Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Synthetic Opiods Flooding Post Office

bottle of pills

 

Synthetic Opioids Flooding Into US Via Postal Service

 

According to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.1 Preliminary data for 2016 reveals the death toll from drug overdoses may be as high as 65,000,2 a 19 percent increase since the year before, and the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in U.S. history. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests over 202,600 Americans died from opioids between 2002 and 2015.3

 

Opioid abuse has also been identified as a significant factor in rising unemployment among men. A 2016 paper4 found nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis. Two-thirds of them, about 2 million, are on prescription opioids. A follow-up study5 looking at the opioid epidemic’s impact on the American labor force suggests chronic opioid use accounted for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.

 

Synthetic Opioid Use Is on the Rise

The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include6 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®). Tragically, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are also being abused by a rising number of people. Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014, and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015. Over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and/or other synthetic opioids.7

 

With a potency nearly 1,000 percent greater than morphine, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are very easy to distribute via mail. A single standard envelope can hold enough fentanyl to get 50,000 people high. Last summer, The New York Times8 reported the deaths of two 13-year-old boys who died after taking the synthetic opioid U-47700, also known as “pinky.” They got the drug from a friend who bought it on the dark web using bitcoin.

 

Fentanyl Flooding Into US Via Regular Mail

As recently reported by STAT News9 and ABC News,10 Chinese drug sellers are exploiting the federal government’s inability to track and identify shipments of illicit drugs sent via international mail.

 

They’re simply shipping fentanyl to the U.S. via the U.S. Postal Service, as this is a “virtually guaranteed route to not get caught” — this despite a 375 percent increase in international mail seizures between 2016 and 2017. (Interception and seizure of domestic packages containing opioids increased by 880 percent.) As explained by STAT News:11

 

“Part of the reason for this confidence has to do with differences in how well Customs and Border Protection [CBP] can track packages from the various carriers … Much of CBP’s tracking is done using advanced electronic data — basic shipping information required on FedEx and other delivery services packages, but not required for USPS shipments. Only about 36 percent of USPS shipments have the advanced data, a fact which complicates CBP’s tracking efforts.

 

CBP flags potentially problematic shipments to the carriers, which find and turn over the packages for inspection. CBP can also ask USPS to monitor all packages from a specific country, but has struggled to address the large volume of shipments from China. Some sellers also routed their packages through other countries to avoid that detection.”

 

Federal Report Calls for Improvements to Identify and Track Illicit Drug Shipments

The potency of fentanyl makes exposure to even minuscule amounts an extreme hazard. As reported by CBS News in May 2017,12 a police officer nearly died after being exposed to fentanyl dust during a routine traffic stop. Fortunately, he survived, but needed no less than four doses of naloxone. Drug-sniffing dogs are also at risk, as inhaling just a few flakes of the drug can be lethal. It stands to reason the drug may also pose a risk to mail and customs workers, should the package rupture during transit or handling.

 

Disturbingly, a report by the Senate subcommittee on investigations suggests hundreds of millions of dollars of fentanyl are entering the U.S. via the Postal Service, as the federal government is simply not equipped to track or prevent it. A majority of these drugs are coming from China. Of six online sellers offering fentanyl, five are located in China while the location of the sixth is as yet unknown.

 

According to the report, more than 300 individuals based in the U.S. have received shipments from these vendors, and more than 500 Western Union transactions totaling $230,000 have been identified. While buyers were found in 43 states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania received the greatest number of shipments.

 

The street value of these orders is estimated to be around $766 million. The investigation also concluded that at least seven individuals have died from overdosing after receiving a shipment of fentanyl from these vendors.

 

The bipartisan report is now calling for a number of improvements within the federal government, including advanced electronic data for all international mail. It also urges CBP to increase inspections of packages to identify shipments of illicit drugs, and to automate processing of packages from targeted locations.

 

Doctors Receive Kickbacks for Prescribing Opioids, Including Fentanyl

Another factor that contributes to rising opioid addiction is kickbacks to doctors for prescribing them. According to a study13 published in August 2017, between August 2013 and December 2015, more than 375,000 non-research opioid-related payments were made to more than 68,000 physicians, totaling more than $46 million. This means 1 in 12 U.S. physicians is collecting kickbacks from drug companies producing prescription opioids.

 

The top 1 percent of physicians received nearly 83 percent of the payments, and fentanyl prescriptions was associated with the highest payments. Many of the states struggling with the highest rates of overdose deaths, such as Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, were also those showing the most opioid-related payments to physicians. In other words, there’s a direct link between doctors’ kickbacks and patient addiction rates and deaths.

