What You Need to Know About Leg Pain

What You Need to Know About Leg Pain

Pain in the legs can suck the joy out of life. It can affect mobility, forcing one to give up their favorite activities, and limit what they can do. There are so many different kinds and causes beyond a simple leg cramp. Usually chronic leg pain has to do with a condition in one or more tissues. Blood vessels, nerve damage, muscle, ligament, or tendon injuries and more can cause leg pain. Usually, pain in this area is the result of a disease or inflammation. Pain in one part of the body such as the lower back can also radiate down into the legs. Other symptoms need to be taken in consideration when diagnosing leg pain.

These include numbness, weakness, or any tingling sensations. Those with diabetes often experience peripheral neuropathy. That is when elevated blood sugar is left unmitigated for an extended period of time, allowing it to damage bodily tissues, many times the nerves. This nerve damage usually occurs in the legs and feet. Tingling in the legs or numbness can accompany or precede this condition.

Deep vein thrombosis is a cardiovascular condition that can cause pain in the thigh. Here a blood clot gets lodged into a vein in the upper leg. This can be very dangerous as a portion of it can break off and get stuck in a cardiac or the carotid artery, causing a heart attack or stroke. For those with arthritis, knee and ankle pain are common. The first thing a physician should do besides take one’s vitals and a medical history, is to find exactly what kind of pain sensation the person is experiencing and where it is located.

To help you or your doctor get to the bottom of it, recognize the severity of the pain. Where does it stem from? What kind of sensation is it (burning, aching, stabbing) and when does it occur? Be sure to address chronic leg pain with a physician. Pain in the legs can be a symptom of a much larger problem so it is important to have it checked out.

Antidepressants May Help Control Pain Catastrophizing

Antidepressants May Help Control Pain Catastrophizing

Researchers discovered recently that pain is not one but two different phenomena occurring within the central nervous system. One establishes the sensation, but the other interprets it, dampening or increasing awareness of it depending upon the situation and our emotional state. When we feel pain but are distracted by something else, our awareness of the pain decreases. Yet, when we are worried as to whether we will experience pain that concern can make the sensation so much worse. So pain is not just the sensation itself but how we interpret it.

This discovery may lead to new treatment methods for pain management, although some of those proposed might sound a bit left of center. Pain catastrophizing is an irrational fear of pain usually in anticipation of or just after a pain-inducing event, such as surgery. According to a new study published in April’s issue of Anesthesiology, antidepressants may be helpful for those who experience this psychological condition.

Researchers at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care at University of Copenhagen, Denmark conducted the study, led by Troels H. Lunn, M.D., Ph.D. Lunn said that just after surgery, patients with pain catastrophizing report feeling far more pain. He and colleagues wanted to see if selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common class of antidepressants, could help mitigate the sensation. 120 patients with pain catastrophizing disorder were recruited for the study.

Each was scheduled for knee replacement surgery. The subjects were given either an SSRI called escitalopram or a placebo for six days after the surgery had taken place. Each patient’s pain level was recorded each day. There was no difference between those receiving the SSRI and the placebo 24 hours after surgery. But the antidepressant did make a significant difference from day two thru day six. Dr. Lunn believes beginning the SSRI earlier could help relieve worry leading up to the surgery and pain afterwards.

Those anticipating a painful surgery should discuss with their doctor what they can do to help control or lessen pain. Anyone dealing with acute or chronic pain in the aftermath of an operation should talk to a doctor or specialist to find relief.

Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis May Look the Same

Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis May Look the Same

 

Sometimes diseases are similar in a variety of ways, which makes them difficult to distinguish from each other.  Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and lupus, both autoimmune diseases, are such an example.  The triggers of autoimmune diseases are not known, but they might be hereditary.  According to the National Institutes of Health, women are more at risk of developing an autoimmune disease than men, with Native American, African American and Hispanic women at the the greatest risk.

Distinguishing Them
The occurrence of joint pain is the most apparent similarity between lupus and RA.  Both diseases affect the joints, in general, with tenderness, swelling and different levels of inflammation reported.  Both conditions affect energy and strength, and include periodic fever. Though they appear the same in many ways, there are several differences between RA and lupus.  Lupus can cause problems that are life-threatening, and it affects the sufferer’s skin and internal organs. RA isn’t fatal.  However, it can deform one’s joints, while lupus does not.  Joint pain experienced in lupus is fairly constant throughout the day, whereas RA pain is usually more severe in the morning, easing as the day goes on.

