The Health Conditions For Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

Medical Marijuana in MinnesotaAs Minnesota moves toward the end of 2014, the medical marijuana laws are starting to take effect. Minnesota’s laws have very strict rules with regards to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It is restricted to only certain conditions and only two forms will be available; Pill or oil for vaporization.

Health care practitioners will have a limited role in the Minnesota medical marijuana program. Patients will be strictly controlled and monitored, and only limited conditions have been approved for treatment. Furthermore, all medical marijuana will be controlled and distributed only through specific state controlled distribution sites.

Medical Conditions For Marijuana in Minnesota

Minnesota has legalized cannabis for only seven medical conditions. The conditions are cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, ALS, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease. Medical marijuana is also available to individuals with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than a year who are experiencing pain, suffering, nausea or wasting. The Department of Health can add new medical conditions to the list, but the Minnesota legislature has the power to veto any additions. The first condition that should be added before any other condition is intractable pain. The Commissioner of Health would need to provide a report to the legislature on the reasons why it would qualify for cannabis use in order to add chronic or intractable pain to the list of approved conditions.

Medical providers in Minnesota are not required to participate in the marijuana program. However, a provider who does participate has multiple responsibilities under the law. A participating provider who certifies a patient must continue to follow the patient once they start the program. A patient cannot have a casual relationship with the provider; they must undergo a comprehensive evaluation, including history and physical exam, development of a treatment strategy, determination of a qualifying condition, and be counseled on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana, knowing full-well that this is an experimental treatment. The patient must give informed consent to all aspects of management and be followed regularly to determine if the treatment is effective. Furthermore, their medical records must be shared for research and tracking purposes with the Department of Health. The patient must be re-certified for the program annually.

Medical Marijuana Dosage

The cannabis derivative and dose will be determined by the pharmacists that are associated with the program. They will provide instructions to the distribution centers on the cannabis type and dose to be delivered. The pharmacists with the Department of Health will also be in charge of evaluating data on the forms of medical marijuana available, and the study of the patients and their response to treatment, as well as reviewing the existing scientific data on cannabis.

The program planned for medical marijuana in Minnesota will be a very rigid, structured program for the use of this compound. It is designed to limit the inappropriate use of marijuana for recreational enjoyment. It is also meant to use cannabis as a medication, and to study the patients and its effectiveness in a comprehensive management environment. Hopefully, the program can be implemented and be effective. For now, until more scientific evidence becomes available, chronic pain will not be included in Minnesota’s program.

How Obesity Makes Pain Problems Worse

Obesity and PainMore information is now becoming available about how obesity can contribute to pain problems, sometimes in unexpected ways. Obesity is a known factor for osteoarthritis of the knees, and increased weight leads to mechanical stress on the knees, causing premature deterioration. Another factor is problems directly related to adipose tissue, fat, and products this tissue produces. Fat produces compounds that influence inflammation. These compounds can make weight bearing and deterioration worse.

Recent studies have shown that weight and thus mechanical stress is a main cause of knee degeneration. The majority of the patients that have knee degeneration are significantly obese. Other factors for knee arthritis often include multiple injuries and repetitive trauma from activities like sports or running. Running can be especially damaging with the impact on hard surface. That said, conversely, losing weight can actually relieve symptoms in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Managing knee pain is closely associated with managing your weight.

Hand Pain and Obesity

Unlike knee arthritis, hand arthritis is not typically related to mechanical stress of weight. Studies have found in these cases, the chemical factors related to inflammatory compounds have significant impact on these joints. The relationship between inflammatory compounds and hand joint deterioration have confirmed that hand arthritis is more common in the obese. Research has now begun to identify the chemical compounds that are increased in obese individuals with arthritis to determine how their presence can best be deterred.

Obesity causes mechanical stress and now we know fat releases chemicals that cause inflammation and pain. Reducing weight does decrease mechanical stress on joints. It may also decrease the amount of available inflammatory compounds that also cause damage to joints. Pain has many causes, but since individuals can have significant control over their own weight, managing it is one of the best ways to decrease your likelihood of developing arthritis in your joints.

Can Alternative Medicine Really Help Your Back?

The following is a guest blog post from our friends at North American Spine. 

AcupunctureIf you’re experiencing mild or chronic back pain, there are a variety of traditional and alternative treatments that can both ease the pain and help address the root cause. When most patients complain of back pain, their doctor’s first reaction may be to refer them to an orthopedic or osteopathic surgeon. However, there are other options that have been effective in treating patients for centuries. These include:

  • Acupuncture
  • A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods
  • Myofascial release
  • Physical manipulation
  • Back-strengthening exercises
  • Yoga and meditation

Help a Bad Back by Sticking Needles in It

That’s right. Acupuncture, which is the art of inserting thin needles into certain parts of your body to help reduce or relive discomfort, is an effective drug-free method for relieving back pain. Although the results are not long-lived, treatments help when pain medicine and other therapies have failed.