 

While back pain has been cited as one of the most common reasons for opioid use, a significant number of people get their first opioid prescription from their dentist.14 This is particularly true for teenagers and young adults.15 Half of all opioids are also prescribed to people with mental health problems such as anxiety.16

 

What these statistics are telling us is that doctors really need to take greater responsibility for their prescribing habits, and be far more prudent when it comes to handing out prescriptions for opioids. In many cases, an over-the-counter pain reliever may be just as effective, and far safer.

 

Opioids, Not Cannabis, Are a Priority, Federal Prosecutor Says

While many U.S. states have legalized marijuana either for medicinal and/or recreational use, on January 4, the White House administration rescinded the federal government’s policy to limit enforcement against marijuana sale in states where it is legal under state law.

 

This creates a convoluted and complex situation for vendors, as they may still face federal prosecution. U.S. federal prosecutor for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, recently clarified his stance on marijuana prosecutions in the state, saying “The No. 1 enforcement priority for my office is the opioid crisis … 2,100 people in Massachusetts were killed by opioid overdoses last year, not marijuana overdoses.” As noted by Reuters:17

 

“The new policy gave U.S. attorney’s offices discretion in how they enforced the law. Lelling, a Trump nominee who took office in December, said on Jan. 8 he would not promise to refrain from prosecuting state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.

 

Those remarks worried advocates for Massachusetts’ nascent marijuana industry. Lelling said on Wednesday people ‘have lost sight a little bit of the prior statements of the office.’ He said the 14 prosecutors he oversees devoted to drug cases were focused on fentanyl and heroin traffickers. ‘That is where my resources are going right now,’ Lelling said. He also said he was open to pursuing cases over corporations’ roles in the opioid epidemic.”

 

Indeed, it is virtually impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana, and the idea that legal vendors of medical marijuana (meaning those operating in states where the sale of marijuana has been legalized) can still be prosecuted under federal law seems like an incredible overreach of power. Medical marijuana, if anything, may actually be part of the answer to the opioid crisis, as it can effectively treat many different kinds of pain, but without the lethal side effects associated with opioids.

 

Feds Cracking Down on Supplements Claiming to Treat Opioid Addiction

Federal regulators are also cracking down on “illegal and unapproved” products claiming to treat or cure opioid addiction and withdrawal, The Washington Post reports.18 So far, about a dozen products, mostly dietary supplements, along with two homeopathic remedies, have been targeted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

 

Eleven companies19 have received warning letters stating that claiming to ease or cure a disease (in this case drug addiction) makes the product subject to FDA authority, and failing to obtain FDA approval means they’re marketing an unapproved drug.

 

While FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called for increased availability and use of medication designed to treat drug addiction,20 he warns that “phony remedies could divert people from getting the right treatment.” In a statement, the FTC echoed Gottlieb’s sentiments, saying “Health fraud scams like these can pose serious health risks. These products have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective and may keep some patients from seeking appropriate, FDA-approved therapies.”

 

Opioids Have Never Been Proven Safe or Effective Beyond Six Weeks of Treatment

It’s rather ironic, but not unexpected, that the opioid crisis has led to the proliferation of costly drugs to treat opioid addiction. NPR recently reported how Alkermes, a company that makes the anti-addiction medication Vivitrol — a monthly injection that costs about $1,000 per shot — is trying to weasel its drug into state laws, making it the sole treatment recommended for opioid addiction.21

 

What really needs to happen is for the drug industry to be held responsible for creating this situation in the first place, rather than allowing it to profit handsomely a second time. As discussed in several previous articles, the opioid addiction epidemic was no fluke.

 

Evidence suggests opioid makers such as Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, knew exactly what they were doing when they claimed opioids — which are chemically very similar to heroin — have an exceptionally low addiction rate when taken by people with pain. In fact, the massive increase in opioid sales has been traced back to an orchestrated marketing plan aimed at misinforming doctors about the drug’s addictive potential.

 

The drugs’ general effectiveness against pain has also been vastly exaggerated. In April 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a paper in which it noted that:22

 

“Most placebo-controlled, randomized trials of opioids have lasted six weeks or less, and we are aware of no study that has compared opioid therapy with other treatments in terms of long-term (more than 1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life.

 

The few randomized trials to evaluate opioid efficacy for longer than six weeks had consistently poor results. In fact, several studies have showed that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception …”

 

Addicted? Seek Help!

