Back Pain linked to shrinking Brain

BACK pain has a mysterious link with brain damage. Brain scans have shown that patients with chronic lower back pain have lost grey matter from two brain areas. Scientists are not yet sure whether this is the cause of back pain or the result, but the finding could lead to new drug treatments for backache that target the brain rather than the back or spine.

The discovery was made by Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University in Chicago, when he and his colleagues scanned the brains of 26 patients who had suffered lower back pain for at least a year. Some had damage to their sciatic nerve, which emerges at the base of the spine, while the others had no known injury. The team found that all the patients had lost grey matter in two brain regions known to be important in pain perception. Continue reading Back Pain linked to shrinking Brain

Acupuncture studies by NCCAM

Introduction

Physical pain is a common occurrence for many People; in fact, a national survey found that more than one-quarter of U.S. adults had recently experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. In addition to conventional treatments, such as over-the-counter and prescription medications, people may try Acupuncture in an effort to relieve pain. This fact sheet provides basic information about pain and acupuncture, summarizes scientific research on acupuncture for specific kinds of pain, and suggests sources for additional information.

Key Points

  • People use acupuncture for various types of pain. Back pain is the most commonly reported use, followed by joint pain, neck pain, and headache.
  • Acupuncture is being studied for its efficacy in alleviating many kinds of pain. There are promising findings in some conditions, such as chronic low-back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee; but, for most other conditions, additional research is needed. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) sponsors a wide range of acupuncture research.
  • Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed correctly.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine theory, acupuncture regulates the flow of qi (vital energy) through the body. Research to test scientific theories about how acupuncture might work to relieve pain is under way. Continue reading Acupuncture studies by NCCAM

Is Migraine all in your Head ?

IF YOU have ever absent-mindedly rubbed your eyes or nose after chopping up chilli peppers, you’ll have some idea of the suffering of one group of scientists in the name of medical research. A team at the Institute of Neurology in London have been injecting chilli juice into each others’ foreheads. Lab technician Paul Hammond, who got roped into the experiment, says it felt like acid was burning into his skin. “It was one of the most excruciating pains you can imagine,” he recalls.

The researchers weren’t sadomasochists, as far as we know. Their actions were part of a much larger research effort that has been shedding light on migraine. For although in the past few decades we have learned a great deal about the condition, we still have no idea of its root cause. And while we have drugs that help some patients, some of the time, understanding the underlying defect is the best way to boost our chances of discovering a sure-fire cure.

Continue reading Is Migraine all in your Head ?

Can Twisting cause the Agony of Back Pain?

THE first comprehensive model of the human spine is challenging our assumptions about the causes of back pain. Contrary to the idea that spinal injuries are caused by a combination of compression, bending, tension and shear forces, the 3D animated model suggests many injuries are the result of quick twists of the vertebrae, making the joints between them rotate.

Nick Beagley and Vladimir Ivancevic of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Edinburgh, South Australia, have spent the past 18 months developing their mathematical model, called the Full Spine Simulator (FSS). Existing models of the spine evaluate forces placed on a single joint, or a simple series of joints, and allow each just a few degrees of freedom. But the FSS represents all 25 movable joints of the spine, and gives each its full six degrees of freedom. Continue reading Can Twisting cause the Agony of Back Pain?

Why stress gets on your nerves

MOST PEOPLE would agree that certain events in their life, such as bereavement, changing jobs, examinations, or even rush-hour travel in big cities, are stressful. We try to avoid stress, but if we cannot, we must try to adapt to it. This adaptation is sometimes referred to as ‘toughening up’. Although stress is difficult to define, we know that both avoidance and toughening up are crucial ways of coping with it.

When we cannot cope, stress can lead to irritability and fatigue, and other more serious disorders, such as gastric ulcers, cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression. Yet not everyone subjected to severe stress suffers from a heart attack or a bout of depression: some individuals are much more vulnerable than others. Many neuroscientists now suspect that the difference in the ability to cope may lie in biochemical changes in the brain involved in the process of adaptation to stress.

Continue reading Why stress gets on your nerves

MRI Scans show Acupunctures effect in the Brain

Originating in ancient China, Acupuncture has been used for 2500 years. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that disease is caused by blockages and imbalances of energy (known as chi) flowing through meridians in the body, and can be eased by inserting needles at specific points.

Since the 1970s, Acupuncture has become more popular outside east Asia. Once widely considered a quack medicine, there is now tentative support for its use in certain conditions from respected official bodies such as the World Health Organisation, the National Health Service in the UK and the National Institutes of Health in the US.

There is evidence that Acupuncture is effective in treating a range of conditions including spinal injuries, back & neck pain, migraine headaches, infertility and the side effects of chemotherapy , and that its effects aren’t entirely due to the placebo effect. Recent research is now showing why Acupuncture works.

Wenjing Huang of Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany, and colleagues used more than 100 studies to produce these brain maps of 18 acupuncture points. Areas of the brain activated by stimulating a point are shown in red; areas deactivated are shown in blue.

For example, the two vision-related points GB37 (gall bladder) and UB60 (urinary bladder) showed deactivation in visual brain areas like the Cuneus. The team concluded that Acupuncture seems to affect the brain’s processing of both physical Sensations and Emotions. For now, though, the source of Chi remains elusive.

Acupuncture: East & West

A HAIR-THIN needle pricks the skin. What happens next depends on who you ask. A traditional Chinese practitioner will tell you that acupuncture manipulates the body’s vital energy, Qi (pronounced chee), balancing the opposing forces of Yin and Yang. When Yin and Yang are in harmony, Qi flows freely along pathways called meridians and you stay healthy, but when the Qi gets blocked you become ill. Inserting needles into points along a meridian unblocks Qi and restores the body’s healthy balance.

Western scientists explain it differently. They say inserting needles at acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release morphine-like substances that block pain signals. It may also trigger neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which influence such dynamic systems as circulation and the immune response. Continue reading Acupuncture: East & West