Commonly Confused
Unfortunately, due to their common symptom characteristics, some with RA are misdiagnosed with lupus, or the opposite occurs.  It’s easier to identify RA once it has progressed due to deformity and erosion of the bones.  During the beginning of these diseases, a diagnosis is commonly made by looking at symptoms.  Rather than simply look at joint pain, it’s possible a physician will order a blood panel to check up on organ health.  Common symptoms of lupus, for example, such as anemia, change in weight and effects on the kidney, may be discovered.  Both conditions are difficult to diagnose and comorbidity is rare.

Differences in Treatment
Lupus doesn’t currently have a cure and individuals are treated according to their symptoms.  Often, a lupus patient will use corticosteroids and other prescriptions to treat pain and inflammation. A combination of medication is usually the best option.  This often also includes drugs to treat kidney and heart problems, as well as skin rashes.  Those experiencing RA can manage pain with cortisone shots.  If a knee or hip becomes too deformed, they may need replacement.

Take Action
Lupus and RA both require long-term treatment plans.  Talk to your doctor should you feel you have symptoms for either illness. A pain-minimizing dietary and exercise plan can be worked out.

 

September is Pain Awareness Month

September is Pain Awareness Month

This month marks the remembrance of a condition many struggle with but few know how to properly manage. 126 million adults suffer from pain, more than half of the entire U.S. population, according to a National Health Interview Survey.

23 million of these endure the chronic variety. This is pain felt daily, interferes with life and the enjoyment of normal activities, and lasts for more than three to six months. It is usually due to an infection, chronic condition, or in the aftermath of surgery. Chronic pain can also cause other serious conditions such as depression and a compromised immune system. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage occasional, acute pain. But these are not recommended for long-term use or at higher doses. They carry risks like an increased chance of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. It is in September that pain patients are reminded that they need to be active participants in helping to manage their own condition.

Doctors have known for some time that not all patients feel pain the same way. Some conditions and injuries which keep certain patients in agony others find they can live with, and carry on. It is important for pain patients to keep a journal of the specifics of their condition. Use a one to 10 scale to rate your pain each day. This record can help your doctor or specialist diagnose the problem and tell how effective the treatment or treatments you are receiving are.

Seek help. If your doctor or the first physician you first encounter does not have the capacity to give you relief, seek out another, or perhaps a pain management specialist or clinic. Specialists have expert knowledgeable about pain and can offer a more precise diagnosis. A pain management plan can be devised to attack different aspects of the condition, in order to give you relief. Seeing the right physician is important. But there is no better advocate for your condition than you. Be sure to seek out a doctor or specialist should you be wrestling with chronic pain this September. 

Change Your Exercise Routine to Ease Joint Pain

Change Your Exercise Routine to Ease Joint Pain

When you’re struggling with joint pain, particularly as you age or develop conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the last thing you probably care to think about is exercise.  But, research shows that pain tolerance can be increased and chronic inflammation associated with arthritis can be reduced with regular exercise.

There are several exercise routine tips that will take it easier on your joints so that you’re not in pain:

Make Sure to Warm Up

Warm-up time is commonly skipped when it comes to exercise routines.  It’s an important, first step to take, as joint pain can actually be increased if you dive right into a workout.  It’s not necessary to reserve a lot of time for this. You can even walk for about five minutes.  This will warm up your  muscles and get your blood flowing.

Get a Foam Roller

According to research, using a foam roller before or after workouts can minimize pain (three times per week can significantly reduce joint pain).  Light compression with a foam roller aids in rehydrating your fascia (the fibrous, connective tissue that binds, supports or separates your organ, joints and other tissues).  The fascia tends to become more brittle and less hydrated as we age.

Switch Up Your Routine

Make your workout more interesting, and don’t overuse any of your joints, by mixing up your workout.  Alternate high impact exercises with lighter ones such as swimming or yoga.

Choose a Cardio that’s Right for You

Beginning your workout with an exercise that has the least impact, and increasing until you’ve reached your personal limit, is a good way to figure out the best cardio program for you. Anywhere from swimming (low impact), moving up in impact to outdoor running (high impact).

Alternate Lower and Upper Body Workouts

This gives your joints a break by focusing on another part of your body.  If you’re weight training, you can do this by alternating between arm and leg exercises.

Stretch

If you decide to skip this step, your joints will pay the consequences.  We need loose muscles to help us move comfortably.  Stretch all of your major muscle groups after each workout.  Make sure not to bounce, and hold each stretch for about 20-30 seconds.

Use Props
Give your joints a break and use yoga blocks or dumbbells to hold on to if you’re doing push-ups, for example.  This will keep your wrists straight.