Some marketing materials for opioids still claim the drug will not cause addiction “except in very rare cases,” describing the adverse effects patients experience when quitting the drug as a “benign state” and not a sign of addiction. This simply isn’t true. Panic is one psychological side effect commonly experienced when quitting these drugs, and this can easily fuel a psychological as well as physical dependence on the drug.

 

It’s important to recognize the signs of addiction, and to seek help. If you’ve been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking higher dosages, or taking the drug more often, you’re likely already addicted and are advised to seek help from someone other than your prescribing doctor. Resources where you can find help include:

 

Your workplace Employee Assistance Program

The Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration23 (SAMHSA) can be contacted 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP

Treating Your Pain Without Drugs

With all the health risks associated with opioid painkillers, I strongly urge you to exhaust other options before resorting to these drugs. The good news is there are many natural alternatives to treating pain. Following is information about nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions that can help you safely manage your pain.

 

Medical cannabis

 

Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 28 states. You can learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.24

 

Kratom

 

Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.25 In August 2016, the DEA issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.26

 

Kratom is safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it’s important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should be used with great care. There’s very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next. The other issue to address is that there are a number of different strains available with different effects.

 

Also, while it may be useful for weaning people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it’s still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.

 

Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

 

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.

 

Curcumin

 

A primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is hard to absorb, so best results are achieved with preparations designed to improve absorption. It is very safe and you can take two to three every hour if you need to.

 

Astaxanthin

 

One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required for pain relief, and you may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve results.

 

Boswellia

 

Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as it worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients.

 

Bromelain

 

This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider eating some of the pulpy core when you consume the fruit.

 

Cayenne cream

 

Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.

 

Cetyl myristoleate (CMO)

 

This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation of CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils

 

These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain.

 

Ginger

 

This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea, or incorporated into fresh vegetable juice.

 

Dietary Changes to Fight Inflammation and Manage Your Pain

Unfortunately, physicians often fall short when attempting to effectively treat chronic pain, resorting to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs. While these drugs may bring some temporary relief, they will do nothing to resolve the underlying causes of your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, making the following changes to your diet may bring you some relief.

 

Consume more animal-based omega-3 fats. Similar to the effects of anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs, omega-3 fats from fish and fish oils work to directly or indirectly modulate a number of cellular activities associated with inflammation. While drugs have a powerful ability to inhibit your body’s pain signals, omega-3s cause a gentle shift in cell signaling to bring about a lessened reactivity to pain.

 

Eating healthy seafood like anchovies or sardines, which are low in environmental toxins, or taking a high-quality supplement such as krill oil are your best options for obtaining omega-3s. DHA and EPA, the omega-3 oils contained in krill oil, have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.

 

Radically reduce your intake of processed foods. Processed foods not only contain chemical additives and excessive amounts of sugar, but also are loaded with damaging omega-6 fats. By eating these foods, especially fried foods, you upset your body’s ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty-acids, which triggers inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in most pain.

 

Eliminate or radically reduce your consumption of grains and sugars. Avoiding grains and sugars, especially fructose, will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production, which contributes to pain.

 

While healthy individuals are advised to keep their daily fructose consumption below 25 grams from all sources, you’ll want to limit your intake to 15 grams per day until your pain is reduced. Eating sugar increases your uric acid levels, which leads to chronic, low-level inflammation.

 

Optimize your production of vitamin D. As much as possible, regulate your vitamin D levels by regularly exposing large amounts of your skin to sunshine. If you cannot get sufficient sun exposure, taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement, along with vitamin K2 and magnesium, is highly advisable. Get your blood level tested to be sure you’re within the therapeutic range of 60 to 80 ng/mL year-round.

 

Bodywork Methods That Reduce Pain

The following bodywork methods have also demonstrated effectiveness for pain relief and pain management.

 

  • Acupuncture: According to The New York Times,27 an estimated 3 million American adults receive acupuncture annually, most often for the treatment of chronic pain. A study28 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain — more so than standard pain treatment.

 

  • Chiropractic adjustments: While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems — including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash. According to a study29 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.

 

  • Massage therapy: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. A systematic review and meta-analysis30 published in the journal Pain Medicine, included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including bone and muscle, fibromyalgia, headache and spinal-cord pain.

 

The study revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.

 

  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): EFT continues to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with acute and chronic pain. The technique is simple and can be applied in mere minutes. A study31 published in Energy Psychology examined the levels of pain in a group of 50 people attending a three-day EFT workshop, and found their pain dropped by 43 percent during the workshop.

