest in some soft pillows, comfy bedding and perhaps a scented candle or two. Without comfort, you will find it very hard to think about anything else other than your pain and relaxing will be extremely difficult.

– Focus on your breathing

Experts believe that breathing techniques are effective for reducing pain and relieving stress. As you feel pain, your heart rate and blood pressure will rise, increasing the rate in which you breathe and causing your muscles to tighten. When this happens, it is important for you to control your breathing. To do so, breathe slowly and deeply or adopt one of the well-known techniques outlined in this article.

– Think about pain medication

If natural remedies aren’t working or over-the-counter ibuprofens just aren’t cutting it, then we would always advise speaking to your doctor to find out what your options are for stronger pain medication. It may be that your current medication is too weak to tackle the pain you are experiencing, or your GP may know of a more successful treatment for you depending on your specific case.

 

Chronic Pain & Hormones

Chronic pain syndrome is a significant public health problem that disproportionately affects women. In total, it’s estimated that around 7.8 million people in the UK are currently living with some form of chronic pain. The link between chronic pain syndrome and hormones has been a topic of conversation amongst researchers and medical experts for some time, with many believing that gender plays a pivotal role. In this blog, we reveal more.

Research on gender and pain is a topic of major scientific and clinical influence, with many experts suggesting chronic pain is more prevalent among women. Women tend to suffer disproportionately from conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, jaw problems and much more. According to a study in the journal Pain Research and Management, women are also four to seven times more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that causes severe pain all over the body, than men.

Hormones may be to blame for these differences, says Kelly, PHD of the Atlanta Center for Behavioural Medicine, who added that estrogen clearly plays a role in conditions such as migraines. Whilst the frequency of painful conditions increases slowly, or remains stable throughout male adolescence, research shows a profound upward spike for females. As stated by Kelly, “pain perception does vary according to the menstrual cycle phases in women with chronic pain”. This raises the question as to whether certain biological factors during this period of life, unique to women, increase the risk of developing pain.

From puberty onwards, men have significantly higher levels of testosterone, a hormone that has an ‘analgesic’ effect, protecting against the development of painful conditions. Whilst men are protected by higher levels of testosterone, for women, hormones, puberty, reproductive status and menstrual cycle are all known to have a negative impact on pain threshold and perception. Subsequently, while the frequency of painful conditions rises slowly, or remains stable throughout male adolescence, research shows a profound upward spike upwards for females.

As stated by Michael Moskowitz, assistant clinical professor for the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of California: “the statistics are startling in some conditions like fibromyalgia – women are so much more likely to have fibromyalgia than men are” and “when you look at that, it only makes sense that something biological is occuring”.

Medical experts have speculated over a number of reasons why women experience pain and respond to pain medications differently than men. Differences between men and women in the perception and experience of sustained pain may be due, in part, to the influence of reproductive hormones on the brain.

Doctors believe there is a particularly strong link between pain reception and female hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Female hormones can cause neurochemical changes that intensify pain sensations: “some of the breakdown products of progesterone prevent the inhibitory neurotransmitter from working,” and “when that happens, the nerves just keep firing.” Dr. Moskowitz said.

Also, some pain conditions, such as migraines, tend to vary depending on a woman’s menstrual cycle. These findings promise to lead to a greater understanding of how and why certain diseases characterised by chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia and TMJ, occur more often in women than in men.

There is copious evidence that sex steroid hormones affect pain and that this may be, at least in part, responsible for the differences in pain experience between men and women. However, it is also clear that the relationship is not a simple one and, as a result, further research is required. It is certainly a topic we will continue to monitor moving forward.