Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:22

Simple Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Back Pain

Many people hear the same thing every time they visit the doctor: Being overweight can have serious effects on your health. But what your doctors may not be telling you is that, in addition to things like high blood pressures, heart disease and high cholesterol, your weight may be causing or increasing your back pain.

Being overweight can increase your risk of developing low back pain. Your weight can also cause spinal disc pain and joint pain, since your body is putting added strain on your spine and joints. Knee pain, hip pain and leg and ankle pain can all result from weight problems.

Taking weight off the spine and the affected joints is one of the best ways to start decreasing your back pain and joint pain – but it’s never an easy process. Weight loss can be a daunting task – especially for those already experiencing pain. But weight loss is a necessary path toward a better, more pain-free life. These tips can get you moving in the right direction.

Get a Doctor’s Advice

Before making any lifestyle or diet changes, always consult your doctor. Your doctor can help you decide which diets or exercise programs can work best for your particular situation, lifestyle and pain level. Exercise and dieting for pain relief are great ideas – just make sure you do them right!

Eat Right to Reduce Pain

Eating a healthy diet is one of the first steps to losing weight and, subsequently, reducing pain. When planning out your meals for the week, try to reduce your sugar intake. That means that to decrease pain, you should eat fewer items containing high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, maltose and sucrose. Unfortunately, these are common additives in everyday foods, such as prepackaged meals, granola bars, juices and crackers. If you’re not already, start checking a product’s ingredient list before purchasing it; you might be surprised how many things labeled as “healthy” are actually filled with sugar.

In addition to helping you lose weight, cutting sugars out of your diet can decrease inflammation in your body. The same can be said for simple carbohydrates, which break down in your body into forms of sugar, causing inflammation and weight gain. Anything made of white flour contains carbs, including pasta, bread and crackers. A good tip for pain relief is to decrease carb intake and increase healthy fats and proteins. This means low-fat or lean meats and poultry, as well as fish, nuts, seeds and beans.

Some healthy foods even have the ability reduce back pain, knee pain and general pain. Cherries are high in antioxidants and anthocyanins, which block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes. Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve back pain. And hot peppers like jalapenos and habaneros can help with arthritis and muscle pain, due to their high levels of capsaicin.

Supportive Equipment to Reduce Pain

There are many items to help reduce back pain and assist you in staying active. Many times, supportive equipment can make all the difference.

One of the first things to help you lose weight and exercise with less pain is getting the right shoes for back pain. This means shoes that are lightweight and support your arch and foot. The best shoes help your body maintain proper alignment when walking or jogging. Many good shoe stores have employees trained to help you find the best shoes for your feet.

Beyond shoes, finding a supportive mattress can help you sleep better with pain. Since sleep is one of the ways your body renews itself, it’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep to help with pain. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours on average.

A back brace, knee brace, wrist brace or cervical brace can also provide the support you need to get out there and start an exercise routine. Back braces, for instance, provide back and abdominal support for weak muscles, allowing you to get out there and do the things you normally wouldn’t be able to, like prolonged walking, gardening or participating in sports. Braces help your body build muscle strength while still providing the support you need.

Interventional Pain Procedures

Sometimes, losing weight through exercise and diet isn’t enough to completely rid your body of pain. When that’s the case, it may be time to consider interventional pain procedures, which can be administered by pain management doctors. Interventional pain procedures can help restore function, giving you the ability to make lifestyle changes that may have been previously impossible due to your pain. These minimally invasive procedures can include epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks and radiofrequency ablation. All of these procedures have the ability to significantly reduce pain. Without high levels of pain, people can often return to exercising and physical therapy.

Request an Appointment

Although the concept is simple, losing weight and reducing pain can be a complicated process. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your pain, consider scheduling an appointment with one of Advanced Pain Management’s specially trained providers. They can help you reduce your pain and get back on your feet, helping you return to a healthy, fulfilling life.