 

Six weeks later, their pain levels were reported to be 42 percent lower than before the workshop. As a result of applying EFT, participants felt they had an improved sense of control and ability to cope with their chronic pain. In the video below, EFT expert Julie Schiffman, teaches you how to use EFT to address chronic pain.

 

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Spine Surgeon Reveals Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain

backpain

Spine Surgeon Reveals Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain

 

As many as 8 out of 10 Americans struggle with back pain, and many resort to surgery as a solution. Unfortunately, this often does not resolve the problem, and in some cases simply worsens the situation.

 

Dr. David Hanscom, an orthopedic surgeon with a practice in Seattle, is unusual in that he tells most of his patients they don’t need surgery. He’s written a book detailing his novel approach to chronic pain treatment, called “Back in Control: A spine surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain.”

 

Spinal Fusions Rarely Cure Chronic Back Pain

 

Spinal fusions are a lucrative business and great source of revenue for the hospital and surgeon. Unfortunately, they rarely work for the patients. Spinal fusions arose from the assumption that disc degeneration was a source of back pain.

 

Therefore, it was thought that by fusing the disc together with the bone, which eliminates motion, you would get rid of the pain. However, that has since been proven false.

 

“Disc degeneration actually does not cause back pain. That’s been well-documented,” Dr. Hanscom says.

 

“The success rate of the spinal fusion for back pain was about 24 percent, but we still kept doing it. Then, in 1994, when this paper came out Washington showing that the return-to-work rate one year after a spinal fusion for back pain was 15 percent, I just stopped.

 

Every paper since then has showed pretty much the same dismal results; there’s maybe a 20 to 25 percent success rate of spinal fusion for back pain…

 

And the downside of a failed spine surgery is terrible. It’s really bad. These people are condemned to live their entire lifetime, 30 to 40 more years, in chronic pain.”

 

Despite such findings, spinal fusions are still popular. Each year, some 600,000 spinal fusions are performed in the U.S. with a high percentage of them being performed for non-specific low-back pain, at a cost of more than $600 billion.

 

Neurophysiological Disorder (NPD)

 

By 1988, Dr. Hanscom was suffering from burnout, which included 16 NPD symptoms. He did not know the nature of the problem and would be in this state for another 15 years.

 

Chronic pain was one of his symptoms. He inadvertently solved his chronic pain in 2003 and it took another few years before he understood that he had full-blown Neurophysiologic Disorder (NPD). He began sharing his experience with his patients in 2006.

 

NPD is rooted in chronic stress and anxiety. Your body becomes full of adrenaline, and every organ system starts responding and acting up. According to Dr. Hanscom, there are over 30 symptoms created by an adrenalized nervous system.

 

“Some of my 16 symptoms included migraine headaches, ringing in my ears, burning on my feet, itching on my scalp, migratory skin rashes, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

It was brutal. What I didn’t realize… is that anxiety is actually one of the classic manifestations of neurophysiological disorder. I developed extreme anxiety. I did not become a major spine surgeon by having anxiety; I became a major spine surgeon by suppressing anxiety.

 

As you know, when we try not to think about something, we think more, right? Interestingly, the burnout rate in medicine is about 50 to 55 percent and has a lot to do with suppressed anxiety.

 

Whenever I give lectures on burnout and I use the ‘anxiety’ word, the whole room just goes absolutely quiet. If I hadn’t gone through it myself, I would not really be able to talk about it….

 

We also found out that anxiety or mental pain and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain. They’re essentially the same thing.”

 

Over the following decade and a half, Dr. Hanscom struggled to recuperate, and through a combination of pure luck and trial and error, he eventually developed a system for treating chronic pain by addressing not just the physical, but also the emotional/mental component of anger and anxiety.

 

While there’s nothing particularly new about this process, it involves going through a sequence of strategies that allow you to calm down and de-adrenalize your nervous system. Hundreds of patients have now tried this system, and lead pain-free lives.

 

This system includes:

 

Addressing your sleep

Expressive writing

Relaxation techniques

Nutrition and mild medications

Physical therapy and rehabilitation, including structure strengthening exercises

The Therapeutic Value of Expressive Writing

 

One of the strategies that had a profound impact on Dr. Hanscom’s own recovery was expressive writing — the act of writing down your negative thoughts and emotions. Interestingly, there are over 200 research papers published since 1982 documenting the effectiveness of expressive writing.

 

“The research began with expressive writing around prior traumas and many different formats have been studied. The most straightforward method is ‘negative writing.’