Try Pilates or Yoga

They’re both low-impact and excellent choices for your joints.  A study by the Arthritis Foundation showed that two, one hour yoga classes eased swelling and pain in those with RA.  Pilates is ideal for joint stability and mobility.

Choose Water Exercises

Working out in the water can be a rewarding experience when you’re suffering from joint pain, even if you don’t know a lot of fancy swimming moves.  Your joints receive less impact and more support with deeper water.  You deserve to treat yourself, and your joints, to the healthiest routine possible!

The Best Way to Manage Knee Pain

The Best Way to Manage Knee Pain

There are several different causes of knee pain. The most common are arthritis or the aftermath of an injury. No matter what the reason, taking care of a painful knee is by and large the same process. Here are some tips on how best to manage knee pain.

Of course, if it hurts when you walk the tendency is to stay off of it. But if you rest too much you may atrophy the muscle. Then the pain will be worse and you’ll lose mobility. Instead, find an exercise that doesn’t hurt the knee. Swimming, cycling, tai chi or water aerobics are all good choices. Weight lifting or other forms of strength training can fortify the muscles as well, taking weight off the knee. Be sure to discuss the matter at length with your physician or physical therapist before starting a new exercise regimen.

Look around the house and see what you can add to make sure you don’t fall. Make sure your home is well lit. Depending upon the severity, you may want to install handrails so you can get around easily. If you need to reach for something be sure to stand on a strong and sturdy object, like a stepladder or footstool.

For pain be it an arthritis flare up or from an injury, use this method: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). The acronym is easy to remember. A compression bandage can help a lot and is sold at your local pharmacy. Many don’t like to talk about it, but if you are overweight, talk to your doctor and form a plan to lose it. Those extra pounds add weight to the knee and end up making the pain worse. If you need to use a cane, crutches or a walker do so. It’s better than the alternative. Look into other methods to help manage your condition.

Some with knee pain have found acupuncture helpful, for instance. Look at your footwear. Be sure to wear supportive, comfortable shoes. If it’s an injury, ice it for the first 48-72 hours. Afterward, use heat therapy to melt the pain away. Be sure to avoid any high impact activities that are hard on the joints. If you are experiencing knee pain, don’t wait. See a doctor and get help. Letting it go will only allow it to get worse.  But if you stay on top of it, you can look and feel your best.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis SufferersCarpal tunnel syndrome is a very painful condition that affects a person’s hands and wrists.  People with rheumatoid arthritis are at an even greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.  The carpal tunnel is a thin passageway that is positioned on the palm side of the wrist.  The purpose of the tunnel is to protect the primary nerve to the hand and the nine tendons that bend the fingers.  When inflammation causes the connective tissue to swell and squeezes and crowds the nerves that go through the carpal tunnel, those with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, end up with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Some symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain in the wrist, hand weakness, forearm ache, numbness and tingling in the hand (mainly in the thumb, index finger and middle finger), an electric shock type of sensation in the thumb, middle and index fingers, and pain that travels up the arm and toward the shoulder. There are some practical ways those with rheumatoid arthritis can ease pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, which include:

Treat rheumatoid arthritis
Anti-rheumatic drugs can help bring RA under control and reduce any inflammation that is contributing to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Use anti-inflammatory pain meds
Aspirin, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Get a cortisone shot
These shots are good for temporary pain relief, but it’s likely that symptoms will come back.

Wear a splint
A wrist splint can help keep your wrist in a helpful, neutral position and can be worn during the day and night.

Rest
As much as possible, avoid using the affected hand or wrist. The inflamed tissue might have a chance to heal with after this time-out.

Add carpal tunnel exercises to your routine
There are specific exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome that have been developed by doctors which help stretch the wrists, keeping them flexible.

Practice yoga
According to studies, people with carpal tunnel syndrome who practice yoga have shown improvement in their syndrome and related pain.

Take breaks
If you’re working, especially at a job that burdens your wrists at all, it’s best to take breaks, switch positions, and stretch your wrists often.

Check out alternative treatments
Different treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are being studied such as acupuncture, vitamin supplementation, chiropractic care, magnets and Botox. Speak with your doctor about these treatment possibilities.

Look into getting surgery
There are surgeries you can get that help ease carpal tunnel syndrome pain by opening up the tunnel.

It’s painful enough to live with rheumatoid arthritis. You can use these suggestions to ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome that only adds to your suffering.  Hopefully one or more of these tips will help.

Which Type of Injection is Best for Knee Osteoarthritis?

Which Type of Injection is Best for Knee Osteoarthritis?

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) can cause stiffness, pain and lack of mobility but injections of both steroids and hyaluronic acid can improve symptoms.

