Understanding pain: can the brain provide all the answers?

We now know that there’s much more to pain than simply what is happening in the painful body part, and attention has turned to the role of the brain. But not even this mysterious organ can tell us everything we need to know about pain, at least not yet.

You may wonder why the brain is part of the discussion about pain at all. After all, we’re not talking about a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s or stroke.

But we think that the brain is actually the best place to look when trying to understand pain; after all, pain is a purely subjective experience.

The problem is that pain cannot be “seen”. While a flinch, a limp, or a grimace may provide us with clues, ultimately we only know that someone is in pain if they tell us they are.

And it doesn’t necessarily make sense to only consider the part of the body that’s sore – sometimes people report pain in a body part that no longer exists, known as phantom limb pain.

Full story of brain helping with pain at Science Alert

Ask Your Physical Therapist: Why does my forearm hurt when I grip objects?

When people experience pain in the forearm, inside or outside of the elbow while gripping, lifting or holding objects, they most commonly are suffering from “tennis or golfer’s” elbow.

Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, refers to pain at the outside of the elbow and the group of muscles on the top of your forearm closest to your elbow. Golfer’s elbow, also called medial epicondylitis, refers to pain at the inside of the elbow and the group of muscles on the inside of your forearm closest to your elbow.

Tennis or golfer’s elbow are both due to irritation and inflammation of the tendons — part of the muscle that connects it to the bone — and muscle belly as they attach to the bones that make up the inside and outside of your elbow.

Both conditions are most commonly caused by repetitive motions, such as gripping tools, bricks or objects, typing or starting a weight-lifting routine too rapidly. Such motions in the same direction on a regular basis lead to muscle imbalances.

Full story of gripping pain at The Sentinel Cumberlink

Can Chewing Gum Cause Migraines in Teens?

Maybe it’s not only teachers who get a headache from their students’ lip smacking, bubble popping and gum cracking.

Dr. Nathan Watemberg of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel, has evidence that gum-chewing teenagers, and younger children as well, may be giving themselves a pain in the head. His small study focused on child and adolescent gum-chewers suffering from migraines and other chronic headaches.

“Out of our 30 patients, 26 reported significant improvement, and 19 had complete headache resolution,” said Watemberg. “Twenty of the improved patients later agreed to go back to chewing gum, and all of them reported an immediate relapse of symptoms.”

He is hoping that his findings, to be published in Pediatric Neurology, could offer a simple way to treat migraine and tension headaches in gum-chewers without the need for additional testing or medication.

Full story of chewing gum and migraines at Shalom Life

11 Totally Natural And Completely 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.

Full story of natural pain reliefs at the Huffington Post

Do headaches worsen with weather?

As if the havoc rain wreaks on my hair weren’t sufficient… how many times can I suffer actual physical pain — in the form of a throbbing, debilitating headache — during a thunderstorm before I can officially blame the weather for it?

Considering that more than 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from excruciating migraines, verifying the possible link between seasonality and headaches is no joke (especially since I’ve already cut out other well-known triggers, such as red wine and chocolate — to no avail).

I asked pain management experts to weigh in on this connection: Do weather changes spur on my migraines, or is this rumor full of hot air?

The verdict: Weather definitely causes some headaches

If you suffer from headaches, then warm weather, drastic temperature changes, low barometric pressure and even lightning bolts are not your friends. Scientists are still trying to figure out the precise mechanism behind weather-induced migraines, but the link is genuin

Full story of headaches and the weather at CNN Health

Painkillers May Worsen Headache After Concussion

Too much pain medication may have been part of the problem for teens reporting chronic headache months after suffering concussions, researchers reported here.

Nearly half of adolescents with post-concussion headaches lasting 3-12 months showed either complete resolution of symptoms or a reduction to pre-concussion levels after discontinuing their analgesics, according to Geoffrey Heyer, MD, and Syed Idris, MD, both of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Because withdrawal of painkillers alleviated these patients’ headaches, a diagnosis of medication overuse headache may be made under International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) criteria, the researchers indicated in a poster presentation at the Child Neurology Society annual meeting.

The findings emerged from a retrospective chart review of 104 consecutive adolescent patients treated at Nationwide Children’s for concussion. Of these, 77 reported chronic headache after the injury, and 54 of this group were deemed to have “probable” medication overuse headache.

Under the ICHD, medication overuse headache may be diagnosed in patients with frequent headaches (at least 15 days per month) that either developed or worsened while using headache medications such as over-the-counter or prescription analgesics. The diagnosis is considered “probable” if either such medications have not yet been withdrawn or if the headaches continued for up to 2 months after medications were stopped.

