Chronic Pain Management When Soldiers Return Home

military painChronic pain is a widespread problem for millions of Americans, but it may be even more of an issue for our returning servicemen and veterans. According to a recent study, a survey of one of the Army’s leading units revealed that 44 percent of deployed soldiers suffered from chronic pain, and 15 percent reported regular use of opioids to manage the condition.

Even though soldiers have easier access to comprehensive medical care, these figures are much higher than expected. A survey of the general population suggests that an estimated 26 percent of Americans suffer from some chronic pain condition, while four percent actively use opioids to manage the condition. This means a service member is more than 1.5 times more likely to suffer from chronic pain than an average civilian, and nearly four times as likely to be taking opioids on a regular basis.

Chronic Pain and Military Members

Other findings from the chronic pain survey include:

  • 50 percent of male veterans and 75 percent of female veterans report that pain is the most common physical complaint.
  • More than 40 percent of returning service members with chronic pain also reported having PTSD or post-concussive symptoms.

One of the biggest obstacles facing veterans with pain or mental health issues is that they don’t want to ask for help. People don’t really like to ask for help in the first place, and when you combine it with the mentality of a soldier who is supposed to be tough and selfless, it often leads to situations where they believe asking for help is a sign of weakness, which it’s absolutely note. If you are suffering from chronic pain or you just feel like you haven’t been in a healthy frame of mind lately, reach out to Dr. Cohn or another healthcare provider for assistance.

Creating A Plan To Treat Chronic Pain In Soldiers

Here’s a look at the recommendations provided by the Pain Management Task Force for helping soldiers get the care and treatment they deserve.

  • Provide tools and infrastructure that support and encourage practice and research advancements in pain management.
  • Build a full spectrum of best practices for the continuum of acute and chronic pain, based on a foundation of best available evidence.
  • Focus on the warrior and family.
  • Synchronize a culture of pain awareness, education, and proactive intervention.

The last point is key. We need to focus on shifting the culture of pain awareness and treatment from one where chronic pain patients feel shamed or scared for seeking help towards one that encourages everyone to seek active treatment for their pain. If you need help, speak up.

5 Tips For Exercising With Chronic Pain

exercise painExercise can help prevent and manage chronic pain, but chronic pain can also make it difficult to exercise on a regular basis. However, if you keep some tips in mind, you may find it easier to get through your exercise routine even if you are plagued by chronic pain.

Today, we share five tips that can make exercise easier even if you are battling a chronic pain condition.

Chronic Pain and Exercise

Here are five tips for making your exercise routine a little more bearable when you’re dealing with chronic pain.

1. Avoid The Wrong Activities – Try to get your exercise in by being mindful of where pain exists and which activities overstress these areas. You want to strengthen certain areas while avoiding overstressing painful areas. For example, if you have chronic low back pain, exercise activities like cycling or canoeing may put excess stress on your lumbar spine. Don’t partake in activities that will make the problem worse.

2. Find Your Pace – Yoga classes or group exercise routines can help make exercising more fun, but not if you’re struggling to keep up. Go at your own pace and do not worry what other people are doing. If you’re dead set on working out with a group or another person, find someone who closely matches your ability and who will be willing to scale things back or stop altogether if pain makes exercise too difficult.

3. Aqua Therapy – We’ve pushed the benefits of aqua therapy in the past, and we think it’s a great option for chronic pain sufferers because the water’s natural buoyancy helps to take stress and pressure off our joints. Also, the water provides natural resistance, which makes it easier to strengthen different structures that you might not be able to as easily on land.

4. Balanced Routine – While we want you to find what works for you, it’s also important that you find some balance in your workout routine. You need to focus on your cardiovascular health, aerobic conditioning and strength training in order to best keep chronic pain at bay.

5. Accept That Not Every Day Is Going To Be Great – This happens with everybody, so don’t get discouraged if you just don’t seem to “have it” on any given day. As long as you are up and trying to improve your physical health, that day is a win. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not always going to go smoothly, but if you’re making a conscious effort to exercise 4-5 times a week, your body will thank you for it.

For more tips on how to exercise with chronic pain, or to talk to a doctor about your chronic pain condition, reach out to Dr. Cohn today.

Let’s Talk About Chronic Pain and Suicide

chronic pain suicideNew research presented at PAINWeek 2017 in Las Vegas suggested that individuals with chronic pain are twice as likely to attempt suicide than those without chronic pain.

For their study, researchers asked more than 1,500 chronic pain sufferers to fill out a questionnaire on their pain and their mental mindset. What they found was that individuals with chronic pain were twice as likely to attempt suicide than individuals without chronic pain, and that 32 percent of chronic pain sufferers reported “suicide ideation in some degree.”

According to researchers, chronic pain (as opposed to acute pain) may share some neural networks with mental health disorders like depression, which can contribute to self-harm tendencies.

“This shared neurobiology may explain why cognitive behavioral interventions can be effective in chronic pain patients,” said Dr. Joseph Pergolizzi, who suggested that patients with chronic pain should be evaluated for other helpful treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy or mental health counseling. They recommended that mental health assessments during the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain could be clinically important for reducing the risk of suicide or self-harm in this patient population.

