Timberwolves Star Speaks Out In Favor Of Medical Marijuana

medical marijuanaMedical marijuana has been a hot topic on this blog and in the national news. Minnesota currently allows individuals to apply for a medical marijuana license if they meet a certain number of health characteristics set forth by the state. We’ve made our position about medical marijuana known on several occasions, but we’ll refresh it here briefly if you didn’t check out those other blogs.

We believe the medical marijuana is certainly an avenue worth pursing, but we need to learn more about the compounds inside marijuana before rushing it to the market. It’s certainly shown some promise, but if we want it to be truly effective, we need a better scientific understanding of each individual compound in different strains of marijuana. We should consider putting more money into researching and learning about the medicinal properties of marijuana.

Now, a high profile athlete in Minnesota is speaking out in favor of medicinal marijuana. He may not be championing medical marijuana for chronic pain, but he has seen it work first hand.

Karl Anthony Towns Talks Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl Anthony Towns recently spoke out in favor of removing marijuana from the listed of banned substances for NBA players, agreeing with a sentiment pushed by former NBA commissioner David Stern.

“I agree with David Stern with marijuana,” Towns told ESPN “You could use the [chemical] properties in it to make a lot of people better.”

NBA players deal with pain and discomfort on a regular basis throughout the season, and Towns believes marijuana could help some players deal with that discomfort.

“That’s something that Adam Silver has to do. That’s out of my control, but maybe legalizing marijuana. Not fully legal, where people are chimneys, but using [marijuana] as a beneficial factor as an athlete, as a person living daily.”

Towns has already seen how medical marijuana can be used to help certain individuals. His girlfriend’s nephew is autistic, and a medical dosage has helped the boy and the family with the condition.

“I’ve seen nothing but benefits for him,” Towns said. “And I’m very happy that he finds comfort. He finds that normalcy every day. Just like a father, a mother, a parent with a child, you’d do anything for your child.”

It sounds like Towns is in the same boat. He has seen the benefits of medicinal marijuana in his life, but he understands that simply legalizing it without researching the science behind the drug could lead to unintended consequences. We should be pouring more money into chronic pain research if we really are committed to helping people manage their pain.

Minnesota Getting $16.6 Million To Fight Opioid Epidemic

opioids chronic pain minnesotaMinnesota is set to receive $16.6 million in federal grants that will be given to foundations and organizations committed to fighting the opioid epidemic.

More than 30 different agencies will receive grants from the federal fund, and the goal is to reach and help more than 110,000 Minnesotans who are seeking treatment for opioid dependency. Most of the money will go to existing programs to launch new efforts or expand current efforts in combating the opioid crisis.

“These grants are designed to build on what we are doing,” said Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper.

The Opioid Problem In Minnesota

According to health data, there were nearly 2,500 opioid-related overdoses last year, and 376 of those overdoses were fatal. There were more than 3.5 million prescriptions written for opioid painkillers in Minnesota in 2016.

The federal grant will go to a number of specific places and programs, including:

  • More widespread availability of naloxone, a key substance in helping save people who have overdosed on painkillers.
  • Expanding medication-assisted treatment.
  • Increasing aid and resources on American Indian reservations.
  • Adding opioid-specific care providers throughout the state.
  • Establishing a program to help unborn and newborn babies of mothers with opioid dependencies.

There has also been a push for more regulation at the national level from Minnesota lawmakers. A presidential opioid crisis commission recommended that President Trump support two bills proposal by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. The first would require more monitoring of drug prescriptions and the second would attempt to reduce the number of opioids that are being illegally distributed through the US mail system.

Minnesota Researching Opioid Alternatives

opioid abuse alternativesEven if you’re not a chronic pain sufferer, you’ve probably heard about the “opioid crisis” here in America. Overdoses and accidental deaths from pain medications have skyrocketed in recent years, and things are only getting more divisive as we try to put an end to overdoses. There are too many competing interests working against one another. For example:

  • You have a government officials who are supported by money from big pharma.
  • You have big pharma, who is making a lot of money through the increase in prescription medications.
  • You have some overworked doctors who jump right to pain pills instead of taking more time to find solutions.
  • You have some chronic pain patients who take the idea of opioid regulation as a personal offense.

That’s simply too many interests pulling in too many directions, and chronic pain patients are suffering because of it. However, Minnesota has recently taken some tangible steps to look for alternatives to opioids.

Opioid Alternatives

Earlier this month, leading medical minds met in St. Paul to talk about some alternatives to pain management to help combat the opioid epidemic. They discussed a range of possibilities, including such options as:

  • Electrotherapy
  • Radio-frequency ablation
  • Cryogenics
  • Implantable spinal cord stimulators
  • Epidural injections
  • Medical gadgetry
  • Chemical compisitions
  • Physical therapy techniques

The goal of the meeting was to help lawmakers understand that they have the ability to influence how research funding can be allocated for some of these alternatives, and that the future of these pain management techniques are worth exploring.

Dr. Clarence Shannon, an anesthesiologist who works in the University of Minnesota Pain Clinic in Minneapolis, spoke about the summit and how it’s important to test out potential treatment options before jumping to opioids.

“It’s a stair-step approach that I like to use: nonsteroidals, anti-epileptics or neuropathic medications. We’ll try radio-frequency ablation if we can. We’ll do nerve blocks. And then we’ll move up to the things like the implantable devices,” Shannon said.

These alternatives aren’t perfect solutions, and while they do have some drawbacks, the downsides are much less threatening to a patient’s health than the negative consequences of opioids. Medical devices may cost more, may be more prone to malfunction and may require battery changes, but those downsides are worth it if they can protect us against opioid abuse and overdose.

A Good Start

The pain management summit was a good start, but we need to also focus on getting everybody on the same page. We need to the government to look at the bottom line in terms of lives saved and not dollars earned. We need to take the burden off doctors so they don’t feel the need to fall back on opioid prescriptions without first exhausting some other options. We need chronic pain patients to realize that searching for alternatives does not mean the government is going to come and take away their prescriptions that they are using responsibly to manage their pain.

We need to work together to find a solution, or we can’t expect anything to change. Hopefully Minnesota can be at the forefront of that change.

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.