But which is better? A recent study moved to tackle this very question. What researchers found was the response to each varied greatly. For those who received the steroid betamethasone, pain was reduced by 66.3%. Hyaluronic acid injections on the other hand reduced pain by 48.5%. But at the 12-month mark, those who received hyaluronic acid had decreased pain by 33.6%, compared with the steroid that only saw an 8.2% gain in pain relief.

Researchers at the School of Medicine, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City conducted the study, led by Cesareo Angel Trueba Davalillo, MD. The results were published on Open Access Rheumatology: Research and Reviews. Corticosteroids have been used for 60 years to treat OA, while hyaluronic acid has only been used for the last twenty.

Supporters of hyaluronic acid say it is an important therapy because it helps with inflammation, pain reduction and provides for better mobility. There have been previous studies comparing these two therapies. But researchers found them skewed due to the small number of participants or shorter duration of time over which the study was conducted. This study moved to overcome these obstacles.

200 participants with grades II or III radiographic OA were followed for one year. Most of the participants were women, whose average age was 63. They received two injections per month. At six months, both the steroid group and the hyaluronic acid group were about the same. But in the end, those receiving the acid had better functionality, while at the onset those who received the steroid had less pain. Yet, steroids did nothing to improve functionality.

Since functionality is also an important part of pain control, and overall quality of life, one would think that the hyaluronic acid injections were superior. Still, it’s important to talk to your doctor should you have OA and see what’s right for you.

Controlling Gout Flare-ups

Controlling Gout Flare-ups

Once a gout attack has started, there isn’t anything that can stop it.

You usually know when one is coming. Yet, there are things you can do to help alleviate symptoms once it is full on. Gout is a condition that occurs when high levels of uric acid buildup in the system, causing pain. Alcohol consumption, stress, certain foods and medications can trigger flare-ups.  Gouty arthritis, another name for the condition often gives a tingling, burning or itching feeling in the joints before an episode is about to begin.

There are some sufferers who feel an attack come on suddenly, without any forewarning. Redness, pain and swelling usually occur in the ankle, big toe, knee, elbow, wrist or instep. Sometimes the pain is so severe, the area so tender that even the slightest touch will send the person howling. If you experience these symptoms but haven’t seen a doctor, get an appointment and have it checked out. There are medications you can take when a flare-up begins to control the symptoms.

Your doctor may tell you to take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve), indomethacin (Iindocin), celecoxib (Celebrex) and more. These are often effective. Specific medications to control gout flare-ups include: colchicine (Colcrys), allopurinol (Lopurin, Zyloprim) and febuxostat (Uloric). These may initially cause a flare-up. Your doctor will give you something for that. But this will only occur as the body adjusts to the medication.

One thing you can do once a flare-up occurs is ice the joint. Another is to drink plenty of water. This will help stabilize the amount of uric acid in the body. Rest. Also, know what foods cause flare-ups and avoid them. Liver, certain vegetables, seafood and drinks sweetened with fructose can trigger a gout attack, as can alcohol—especially beer. If your symptoms don’t improve within 48 hours, this is your first attack or you have the chills and a high fever, see a doctor right away.

Why Do People’s Sensitivity to Pain Differ?

Why Do People’s Sensitivity to Pain Differ?

Doctors have noticed for a long time that patients’ amounts of pain vary greatly.

Some people are able to tolerate the pain well and live normal lives, while others remain prostrate in bed, unable to do much of anything. How come there is so much variance when it comes to pain tolerance? This question has baffled scientists, until now. Harvard Medical School neuroscientists have found a gene that canturn up or down a compound known as BH4, which in turn dampens or intensifies the sensation of pain. Doctors wonder whether due to this discovery, in the near future, they may have ways of predicting a patient’s pain response to a certain illness or procedure, called in medical slang “hurt markers.” In this way, if a certain surgery came with a high BH4 level, a physician could prescribe targeted painkillers.

Another place this breakthrough could help is to cease the creation or continuation of chronic pain. Professor of Anaesthesia Research Clifford Woolf said, “This is the first evidence of a genetic connection to the risk of developing chronic pain.” GCH1 is the gene that regulates BH4. If this gene is missing the person tends to experience amplified pain. But this discovery can help physicians identify who is at risk for developing chronic pain before a procedure, and the best way to target and address that pain.

In the U.S. today, 50 million adults are said to suffer from chronic pain. 20% of doctor’s visits are due to this condition. It accounts for 10% of the trillions spent on healthcare in the United States each year. Before this, sensitivity to pain was considered the realm of upbringing, environment and psychology. Now scientists know the real story, it has genetic roots.