Monthly Archives: July 2016

Unexpected Ways To Ease Pain

What’s the thing you do best? Our biggest strengths can contribute significantly to our happiness, success and well-being — and to those of the people around us.

According to newly-released Gallup data, using one’s best talents can also play a role in one’s comfort. In more than 120,000 interviews conducted during the latter half of 2012, Gallup found that the more people use their strengths throughout the day, the less likely they are to say they feel physical pain.

At least 116 million Americans live with chronic pain, uncomfortable at best, debilitating and isolating at worst.

Despite existing health problems, 50 percent of people who do what they do best for at least 10 hours a day said they experience pain, while 69 percent of people who use their top strengths for three hours a day or less said they experience pain, according to the new report. The relationship also exists among people without any ongoing health issues, albeit more weakly: 13 percent of people who use their strengths for 10 or more hours a day reported physical pain, while 17 percent of people who use their strengths for three hours or fewer did.

Whether the people using their strengths all day long are simply more positive people or just more distracted is still to be determined, according to Gallup. But it’s certainly something to consider when reaching into the toolbox of pain management techniques. In addition to playing to your strengths, here are 10 more all-natural, little-known ways to make yourself more comfortable, fast.

Laugh

It’s not exactly medicine, but laughter really does have health-promoting properties. Beside offering some stress relief, burning a few calories and potentially leading to a longer life, a hearty belly laugh from time to time may offer some natural pain relief. It’s likely due to laughter’s triggering a surge of feel-good chemicals in the body called endorphins, which have been shown to act as painkillers.

Quit Smoking

As if you really needed any more reasons to kick the habit for good, in a study of people with back pain, those who had never smoked reported the least discomfort. According to the study, smoking is an identified risk factor for back pain and disc problems, and current smokers reported the greatest pain.

Keep Stress At Bay

The body’s physical response to stress — the heart starts pumping, breathing quickens, muscles tense — is similar to the body’s physical response to pain. Thinking about a stressful event has been shown to significantly increase muscle tension in patients with chronic back pain, WebMD reported. The more stress, the higher the level of cortisol, often called the stress hormone, in the blood. This in turn may “lead toincreased vulnerability to pain”, according to a 2013 study. Relaxation can come in many forms — maybe it’s meditation, reading a good book, going for a jog, taking a nap. What’s more important is just to de-stress, somehow.

Go To Sleep

Is there anything a little extra shut-eye can’t fix?! A small 2012 study found that, in addition to sleep’s protective benefits to memory, mood and the waistline, spending more time in the Land of Nod can decrease pain sensitivity. In the study, 18 healthy young adults were divided into two groups. One group slept nearly two hours more a night. The people who slept longer were able to hold their fingers on a heat source to test pain tolerance for 25 percent longer than the sleep-deprived participants.

Fall In Love

Coupling up improves lifespan, lowers stress levels and rates of disease and boosts sex life, but it also may help lower pain. A small 2011 study subjected 17 women in long-term relationships to a short pain shock. Some were allowed to look at photos of their partner during the pain, others were not. The women who were allowed to see their loved one’s face described their pain as less intense. According to the study, the areas of the brain activated by the photos are linked to feelings of safety. And to top it off, the longer the women had been in their relationships, the greater the activity was in this part of the brain.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome That You Should Know

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who participated in programs aimed at helping them overcome their symptoms — a combination of exercise and counseling — improved more than those whose treatment was intended to help them adapt to the limitations of the disease, a large randomized trial found.

Mean fatigue scores among patients treated with graded exercise therapy — a tailored program that gradually increases exercise capacity — were 3.2 points lower than scores in patients who received specialist medical care alone, according to Dr. Peter D. White, of Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues.

Furthermore, fatigue scores were lower by 3.4 points among patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a therapist works with the patient to understand the disease, alleviate fears about activity, and help overcome obstacles to functioning.

In contrast, among patients who were treated with a program known as adaptive pacing therapy, which emphasizes energy limitations and avoidance of excess activity, scores differed by only 0.7 points the researchers reported online in The Lancet.

In a press briefing describing the study findings, co-investigator Dr. Trudie Chalder, of King’s College London, said, “We monitored safety very carefully, because we wanted to be sure we weren’t causing harm to any patients.”

“The number of serious adverse events was miniscule,” she added.

Another co-investigator, Dr. Michael Sharpe, of the University of Edinburgh, commented that a difficulty in the management of chronic fatigue syndrome has been ambiguity — about the causes and whether these treatments recommended by NICE actually are effective.

“The evidence up to now has suggested benefit, but this study gives pretty clear-cut evidence of safety and efficacy. So I hope that addresses the ambiguity,” Sharpe said during the press briefing.

4 Ways to Save Energy With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

However, the investigators conceded that the beneficial effects of these treatments were only moderate, with less than one-third of participants being within normal ranges for fatigue and functioning, and only about 40 percent reporting that their overall health was much better or very much better.

“Our finding that studied treatments were only moderately effective also suggests research into more effective treatments is needed,” they wrote.

In addition, they stated that their finding of efficacy for cognitive behavioral therapy “does not imply that the condition is psychological in nature.”

The importance of cognitive behavioral therapy was further emphasized by Dr. Benjamin H. Natelson, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“This approach of encouragement of activity and discouragement of negative thinking should be a tool in every physician’s armamentarium,” he said.

“We know that cognitive behavioral therapy and gentle physical conditioning help people cope with any chronic disease — even congestive heart failure and multiple sclerosis,” Natelson said in an interview with MedPage Today.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by persisting or relapsing fatigue for at least six months that cannot be explained by any other physical or psychiatric disorder.

The fatigue is debilitating, and often is accompanied by joint and muscle pain, headaches, and tenderness of the lymph nodes.

In an editorial published with the study, Dr. Gijs Bleijenberg, and Dr. Hans Knoop, of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, explained the differences in these types of treatment for chronic fatigue.

“Both graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavior therapy assume that recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome is possible and convey this hope more or less explicitly to patients. Adaptive pacing therapy emphasizes that chronic fatigue syndrome is a chronic condition, to which the patient has to adapt,” Bleijenberg and Knoop wrote.

Graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have both been recommended by the U.K. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, although evidence supporting these approaches remains sparse.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Fatigue

Some patient groups have expressed strong disagreement with these recommendations, arguing that cognitive behavioral and graded exercise therapies actually have caused harm to some patients.

These groups advocate exercise pacing and specialist medical care, according to the investigators.

To address this controversy, White and colleagues conducted the largest trial thus far of treatment for chronic fatigue, enrolling 641 patients from six U.K. specialty clinics.

Patients were randomized to receive specialist medical care alone, or specialist medical care plus cognitive behavioral therapy, graded exercise therapy, or adaptive pacing therapy for 24 weeks.