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On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, WPR News covered the Time to Intervene panel discussion, which dealt with the opioid epidemic currently affecting our state and our countyr. Listen as leaders discuss Wisconsin's Opioid Abuse Epidemic. http://www.wpr.org/listen/941606

Download your free opioids and pain in-depth guide

Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:16

Step up Your Health with a Raised Garden

The frequent bending, kneeling, stooping and reaching that are required  to create and maintain a beautiful garden can often leave your body with aches and pains, pulls andstrains. Raising your garden off the ground can be an easy – and visually appealing – solution, saving your body from unnecessary strain while adding a pop to your plants.

Bale Out

A straw bale garden is an interesting alternative to the traditional raised garden bed. Although it takes a bit more preparation work than a normal garden (12 days of conditioning and daily watering), there are many perks, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Not only does it raise the garden to a better working height, but it doesn’t require large amounts of soil and the straw bales serve as the container and planting mix. To get the best results, says Myers, “Plant annual vegetables, condition the bales in early spring and plant them in spring for a summer or fall harvest.” So save those fall decorative straw bales and convert them into a productive garden next spring.

Step by StepLadder_Garden-1

Placing plants on the rungs of a ladder is a creative way to add visual appeal and raise plants off the ground. If you plan to place your ladder outside, use pots of fall favorites like pansies or mums.

But don’t forget to secure the pots to the ladder and the ladder to the ground so they don’t blow over, reminds Myers. You can also bring your ladder indoors and use flowering plants like anthuriums and peace lilies, which look beautiful staggered on a ladder and can be maintained without excessive stooping or kneeling.

“This would also be a fun way to change things seasonally,” says Myers, who suggests switching to festive plants like poinsettias around the holidays.

Take a Seat

“Any chair, stool, support or repurposed item would make a great decorative addition to the garden,” says Myers. Such items add both vertical interest and accessibility. Add a pop of coordinating color with mums, bright light Swiss chard, snapdragons or dianthus. Or try planting a leaky birdbath. “Greens like lettuce and spinach would look nice, fit the space and thrive in cooler fall temps,” suggests Myers.

Garden, Garden on the Wall

Shoe_Caddy-1

Green walls are another option for upright gardeners. “These are basically containers gone vertical,” says Myers. Not only are they a very trendy option right now, she says, but they are also something you can build yourself.

For those who aren’t handy, a cloth over-the-door shoe caddy can work just as well – and provide an individual spot for a variety of indoor plants and herbs. Just be sure to protect the floor or any furnishing located below the caddy from dripping water.

Grab Some Padding

For the sections of your garden that are still at ground-level, don’t fret; there are still ways to reduce pain during prolonged periods of planting, weeding or harvesting. To reduce knee pain and injury, for instance, look into purchasing a padded kneeler or knee pads. And when dealing with back pain, consider using a back brace, which can provide back and abdominal support when your muscles are overactive and you experience muscle spasms, or when your muscles are weak and don’t provided the needed support. Knee and wrist braces are also an option.

Learn More

For more expert gardening advice from Myers – along with tips on how to stay safe and avoid pain in the garden – download your free Gardening Toolkit

A new study released in the journal Pain had some interesting findings about the state of pain in America. The research particularly concentrated on the socioeconomic groups that are currently experiencing the most severe pain, but it also delved into the overall state of pain in America. (Hint: It’s on the rise.)

Study Overview

The study,[1][2] completed by University at Buffalo medical sociologist Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk, utilized data from 19,776 adults aged 51 and older. Instead of focusing on a single point in time, the researcher followed the participants over 12 years, from 1998 to 2010, using information gathered from the Health and Retirement Study.

While most studies on the topic have examined only if people had pain or not, Grol-Prokopczyk’s research went one step further, asking whether the pain was mild, moderate or severe – with interesting results.

Key Findings

One of the most surprising findings to come out of the study is that chronic pain levels are on the rise. As it turns out, people who were in their 60s in 2010 are experiencing more pain than those who were in their 60s in 1998.