Full story of painkillers and concussions at Med Page Today

Is Chronic Pain Keeping You Awake? Help Is On the Way

According to some studies, more than 100 million people in North America live with—or perhaps more accurately, don’t find it easy to live with—days and nights filled with chronic pain. They know that persistent pain does more than make one achy and perhaps a bit cranky. Chronic pain has been associated with a significant increase in the rate of depression and anxiety. Most of those who have to endure chronic pain may also have problems with attention, memory, high blood pressure and related heart problems, along with sleep issues. Common causes of pain include degenerative spine disease, lower back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, HIV, migraine, neuropathy and complications of shingles.

This population includes approximately five million people with Type 2 diabetes who experience chronic pain, a condition called painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN). It is estimated that about half of them suffer pain that keeps them from getting to sleep, or when they do, staying asleep.

Neuropathy in Type 2 diabetes can frustrate both patients and their doctors and other health providers. Although there is a range of treatments, including pharmaceutical painkillers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, steroid and cortisone injections, analgesic patches, vitamin B shots and hot/cold packs, relief is often elusive or sporadic. People with chronic pain may need a deep, restorative night’s rest to fully function.

Full story of chronic pain and sleep at the Sacramento Bee

When a Splitting Headache Is a Migraine (VIDEO)

It feels like “somebody stabbing me through the eyeball with a knife,” “pencils stabbing my ears,” or “explosions going off in my head.” These are some of the ways that Dr. Audrey Halpern’s patients have described the vascular headaches known as migraines. The pain is so severe that it can “cause disability,” said Dr. Halpern, a clinical assistant professor of neurology and migraine expert at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Even if you can make it to work or a social event with a migraine, most of the time you’re not going to be functioning at full capacity.”

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) estimates that more than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraines, which usually strike people between the ages of 15 and 55. While research continues to shed new light on what causes migraines and what they do to the brain, many people don’t understand how debilitating a migraine can be or what makes it different from a bad headache.

According to the NHF, a migraine is generally diagnosed after a patient has had at least five previous headaches that lasted between four and 72 hours. Migraine-related pain is usually felt on one side of the head, and it can be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light (photophobia) or sound (phonophobia).

A number of things can trigger migraines including lack of sleep, sunlight, certain foods, hormone levels, noises, staring at a screen, and stress. Brain cells set off the release of chemicals that cause blood vessels around the brain to swell and transmit pain signals.

Full story of headaches and migraines at Everyday Health

NSAIDs may help reduce depression for osteoarthritis sufferers

For people with a painful cartilage condition, common pain relievers may have small benefits for depression symptoms as well, a new study hints.

Depression is more than twice as common among people with osteoarthritis, which happens when cartilage wears down around the hands, lower back, knees or other joints.

As many as 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help manage their pain, those patients often take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen.

“This work suggests that anti-inflammatory agents may play a role in reducing the burden of depression,” senior author Dr. Michael E. Farkouh of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said.

His team’s study includes data from five previous trials of over-the-counter NSAIDs and prescription Celebrex, a NSAID manufactured by Pfizer, which provided the Celebrex results. In each of the trials, people with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to take one of those medications or a drug-free placebo pill for six weeks.

Full story of depression and osteoarthritis at MedCity News

How to manage chronic pain without pills

Q: I’ve had shoulder pain for a couple of years, and the constant low-level agony is making me nuts. What should I do? — Johnny M., Akron, Ohio

Managing Chronic Pain Without PillsA: More than 100 million North Americans live with chronic pain, and, as you indicated, it does a lot more than just make you feel achy. Chronic pain is associated with a three- to fourfold increase in the rate of depression and anxiety, and most folks also have problems with sleep, memory, attention, high blood pressure and resulting cardio problems, not to mention sexual dysfunction. Chronic pain actually can damage your most valued relationships.

The most common sources (not related to cancer) are degenerative spine disease, lower-back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis (perhaps in your shoulder), fibromyalgia, HIV, migraine, nerve pain and complications of shingles.

The first step is to get the right diagnosis from a specialist (maybe a second opinion, too). If pain medications are suggested, ask about a pain-management specialist who knows how to do nerve-dampening blocks and how to safely put you on (and take you off of) potentially addictive drugs.

But we’re huge fans of using wellness to control pain!

Full story of chronic pills without pills at the News Sentinel

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