IT SEEMED like a good idea until I saw the electrodes. Dr Luana Colloca’s white coat offered scant reassurance. “Do you mind receiving a series of electric shocks?” she asked.
I could hardly say no – after all, this was why I was here. Colloca’s colleague, Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy, had invited me to come and experience their placebo research first hand. Colloca strapped an electrode to my forearm and sat me in a reclining chair in front of a computer screen. “Try to relax,” she said.
First, we established my pain scale by determining the mildest current I could feel, and the maximum amount I could bear. Then Colloca told me that, before I got another shock, a red or a green light would appear on the computer screen.
A green light meant I would receive a mild shock. A red light meant the shock would be more severe, like the jolt you get from an electric fence. All I had to do was rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, mild to severe. Continue reading “A Placebo Conundrum” by Michael Brooks
Intensive whiplash treatment is no better than standard care, a study suggests.
The study, in the Lancet looked at the treatment of more than 2,700 people with mild to moderate whiplash.
No additional benefits were seen in those who had more intensive care – which included suggesting a rapid return to normal activities.
A Canadian expert said the study showed the lack of benefit from “unnecessary treatments”.
Whiplash injuries cost the UK economy about £3.1bn a year, mainly due to the expense of treating those with chronic symptoms (between 30-50%) and their subsequent need to take time off work.
Long-term problems can include pain from even the smallest movement, difficulty sleeping and even being unable to work. Continue reading Whiplash study says no benefits from intensive treatment
When it comes to your moods, decisions and behaviour, the brain in your head is not the only one doing the thinking
IT’S been a tough morning. You were late for work, missed a crucial meeting and now your boss is mad at you. Come lunchtime you walk straight past the salad bar and head for the stodge. You can’t help yourself – at times of stress the brain encourages us to seek out comfort foods. That much is well known. What you probably don’t know, though, is that the real culprit may not be the brain in your skull but your other brain.
Yes, that’s right, your other brain. Your body contains a separate nervous system that is so complex it has been dubbed the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons – about five times as many as in the brain of a rat – and is around 9 metres long, stretching from your oesophagus to your anus. It is this brain that could be responsible for your craving under stress for crisps, chocolate and cookies.
Embedded in the wall of the gut, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has long been known to control digestion. Now it seems it also plays an important role in our physical and mental well-being. It can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head and, although you are not conscious of your gut “thinking”, the ENS helps you sense environmental threats, and then influences your response. “A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York. Continue reading Gut Instincts & your second Brain
This was the message from CSP fellow Dr Mick Thacker, director of the ‘Pain: Science and Society’ MSc course at King’s College London.
Giving a keynote lecture, Dr Thacker advised delegates to move away from purely mechanical-based therapies for back pain patients, and become more aware of the role of neuro-immnunology in relation to pain.
“Traditional physiotherapy has based its management of back pain on anatomical, tissue-based principles and biomechanics”, said Dr Thacker. Continue reading Let go of outdated paradigms and stop dwelling on Biomechanical tissue-based models when treating Back Pain.
People with fibromyalgia may benefit from practicing tai chi, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterised by muscle pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia have chronic widespread pain, as well as “tender points” on areas of the body, which hurt when slight pressure is applied. Although exercise appears to be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment, many people with fibromyalgia need medication to control symptoms and are unable to maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. Continue reading Tai Chi Benefits Patients With Fibromyalgia
Specialised group Yoga Classes could provide a cost-effective way of treating patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain, according to the UK’s largest ever study of the benefits of Yoga.
Led by the University of York, and funded by Arthritis Research UK, the study provides an evaluation of a specially-developed 12-week group yoga intervention programme compared to conventional general practitioner (GP) care alone.
The results published in Spine, show that the Yoga intervention programme — “Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs” — is likely to be cost effective for both the UK National Health Service and wider society.
The cost assumed for yoga intervention is important in determining whether this is an efficient use of NHS resources. As Yoga classes are not currently available through the NHS, the researchers examined a range of possible costs.
They conclude that if the NHS was to offer specialist yoga and managed to maintain the cost below £300 per patient (for a cycle of 12 classes), there is a high probability (around 70 per cent) of the yoga intervention being cost effective.
Researchers also found that those taking part in the yoga programme had far fewer days off work than those in the control group. On average, a control group participant reported 12 days off due to back pain, whereas those in the yoga group had four days off. Continue reading Yoga: A Cost-Effective Treatment for Back Pain Sufferers?
Eating cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks, a study has suggested.
US researchers found patients with gout who ate cherries over a two-day period had a 35% lower risk of attacks compared to those who did not.
The study in Arthritis & Rheumatism said cherries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants which contain anti-inflammatory properties.
UK experts said the research offered “good evidence” of the benefits of eating cherries for people with gout.
Gout is a common type of Arthritis that can cause sudden and very severe attacks of pain and swelling in the joints, particularly in the feet.
It is caused by too much uric acid in the bloodstream, which causes urate crystals to start to form in and around the joints and under the skin. Continue reading Eating Cherries can help with Gout
Scientists have identified a gene flaw linked to disc problems that are a common cause of lower back pain.
The UK study, published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, looked at 4,600 people and found the PARK2 gene was linked to age-related disc problems.
A third of middle-aged women have problems with at least one spinal disc – and the condition is known to be inherited in up to 80% of patients.
Experts said finding the gene could lead to new treatments being developed.
Back pain costs the UK about £7bn a year in sickness leave and treatment costs, but the causes of the condition are not fully understood.
In lumbar disc degeneration (LDD), discs become dehydrated and lose height, and the vertebrae next to them develop bony growths called osteophytes, leading to lower back pain.
The King’s College London researchers carried out MRI scans of all those in the study and looked at differences in their genetic make-up. Continue reading Gene flaw linked to Low Back Pain