Furthermore, there is an extreme disparity when it comes to the people who are experiencing the most severe pain. People with less wealth and lower levels of education are far more likely to suffer from more severe pain and disability than those who are more privileged. While this trend was generally known beforehand, the extent of the disparity was a surprise. According to the research, chronic pain is 80% more likely to occur in the least educated people compared to the most eudcated.[3] And those who didn’t finish high school are 370% more likely to experience severe pain when compared to those with graduate degrees. Since severe pain is also the most associated with disability and death, the disadvantaged are most likely to experience those, as well.

Implications for the Future

Currently, it’s not clear why there’s such an unequal distribution of chronic pain in general and severe pain in particular, and Grol-Prokopczyk says more research needs to be done in order to better understand the matter. But what is clear is that there’s a rapidly increasing need for effective pain treatments.

“If we as a society decide that opioid analgesics are often too high risk as a treatment for chronic pain,” Grol-Prokopczyk says, “then we need to invest in other effective treatments for chronic pain, and/or figure out how to prevent it in the first place.”

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[1] Grol-Prokopczyk, Hanna. “Sociodemographic Disparities in Chronic Pain, Based on 12-Year Longitudinal Data.” PAIN 158, no. 2 (February 2017): 313–22.

[2] University at Buffalo. Poor And Less Educated Suffer The Most From Chronic Pain. February 8, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170208160411.htm.

[3] Fitzpatrick, Caitlyn. “Pain Is Getting More Painful, Study Shows.” February 9, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2017. http://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/pain-is-getting-more-painful-study-shows.

The national numbers on opioids are clear: Opioids are a dangerous drug with concerning risks and side effects. But what’s going on beneath those numbers, among the individuals currently taking opioids for chronic pain, is equally important. Specifically, how helpful do they find opioids in treating their pain – and what drawbacks are they seeing from prolonged use? A new study presented at the America Society of Anesthesiologists’ annual meeting sought the answers to these crucial questions.

Study Overview

The study, titled “Do Patients Perceive Opioid Treatment as an Effective Way to Mange Chronic Low Back Pain?,”[1] was one of the research projects presented as part of the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2016 annual meeting.

The authors utilized data from a January 2016 survey of more 2,000 low back pain patients. They chose low back pain, in part, because these patients are more likely than patients with other types of pain to be treated with opioids. In fact, 46% of the survey respondents were currently utilizing opioids for pain.

The respondents were divided into three categories based on their opioid usage: those currently on opioids, those who were not currently on opioids but had been in the past year (28%) and those who had never been on opioid therapy (26%).

Key Findings

As part of the survey, patients were asked how successful they felt opioids were at relieving their pain levels. When taken together, only 13% of all respondents selected “very successful.” The most highly selected answer was “somewhat successful,” which was selected by 44% of people. Of the others, 31% said “moderately successful” and 12% said “not successful.” When the results were divided by opioid usage status, “somewhat successful” was still the most common answer for those currently on opioids, while those previously on opioids most commonly selected “not successful.”

The study also examined side effects and stigmas associated with opioid use. The researchers found that the vast majority – 75% – experienced side effects due to their opioid treatment. The most common of these side effects were constipation, sleepiness, cognitive issues and dependence.

On top of that, 41% of people reported feeling judged based on their usage of opioids. And, as it turns out, this feeling of being judged was unique to opioids; despite 68% of respondents also taking antidepressants, only 19% felt judged for using those.

Implications for the Future

These results put further emphasis on the dangers and inefficacy of long-term opioid treatment for chronic pain. Not only does their use create additional physical and social problems, but for most people they don’t even effectively address the pain.

Lead author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendra of Rush University in Chicago sees this as yet another reason pain patients should seek care from a multidisciplinary pain management specialist.[2] Whether it’s interventional procedures, physical therapy, alternative medications or complementary therapies, pain management providers are able to offer and coordinate a variety of services that oftentimes not only work better than opioids, but also pose far fewer side effects.

“Patients are increasingly aware that opioids are problematic, but don’t know there are alternative treatment options,” said Dr. Buvanendra in a press release regarding the research. If you want to learn more about what treatment options are available for your condition, call (888) 901-PAIN to speak to a member of our care team staff.