Getting The Help You Need

As someone who is prone to chronic back pain from an injury I suffered back in college, I know how frustrating chronic pain management can be. It can take forever to find a solution that works, and there’s no guarantee that it will work the next day. You’re fighting an uphill battle, but it’s important that you try to stay positive. Remember that you can only control what you can control. You can’t always control your pain, but you can:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Partake in physical therapy
  • Seek a second opinion
  • Get involved a chronic pain group
  • Try new treatment alternatives
  • Share your experiences with others online
  • Take time to focus on your mental and physical health

Pain may play a role in your life, but you should never feel like it is controlling your life. If you’ve found that it’s harder to get out of bed or you just haven’t been the same lately, reach out to a Pain Management specialist. We can take another look at your pain and figure out the best way to help you manage it. We can also set you up with wonderful programs to ensure that your mental health remains positive while you’re tackling your chronic pain issue.

Nobody knows exactly what you’re going through, but that doesn’t mean we’re not willing to learn or to help. Please, if you’re struggling with chronic pain or depression, make a call to our office or to a pain specialist in your area. We’ll do everything in our power to help reduce you pain levels and find something that works for you. We can’t promise solutions, but we can promise that we will try our hardest to find a treatment option that makes your day a little brighter. Contact us today.

The Daith Piercing Survey Is Complete!

daith survey completeIf you’ve been following this blog, you probably remember that we’ve been helping Dr. Chris Blatchley collect responses for a study he was conducting on the Daith piercing and vagal nerve stimulation. We’re happy to report that the first report of the findings has been published.

You can find the first report on the role of Daith piercings and vagal nerve stimulation by clicking here. That link will take you to the report, but updated versions of the report can be found on Dr. Blatchley’s main site, which you can get to by clicking here, so be sure to visit the site in the future to see the updated reports.

You Can Still Take The Study

Although the first version of the findings are in, you can still participate in the study if you haven’t taken the survey yet. Remember, this is an updated version of the survey, so even if you completed the survey in the past, you may still be eligible to complete the second version. To take the second version of the daith survey, click here.

Thank you to everyone who helped Dr. Blatchley with his research. He’s informed me that’s he has shared the findings with the British Medical Journal, and he hopes that they will publish the findings. If they are published, it would be the first of its kind research published in a medical journal! He’s also planning to release a full research article in the future based on the second version of the survey.

So please check out the findings, and keep your fingers crossed that they’ll make their way to the BMJ. The more migraines and vagal nerve stimulation are talked about in major medical journals, the more eyeballs we’ll have on the problem, and the more people we’ll have working towards a solution. Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey, and congrats to Dr. Blatchley for finishing the first version of the findings.

Understanding Chronic Pain in Children

chronic pain childrenPreventing chronic pain is a daily battle for many adults, and the symptoms can be even tougher to control in children and teens. Interestingly, new research published in Health Psychology suggests that adolescent pain may be linked to previous experiences with pain, and if we can improve these initial experiences, children may be less likely to experience future pain.

It may sound complicated, but the research wanted to see if there was a link between a previous pain experience and how pain is felt and managed in the future. To do this, researchers examined children who had undergone a major surgery, as these experiences, even if they go as expected, may be traumatic to the child and are likely accompanied with some pain or discomfort.

“This is not to say that every child who has chronic pain had a surgery that led to it,” said study author Melanie Noel. “Rather, it’s that surgery is the only context where we can catch these kids before they develop chronic pain. We know that 15 to 20 per cent of children who undergo these major surgeries will develop chronic pain. So, if we can catch them early and begin to understand the factors leading to their chronic pain, maybe we can prevent it from happening in the first place.”

At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that a child’s memories of pain following major surgery actually influenced their recovery and was associated with an increased risk of the development of chronic pain down the road.

“We’ve discovered that the way children are remembering their pain is an underlying factor in the development of chronic pain,” Noel explained. “It’s not the pain they actually experience so much as the way they process those memories of the pain which is driving whether or not they’re improving, right around the time that pain can transition into chronic pain. At a certain point, these children should be feeling better but those who develop chronic pain are not.”

Managing Adolescent Chronic Pain

The study, which was conducted in Canada, suggests that anywhere from 15-40 percent of Canadian children experience chronic pain at some point during their childhood. Moreover, 60 percent of these children eventually develop chronic pain in adulthood, so it’s important to control chronic pain while kids are young to prevent it from becoming a problem when they’re older.

Researchers believe the findings can help point doctors and parents towards solutions. They believe that psychological and language-based interventions may be able to help kids better cope with post-surgical pain, which will help re-frame their memories of the pain and in turn decrease their likelihood of developing chronic pain in adulthood.

“We can teach kids how to reminisce and talk about their pain experiences in a way that emphasizes anything positive about it,” said Noel. “Maybe the child coped with something well, maybe there was a really friendly nurse. It’s getting them to talk about things that aren’t just focused on the awful after effects of the surgery. It’s a way of catching it, a talk-based intervention that can possibly re-frame the memories. This may actually alter the pain trajectory. It’s one thing we can do to make the recovery and future experiences of pain better.”

This is fascinating research, and I hope the findings are considered by pain professionals when helping children get to the bottom of their chronic pain.