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What I have been reading lately …

As a pain specialist, I am always on the lookout for the latest news . . . our understanding of pain and how to control it. There is a lot out there, and I can’t cover it all, but these three things caught my eye over the past couple of months and I would like to share them with you.

Surgical pain has a psychological element

Chuck DinersteinDr Charles Dinerstein, a Senior Medical Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health and a retired vascular surgeon has written a very interesting article on how surgical pain could be better managed.

One point he makes is that following an operation, people often have to wait for pain medication, asking for medication as their pain worsens, and often having to wait while their pain escalates. He welcomes the practice of pre-emptive medication and is pleased to see it becoming more common – a good idea in my view. Dr Dinnerstein talks in detail about long-lasting analgesics and describes the success he had using them with his surgical patients. He also praises the use of patient-controlled pain medication which, as he rightly says helps partly because it gives the patient a measure of control.

Dr Dinerstein is coming very much from a surgical perspective and his main focus is on improved medication, but I loved his article because it is such a good example of someone who understands how the mind and the body interact. It brings home how stress and expectation of pain, that awful feeling of being completely out of control and dependent on others to take care of the pain can make a bad situation worse.

Better medication, and patients being able to control that medication is important here and so is helping patients mentally prepare. I hope that is where the sort of techniques which I use come in and it is great to see the ground beginning to shift so we recognise just how important the mind can be in controlling our pain.

Read more HERE

Drugs may not be the best answer for pain, Canadian conference hears

An international healthcare conference in Ottawa, Canada this month has highlighted the importance of mental support in helping chronic pain. The conference, Humanizing Healthcare, heard that one in five Canadians suffer from some form of chronic pain and recommend that doctors look at mental programmes to ‘rewire the brain’ rather than handing out drugs.

“Doctors want to give relief, and we think the meds are the relief. But they don’t change the wiring in the brain. It just dulls the symptoms. “Treating chronic pain with opioids can lead to addiction, Hennessy said. She’s advocating for another approach.

“Live beside the pain, and not in it,” she advised pain sufferers. “We need to teach mindfulness as a stress reduction, because the brain has elasticity and we have to try and train your brain to pay attention to other aspects of your life.”

I know from my own practice that this works. There is a whole range of techniques which we can use, and in nearly all cases we can find something which makes a difference.

Read more HERE

Pain can affect anyone, even Lady Gaga

Lady GagaLady Gaga’s recent tweet that she suffers from fibromyalgia has received a lot of coverage praising her for disclosing the condition and sharing similar experiences of this little understood but often debilitating condition. She tweeted to explain why she had cancelled tour dates and followed this up with a documentary, where her pain was obvious and which showed just how bad living with the condition can be, however famous you are.

There has been a lot of really positive coverage and many people have been saying how Lady Gaga going public has given them the courage to talk about their own experience.

I especially liked an article by Dr Nick Fallon in The Guardian. Dr Fallon researches how chronic pain and psychological factors interact using the latest brain imaging technology, so his views on how pain has both a physical and a mental aspect are well worth listening to.

He says: “The complex interaction between psychological and physical suffering deserves our attention, and we need to acknowledge this is not an admission of guilt or a sign of weakness or malingering. It doesn’t mean that the pain is ‘all in your head’, or any less real or debilitating. It simply means that, even when the pain affects the whole of Gaga’s five-foot two frame, the mysterious mass occupying the uppermost 6 inches will always play a pivotal role.”

He adds: “I am simply grateful for her honesty. Lady Gaga’s announcement could represent the start of something big as we search for solutions for fibromyalgia . . .”

I wish all the best to Lady Gaga as she recovers and thank her for raising the issue. As I find in my pain management clinics, we can make a difference quite quickly to the experience of pain by using hypnotherapeutic and cognitive techniques. Even though I have more than 20 years’ experience in the field, I am constantly learning and developing new techniques. There are huge leaps being made in our understanding of how pain is processed in our brains, and this means we can do something about it.

If you are suffering from pain for any reason, come and see me or take a look at some of my online support products  – www.apaininthemind.co.uk. You can make a difference to your own pain with the right sort of help. Often pain can leave you feeling helpless and isolated; you do not need to carry on like this. I can help you take control, lessen your pain and get back to a healthy and happy life.

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