Download your free opioids and pain in-depth guide

[1] Buvanendran, Asokuma, Rae M. Gleason, Mario Moric, Sherry J. Robison, Jeffrey S. Kroin. “Do Patients Perceive Opioid Treatment as an Effective Way to Manage Chronic Low Back Pain? A Survey of Opioid Treatment Perception and Satisfaction.” ANESTHESIOOGY 2016 Annual Meeting (October 23, 2016). Accessed January 3, 2017, http://www.asaabstracts.com/strands/asaabstracts/abstract.htm;jsessionid=431585AA0967E7E27C850BD8C99D1E06?year=2016&index=3&absnum=4614

[2] AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS, Many Back Pain Patients Get Limited Relief From Opioids And Worry About Taking Them. 2017. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

Chickenpox has an evil counterpart in shingles, a much more sinister outbreak caused by the same varicella-zoster virus. Once the virus is in your system from a bought of chicken pox, shingles becomes a looming threat – especially later in life. And, to make it worse, the condition brings with it the possibility of long-term chronic pain, a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia. But, with the proper information and treatment, it’s possible to effectively manage (and even prevent) these conditions and relieve the associated pain.

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone who’s had chickenpox is at risk for shingles, however there are certain factors that make it more likely for the virus to be reactivated. Advancing age, a weakened immune system, illness and stress can all cause an outbreak.[1]

While not all people who get shingles will get postherpetic neuralgia, there is a substantial risk – especially for older individuals. According to Columbia University Medical Center, about 40% of people older than 60 experience postherpetic pain, while less than 10% of those younger than 60 are likely to develop it.[2] Individuals may also have a greater risk if their shingles outbreak was particularly severe, if their outbreak was on their face or torso or if they have a chronic illness (like diabetes).[1] However, this risk decreases if people begin a course of antiviral medication within three days of developing the shingles rash.

Symptoms and Causes

Shingles results in a painful rash and blisters, which are often preceded by pain. These symptoms should usually clear up within two to four weeks.[3] In postherpetic neuralgia, however, this pain continues even when the rash and blisters are gone. This happens if the shingles virus damages your nerve fibers. Since damaged fibers can’t properly communicate messages between the skin and the brain, the messages become confused and exaggerated, which your brain interprets as intense pain. The pain usually improves over time, but can take months – or even years – to resolve.[1]

It can often feel like a burning, sharp or jabbing feeling and can make your skin extremely sensitive to touch. Even clothes rubbing against the skin can become unbearable. The condition may also be accompanied by fatigue, depression and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Prevention and Treatment

Since 2006, a shingles vaccine has been available and is now recommended for those 60 and older, whether or not they remember having the chickenpox. The vaccine is also recommended for those who have already had shingles in order to prevent future occurrences. According to the CDC, this vaccine can reduce the risk of shingles by 51% and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by 67%.3 Protection from the vaccine lasts about five years.

While there’s no way to cure postherpetic neuralgia, there are various ways to reduce the pain to make the condition more bearable. Columbia University suggests seeking out a comprehensive, multidisciplinary pain management-oriented approach when dealing with the lingering pain.[2] This type of approach may include pain-relieving skin patches or creams, anticonvulsants, TENS therapy or antidepressants, in addition to behavioral health services. While opioids may sometimes be prescribed, they’re typically less effective than other medications and have dangerous side effects.[2] Interventional procedures, including nerve blocks or spinal cord stimulation (for severe cases), may also be considered to provide a higher degree of pain relief.

If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic pain related to shingles, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. To speak to a care team specialist or to schedule an appointment to discuss your condition, call (888) 901-PAIN (7246).

Get moving. Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) or click to schedule a consultation now.

[1] Mayo Clinic. “Postherpectic Neuralgia.” September 16, 2015. Accessed January 17, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postherpetic-neuralgia/basics/prevention/con-20023743.

[2] Columbia University Department of Neurological Surgery. “Postherpetic Neuralgia.” Accessed January 17, 2017. http://www.columbianeurosurgery.org/conditions/postherpetic-neuralgia/.