Scientists are still working to understand how acupuncture relieves pain and stimulates endorphins. Acupuncture is endorsed by the American Pain Society, the American College of Physicians and the National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In fact, one of the main reasons people choose acupuncture is because it’s been so successful at treating back pain. If you’re worried about being stuck with needles, don’t be. Patients rarely feel pain. If anything, it’s more of a slight tingling sensation.

Rest, Relaxation and Less Pain

Myofascial release is another type of therapy that uses pressure to effectively loosen the tension and tightness that contributes to upper and lower back pain. Myofascial techniques are often included in massage therapy and chiropractic care. When done correctly, these techniques can both decrease pain and increase your range of motion.

Down Dog Your Way to Less Back Pain

Yoga is a unique method for treating back pain because it stimulates the mind AND the body. Breathing and meditation coupled with low-impact exercises calms the mind and relieves the stress that is caused by chronic pain. With help from cushions, certain yoga poses are great for stretching and strengthening the back.

A 2011 study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 12 weekly yoga classes improved function and mobility for patients with recurring or chronic back pain better than traditional therapies.

Eat Better, Feel Better

Just as certain medicines relieve inflammation, a healthy diet can reduce the swelling that may cause back pain in the first place. A good anti-inflammatory diet includes vegetables, fruits, fish, high-fiber foods and certain spices. North American Spine recently talked about the correlation between your diet and your back in a back pain eBook.

If possible, try to shy away from eating too many carbohydrates, as they affect insulin levels and promote inflammation. The same holds true for dairy, eggs and wheat—especially if you’re sensitive to these foods. The key to a healthy back is a healthy diet, so be sure to eat foods rich in zinc, iron and fiber and less rich in hydrogenated oils and fats.

The goal of alternative treatments is to increase mobility, reduce pain and lessen your dependence on medications. Above all, these simple methods should encourage you to take an active role in your care.

The Dangers of Prescribing Pain Pills

Pain PillsOpioid overdoses are a rampant problem in the United States, and the abuse of opioids is an epidemic. Multiple drugs are being abused, and those who are abusing are using multiple drugs. Deaths linked to opioid overdoses often involve multiple medications. Furthermore, unfortunately, some physicians contribute to the problem by running clinics that readily handout prescriptions for opioids without even really evaluating a patient for real disorders.

Pain pill abuse is clearly a problem in our society. Unfortunately, the problems of abuse reflects on everyone, including those trying to prescribe correctly and the patients who have legitimate problems. Pain physicians have a large stake in the issue. Treating pain requires many tools, and using opioids is only one option. Since every patient a pain physician sees does have some sort of pain problem, it is invariable that they may prescribe opioid medications occasionally. Pain physicians, since they tend to prescribe dangerous medications, try to be extra careful in their use of these medications.

Treating The Complex Problem

The first thing to realize is that pain is a complex problem, and there are multiple ways of treating these issues. A pain physician will usually try to find a solution that is the most appropriate for every patient based on the diagnosis and patient needs. There is no risk-free magical pill that will cure a person of their ailment. Treatment is complex and often requires management of multiple interacting problems. The best solutions usually involve quite a bit of work by the patient to change various aspects of their lifestyle, like eating healthy, getting more exercise and drinking fluids.

All physicians need to pay attention to treating pain appropriately. Throwing a pill at a pain problem is not always appropriate. Finding a diagnosis and treating the problem in a comprehensive fashion is necessary. Patients may need to be drug tested to determine if they are using medication appropriately, and the state drug database should be checked to see if a person is doctor shopping for medication. Setting down rules for the use of controlled medications is always necessary, and if long term prescribing is being done, a contract with the patient may be reasonable.

The fact of the matter is that most pain pill addictions and overdoses begin with a legitimate prescription and worsen from there. The medications are not stolen or illegally produced. To control abuse, physicians must take responsibility to prescribe medications appropriately. If a patient has pain that is not improving, a pain specialist is beneficial to help a patient find a comprehensive approach to managing the symptoms. Chronic pain problems often do not have quick or easy solutions. Solving the issue of opioid abuse will require physicians to take an active role in finding solutions to difficult problems.

4 Sleep Problems Made Worse By Chronic Pain

Pain and sleepPain often causes sleep problems. Sleep problems occur in over 50 percent of patients with chronic pain. Sleep disruption can worsen pain and affect your whole life. Patients will often feel rundown, tired, depressed and very stressed. Relationships with your family, your spouse, and at work may be affected. Solving sleep problems is complex and may take significant time.

Sleep problems can be divided into 4 categories:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Troubles staying asleep
  • Inability to achieve deep restorative sleep
  • Waking up and being unable to fall back asleep

Each type of problem may need a different solution. A person with chronic pain may have multiple problems with their sleep cycle.

Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene is the most important initial treatment of sleep problems. Activities that cause problems prior to sleeping include drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Alcohol may initially cause tiredness, but later in the night it often disrupts sleep cycles. Another activity you should avoid before bed is exercise. Physical activity can stimulate the body and keep you awake. The bedroom should be considered a place for sleeping and not for watching TV or doing work related activities. The bedroom should be considered a calming and relaxing place. Other helpful habits include trying to wake up at the same time each day and if awake in the middle of night, don’t spent significant time lying in bed but get up and do another activity until tired again.

When simple tweaks and conservative treatment does not help improve sleep, working with your physician for a more comprehensive treatment strategy is beneficial. A sleep study is often especially helpful in determining the issues preventing good sleep. Sleep studies are also helpful in planning a treatment strategy to solve all related problems.

Multiple medications are available to help with sleep, but many can actually interfere with parts of this sleep cycle. Narcotic medications and other antidepressants may help with pain at night but often interfere with portions of the deep sleep cycle. Newer medications like Ambien and Lunesta are helpful in allowing the patient to fall asleep, but may not be helpful in keeping a person asleep. Recently, melatonin at doses of 5-10 mg has been found to be helpful in maintaining good sleep cycles and reducing pain.

Chronic pain often interferes with sleep, which can lead to worsening pain. Improving your sleep cycle can often greatly improve the quality of life. Sleep problems can be simple, but often with chronic pain they are complex. The solution to a good night sleep may require multiple changes and routines, but with the help of a pain specialist and a sleep expert, relief can be found.

Pain Management for Senior Citizens

Elderly PainA recent article in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association discusses the problems with opioids and the elderly. The article discusses the fact that there has been a large increase in hospitalizations tied to the usage of these medications. The problems are multifaceted, as overuse, over reliance and lack of understanding all lead to health problems in the elderly.

Chronic pain is a major health issue, especially as we grow older. Recent studies have shown that about a third of the population suffers from some sort of medical problem that causes chronic pain. Unfortunately, the science of treating pain has not kept up with the recognition of it as a problem. Furthermore, we have recognized the risks of acetaminophen with liver toxicity and the dangers of anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen with the kidneys. With the dangers of those drugs, opioid use has been pushed.

The practice guidelines for the management of pain from the American Geriatric Society has actually promoted the use of opioids for moderate to severe pain. They have discouraged the use of stand-by drugs like acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories. Unfortunately, in the elderly, opioids are very difficult to use safely, especially if one is not an experienced clinician. Senior citizens tend to be much more sensitive to medications, and “regular” doses can cause falls, liver toxicity, cardiac toxicity and cognitive impairment. Furthermore, half of the authors of the guidelines had significant financial ties to manufactures of opioids.

Careful Management

Chronic pain in the elderly, as it is in any other group of patients, is not one size fits all solution. Pain is a complex entity and needs to be treated as such. The multiple causes of the pain need to be diagnosed and each contributing factor should be treated with the most appropriate management option. Joint related pain may be best treated with an anti-inflammatory medication while neuropathic pain may need a seizure type drug. Furthermore, depression may be a factor and that may also need separate treatment since pain and depression centers in the brain are closely situated.

Management of pain is complex. Careful determination of all the causes and selective treatment by a skilled and knowledgeable practitioner is beneficial. More research on pain and treatment is necessary since the problem is so large. Pain specialists are often the experts needed to find the best management options.

Pain Prevalence in America

Pain PrevalenceA recent report from the Institute of Medicine described in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association has discussed the magnitude of the prevalence of pain in the US. The article states that about 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This is pain that lasts weeks or months; Not bumps and bruises that resolve quickly.

The data used to determine this number is based on a number of techniques to review medical information and was assembled at least in part by the National Center for Health Statistics. If you have chronic pain, you are not alone. These numbers are also consistent with research from the World Health Organization that estimates that 37% of the population in developed countries has chronic pain.

The prevalence estimates of adults for selected pain conditions were also listed in the report. Moderate pain affected 10% of the population, or 21.3 million people. Another 11% had severe pain, effecting about 22.5 million. Joint pain affects about 33% of the population. Arthritis of all types affects 25% of the population. Functional disability affects 12% of the population. The authors also noted that the study did not include children, military personnel, people in prison, and those in long-term care facilities.

The report mainly concentrates on the fact that there is a huge number of people who deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. However, we do not have good information of the impact of pain on employment, disability, functional abilities and the direct and indirect costs. In general, there is minimal information available on the cost of pain, in terms of medical expenditures and secondary costs to society.

The report makes a strong recommendation for a national, population-level prevention and management strategy. A public health approach to pain management is necessary, including prevention, care, education and research. It also recognized the serious problems associated with opioid use and diversion, and the need to develop a better approach to pain care that is beyond the use of such addictive medication.

As noted in this article, reducing the effects of pain and its associated morbidities with regards to the quality of life will require a cultural transformation. Chronic pain itself may need to be considered as disease. The extent of this disease affects about 4 out of every 10 adults in developed nations worldwide. Patients and healthcare providers need to recognize the problem and develop improved treatment and management solutions for the complex condition.