[3] CDC. “Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccine & Preventable Disease.” November 22, 2016. Accessed January 17, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/.

Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:03

Pain and Sleep: A Disastrous Cycle

Pain and sleep are two things that, understandably, don’t go very well together. Whether it’s because of the pain itself, or the stress and worry that pain tend to cause, the detrimental effects on sleep are undeniable. Understanding the true state of sleep among pain sufferers – and what can be done to address it – may help everyone get a few more Zzzs.

The Issue

According to a study in The Journal of Pain, sleep complaints are present in 67%-88% of chronic pain disorders.[1] And among those with insomnia, more than 50% suffer from chronic pain.

The National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 poll determined that pain is associated with lower sleep quality more sleep problems and greater “sleep debt,” or the difference between how much sleep people think they need to function properly and how much sleep they are actually getting from night to night.[2] On average, those with chronic pain sleep only 6.7 hours, and the more severe the pain, the lower that number becomes. In addition, the sleep debt is 42 minutes a night for chronic pain sufferers and a full hour for those with severe pain.

The quality of sleep we get is also an issue for pain sufferers. Only 37% report good or very good sleep – meaning 63% are facing issues with their sleep quality.[2] This may be because, as the National Sleep Foundation found, environmental factors – like noise, light, temperature and even the mattress – affect those in pain to a higher degree than those not in pain.

It’s also the case that people in pain feel less in control of their sleep and tend to worry more about the effect that poor sleep will have on their health. This kind of stress, in turn, can actually lead to poorer sleep quality and greater sleep debt.[2]

Medications and Sleep

The question may arise: How do pain medications play into the interaction between pain and sleep? In theory, reduced pain levels would mean better sleep – but, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Among those experiencing chronic pain, only 32% of people who took pain medication during the past 7 days described their sleep as good or very good. In contrast, 47% of those with chronic pain who never took pain medication reported good or very good sleep quality.[2]

A similar outcome occurred for those taking sleep medications. Of all the respondents taking sleeping pills, only 33% of them described their sleep as good or very good and 66% of them reported sleep difficulties. On the other hand, 58% of those who never took sleep medications had good or very good sleep, with 42% of them experiencing no sleep difficulties whatsoever.[2]

Effects on Life

It’s no secret that lack of sleep can severely affect your life. But it seems this is even truer for those experiencing chronic pain. For instance, 52% of chronic pain sufferers have had their lack of sleep affect their work. In contrast, only 23% of those without pain have experienced the same. In all the categories measured by the National Sleep Foundation – mood, daily activities, enjoyment of life, relationships and work – those in chronic pain experienced significantly more difficulty.  And the problems were even worse for those with severe pain: 63% experienced problems completing daily activities, 59% had trouble at work and 54% had trouble simply enjoying their lives.[2]

The Sleep and Pain Cycle

Sleep and pain form a dangerous circle. According to a study in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, “Experimental studies … suggest that the relationship between sleep disturbance and pain might be reciprocal, such that pain disturbs sleep continuity/quality and poor sleep further exacerbates pain.”[3] In other words, pain leads to lack of sleep, which causes stress, fatigue and even more pain, which leads back to less sleep.

This can actually be seen on a daily basis. A study in the journal Pain discovered that those sleeping less than six hours a night had greater pain levels the next day.[4] This extremely close relationship between the two, the study concluded, illuminates “the importance of considering sleep when assessing and treating pain.”

Treating the Problem

From less sleep in general to more sleep disruptions, pain clearly has a widespread impact on our sleep and on our lives. Addressing both aspects are important when it comes to regaining quality of life.

The National Sleep Foundation found that those who made sleep a priority in their lives achieved 36 more minutes of sleep per night compared to those who weren’t motivated to get enough sleep. They also experienced better sleep quality and fewer sleep difficulties. Plus, those whose bedtime routine included going to bed at a suitable time each night got an average 18 minutes more sleep per night, with 60% of them reporting good or very good sleep quality.[2]

But addressing stress and pain are equally important aspects. That’s where a multidisciplinary approach comes in. The interventional treatment options available from physicians can decrease your daily pain levels, while a behavioral health provider can provide you with ways to cope with pain, stress and their effects on your life. Thus, an interdisciplinary treatment plan can provide both the pain relief and stress relief needed to reclaim your sleep and your life.

Get moving. Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) or click to schedule a consultation now.

[1] Finan, Patrick H., Burel R. Goodin, and Michael T. Smith. "The Association of Sleep and Pain: An Update and a Path Forward." The Journal of Pain 14, no. 12 (December 2013): 1539-552.

[2] National Sleep Foundation. “2015 Sleep in America Poll: Sleep and Pain.” Washington, D.C.; The Foundation; 2015 Mar.

[3] Smith, Michael T., and Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite. "How Do Sleep Disturbance and Chronic Pain Inter-relate? Insights from the Longitudinal and Cognitive-behavioral Clinical Trials Literature." Sleep Medicine Reviews 8, no. 2 (April 2004): 119-32.

[4] Edwards, Robert R., David M. Almeida, Brendan Klick, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite, and Michael T. Smith. "Duration of Sleep Contributes to Next-day Pain Report in the General Population." Pain 137, no. 1 (July 2008): 202-07.

The U.S. workforce participation rate (those employed or unemployed and seeking work) is declining – which could mean major economic and social issues for the country in the coming years – and pain has been cited as a major contributing factor. That’s according to as new paper by Princeton University labor economist Alan Krueger, which was released this week in advance of its presentation at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston conference this weekend. This paper, titled “Where Have All the Workers Gone?,”[1] paints a distressing picture of the future of the American workforce – one in which pain plays a prominent part.

The Workforce Problem

As is well-known to both economists and the general population alike, in the near future the country is going to see a major shift in the workforce population (those who are employed or unemployed and looking for a job), mainly due to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. This shift is in addition to a larger number of young adults delaying their entry into the workforce (due to more entering higher education), a declining number of women entering the workforce (many  still choosing to stay at home) and, most importantly, an increasing number of “prime age” men (ages 25-64) who aren’t in the workforce at all (unemployed and not seeking employment).

All of these changes have led to a significant decline in workforce participation, one that’s been worsening since 2007. And it’s a trend that, according to Krueger, isn’t going to abate without major societal changes. So the question remains: Why aren’t many of these prime age men, who were once considered the main breadwinners of the family, able to participate in the workforce?

The Prime Age Problem

The U.S. is not alone in seeing a decline of this valuable group of workers. In fact, “the participation rate of prime age men has trended down in the U.S. and other economically advanced countries for many decades.” But, compared to other advanced countries, the U.S. has seen one of the worst declines – surpassed only by Italy. The main reason, Krueger concludes, is health-related problems – especially pain.

Of those prime age men who are out of the labor force, 43% report their health as fair or poor, with 34% of them reporting at least one disability (like difficulty walking or climbing stairs). “As a group,” the paper states, “workers who are out of the labor force report feeling pain during about half of their time.” These men experience both a greater prevalence and greater intensity of pain in their day-to-day lives than employed and unemployed men. Because of that, somewhere between 44%-47% are on pain medication (including OTC), with 2/3 of those men utilizing prescription painkillers.

This pain is a clear factor keeping them from work. In fact, 40% of these prime age men responded “yes” when asked directly if pain prevented them from working a full-time job for which they were qualified.

The Mental Health Problem

This inability to join the workforce takes its toll on prime age men. By looking at various studies, Krueger found that men outside the workforce were less happy, sadder and more stressed than even unemployed men were.

In comparison, women outside the workforce report more happiness and less stress, meaning that – unlike their male counterparts – they’re deriving considerable meaning from their activities. This points to an urge amount the prime age men to return to the workforce; but with high levels of pain, that’s a difficult feat.

The Solution

Krueger concludes that stemming this tide of prime men leaving the workforce should be an issue of national priority. But how can this be done? Krueger takes a stab at answering that, as well. “The finding that nearly half of [these] prime age men take pain medication on a daily basis and that 40% report that pain prevents them from accepting a job suggests that pain interventions could potentially be helpful,” he says.

Intervening to both wean these men off of medications that could be dangerous to their health and future ability to work and reducing their pain levels to the point where they can return to the workforce would go a long way toward reversing this dangerous trend. Many pain management organizations, like Advanced Pain Management, are working toward these ends, utilizing the latest interventional technologies.

This advancement, along with other cultural and national shifts – like increased access to healthcare and equal pay and advancement for women – may help stem the tide of workforce decline, ensuring this country doesn’t face further inequality and division in the coming years.

Download your free opioids and pain in-depth guide

[1] Krueger, Alan. “Where Have All the Workers Gone?” October 04, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016.

Additional information: Coy, Peter. “Why Are so Many Men Not Working? They’re in Pain.” Bloomberg Businessweek. October 7, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-07/why-are-so-many-men-not-working-they-re-in-pain.

Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:57

Pain-Fighting Fall Planting Tips

Grab your shovel, knee pads and trowel and start planting your way to a beautiful landscape.

Most gardeners are used to adding a few (or a few hundred) bulbs to their gardens in fall. But fall is also a great time to add trees, shrubs and perennials to your yard. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. And many of these plants are on sale, extending your planting budget.

Fall Bulb PlantingAvoid pain this fall when planting bulbs.

Plant hardy bulbs now for a welcome burst of color next spring. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are a few favorites. But don’t overlook lesser-used bulbs like squills, winter aconites and snowdrops. These early bloomers are some of the first to greet you in spring, and the animals tend to leave them be.

Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height. Next, cover them with soil and sprinkle a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer over the soil to promote rooting without stimulating the kind of fall growth that is subject to winter kill. Water them thoroughly and as needed until the ground freezes.

Minimize Pain during Planting

It’s easy to take care of your knees and back when planting spring bulbs. Use a kneepad or kneeler to protect your knees and hold your back as straight as possible when reaching down to plant. If you experience back pain stemming from lumbar instability, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or just general muscle weakness, a back brace can help you maintain the proper posture – and help you avoid more pain in the future. Similarly, a wrist brace can help combat carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and arthritis to help you plant more easily.

Use a trowel with a cushioned grip or a long-handled bulb planter that allows you to dig the planting holes with minimal bending and kneeling. If you must bend over, remember that bending the knees and hips while tightening your abs is much safer than bending at the back. But always try to avoid bending for long periods of time.

Safely Plant Perennials, Trees and Shrubs

Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.

Protect your body and avoid damaging your newly purchased trees and shrubs with proper transport, planting and care. Ask for help unloading, moving and planting bulky and heavy plants. You’ll find an extra set of hands makes these heavy jobs go faster with less stress on your body. Together, squat to grab the object and hold it close to your bodies as you lift. As you move, avoid twisting your body and take small steps. Squat again to set it down, keeping your back straight and your core tight.

You can also utilize tools and equipment to help lighten the load. For instance, a wheelbarrow or even just an old snow saucer with a towing rope can help you easily move plants from your vehicle to the planting hole.

Fall Planting Tips

Plant trees so the root flare (the place where the roots curve away from the trunk) is even with the soil surface. Dig a hole the same depth as the rootball and about two to five times as wide. When digging the hole, use a long-handled shovel to move manageable amounts of soil, and be sure to lift with your legs and avoid twisting your body. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill it with the existing soil. Water the tree thoroughly and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface, keeping it away from the tree trunk.

Follow a similar planting procedure for perennials and shrubs. Plant these so the crown (the place where stems meet the roots) is even with the soil surface. And be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems.

Adding a few new additions to the landscape now will give you more time for spring gardening tasks, including a few early season plantings in your flower and vegetable gardens. And doing it safely will reduce your risk pain in the future.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:53

Pain vs. the U.S. Workforce

Chronic pain, at its core, is a conflict, pitting what you want to do against what your body will allow you to do. This internal struggle seeps into every part of life, but nowhere is it more pervasive than when it comes to work. Pain’s impact on the workplace is costly, both in terms of lost productivity and the psychological changes that accompany it. Only with a multifaceted approach can individuals start to reclaim what they’ve lost and begin to accept the changes that life has brought.

Workplace Costs

In 2010 dollars, the lost productivity stemming from pain conditions in the U.S. cost the country an estimated $297 billion to $336 billion ($11.6 billion to $12.7 billion for missed work days, $95.2 billion to $96.5 billion for lost work hours and $190.6 billion to $226.3 billion for lower wages).[1] Surprisingly, while work absences account for a portion of that lost productivity, the majority of it is due to reduced performance while at work.

According to a large-scale study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 13% of the U.S. workforce experienced a loss in productive time over a 2-week period due to a common pain condition.[2] Those with back pain and arthritis, for instance, lost 5.2 hours of productive time each week. Across all common pain conditions, the average lost productivity amounted to roughly 4.6 hours per week.

In addition, a large portion of those in pain aren’t able to work at all. According to a nationwide survey of American adults, about 20% of chronic pain sufferers have had to take a disability leave from work due to their pain levels.[3]

Personal Costs

Often, an individual’s degree of productivity on any given day, the amount they are able to accomplish, feeds into their feelings of self-worth.[4] Those in pain who are unable to work not only miss out on the income and healthcare benefits of employment, but also the sense of meaning, purposefulness and belongingness that one can gain from a job. Even for those still able to work but experiencing lost productivity, their sense of self can suffer.

The thwarted belongingness that comes from no longer having that community of coworkers and the perceived burdensomeness of relegating more and more tasks to coworkers can bode ill for your mental health. A recent study regarding the interpersonal theory of suicide found that both factors are independent predictors of suicidal ideation.[5]  The study concluded that thoughts of suicide “may be most likely to arise among people with longstanding pain who are depressed, but especially if they feel alienated from valued social groups and believe that they have become a burden to others.”

Multimodal Treatment Approach

There is no single treatment that can make working comfortable – or even feasible – for everyone, but by incorporating various treatments and strategies, it may be possible to achieve the relief needed to return to work or increase productivity or even find meaning and peace outside of the workplace if full employment isn’t possible.

In a study conducted on people who stay at work despite chronic pain, one key factor came to light: “Participants … were willing to change in order to reach their goal: staying at work.”[6] This change manifested in various ways, from taking a rest when needed and learning to ask co-workers for help to moving closer to work, retraining for a more suitable position, finding a new job with less strain and even seeking help.

Help in the form of pain management interventions is crucial. The longer an individual waits before seeking treatment, the more detrimental pain’s effects become. Pairing interventions with a behavioral health component is also an important step, allowing patients to address the perceived burdensomeness and isolation, while also helping them come to terms with the changes that chronic pain has brought to their lives.

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[1] Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2011.

[2] Stewart, Walter F., Judith A. Ricci, Elsbeth Chee, David Morganstein, and Richard Lipton. "Lost Productive Time and Cost Due to Common Pain Conditions in the US Workforce." The Journal of the American Medical Association 290, no. 18 (November 12, 2003): 2443-454.

[3] Peter D. Hart Research Associates. “Americans Talk About Pain.” (August 2003). Accessed March 28, 2016. http://www.researchamerica.org/sites/default/files/uploads/poll2003pain.pdf

[4] Penney Cowan. “Pain in the Workplace.” American Chronic Pain Association Chronicle (March 2011):1-9. Accessed March 28, 2016. https://theacpa.org/uploads/chronicle_march2011_ONLINE_030211.pdf

[5] Wilson, Keith, John Kowal, Peter Henderson, Lachlan Mcwilliams, and Katherine Peloquin. "Chronic Pain and the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide." The Journal of Pain 14, no. 4 (February 2013): 111-15.

[6] Vries, Haitze J De, Sandra Brouwer, Johan W. Groothoff, Jan Hb Geertzen, and Michiel F. Reneman. "Staying at Work with Chronic Nonspecific Musculoskeletal Pain: A Qualitative Study of Workers' Experiences." BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 12, no. 1 (June 2011): 126.

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