 

This is where you’re simply writing down your current negative thoughts – the darker, the better – and you’re destroying them instantly. You’re not writing positive thoughts; you’re writing down your negative thoughts.

 

You are not destroying them to get rid of the thoughts. They are permanently etched into your brain. You are allowing yourself to write with complete freedom, so the exercise separates you from your thoughts. Again, when you try not to think about something, you think about it more. None of us like unpleasant thoughts, so we keep tossing them aside. Dr. Daniel Wegner out of Harvard pointed out that by simply writing down the thoughts you’re trying to suppress, it breaks the cycle,” he explains.

 

Expressive writing exercises are now a foundational component of Dr. Hanscom’s program. By breaking up the psychological pathways of anxiety and frustration, it allows you to reprogram your brain. Back pain is a classic type of chronic pain that responds well to expressive writing. An interesting study showing the emotional aspect of back pain was published last year.

 

Using MRI brain imaging, they showed that while people feeling acute back pain had an activated pain center, as you would expect, people who have been in chronic pain for more than 10 years experience pain in the emotional center of their brain only. The pain center was completely dormant.

 

Patients in the acute pain group were then rescanned every three months, and they found that within 12 months, if the pain still persisted, it migrated from the pain center to the emotional center. So, chronic pain is experienced in a completely different part of your brain compared to acute pain.

 

An Extreme Success Story

 

Dr. Hanscom recounts one rather extreme example of how effective this technique can really be. A gentleman broke his back in a horse riding accident. He subsequently needed surgery on most of his thoracic spine, which led to severe chronic pain. By the time he came to see Dr. Hanscom, he’d been in pain for eight years. Two other surgeons had told him he needed a fusion from his neck all the way down to his pelvis for pain. He came to Dr. Hanscom for a third opinion.

 

“He had disc degeneration, but he had a straight spine. He had no indications for a major spinal fusion surgery. I said, ‘Look, I don’t think you need a surgery no matter what. There’s just nothing there to operate on. By the way, here are your writing exercises. Take a look at the book, see what you think, and call me in a couple of weeks.’ He’s a Ph.D. scientist and he thought I was just absolutely out of my mind. ”

 

The man’s girlfriend convinced him to try the writing exercises despite his skepticism, and by the third writing exercise — about three days later — he was 80 percent pain-free. After participating in one of Dr. Hanscom’s workshops at the Omega Institute, he became completely pain-free, and he’s now been pain-free for a year.

 

“He’s doing normal things now after eight years of chronic pain, he’s even back riding his horse in the hills at a full gallop. If he’d had those operations, he’d have a spine as stiff as a board, the chance of getting rid of his pain is almost zero, and it would’ve been disaster.”

 

Three Components to Treating Chronic Back Pain

 

According to Dr. Hanscom, disc degeneration is never a reason for surgery. In his view, surgery simply isn’t the right solution for back pain or neck pain. Sciatica and leg pain may be relieved through surgery, however. When it comes to treating back pain, he believes there are three components to getting better:

 

Learning about the mechanics of chronic pain and understanding that it’s a neurological disorder

Treating all the variables simultaneously. This includes sleep, stress, medication, nutrition, mental outlook on life, and physical conditioning. “There’s never one answer for chronic pain. People say, ‘I tried a chiropractor, it didn’t work.’ Well, that could help 10 percent, but if you’re not sleeping, it’s not going to work. You have to combine modalities to get better,” he says. “Sleep is No. 1. The entire project is null and void unless you’re sleeping”

Taking control of your own care. For example, for some people chiropractic or acupuncture may be very helpful, whereas it may not work for others. You need to take an active role in determining what’s best for you, and pursue treatments that work in your case

When seeing a new patient, for the first month or two, Dr. Hanscom works with simple medications to address sleep problems and pain. Then he will immediately ask you to start the expressive writing exercises, which teach you awareness and detachment, allowing you to reprogram your brain. Active meditation is also used.

 

“I simply have them put their brain on sensory input, maybe 20 to 30 times during the day. If you’re anxious and frustrated, you simply listen to your sensory input. Instead of fighting the pathways, you place your attention elsewhere.

 

The second phase of the treatment is all about learning more about chronic pain, and addressing the physical part of your pain. He also stresses the need to work on forgiveness. Since pain pathways and anger pathways are linked, whenever your anger pathways are fired up, your pain pathways are going to be fired up, and vice versa.

 

Dr. Hanscom recommends the book, Forgive for Good by Fred Luskin, the director of the Forgiveness Projects at Stanford University, and who did four major research projects on forgiveness.

 

A retired physician and professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, Dr. John Sarno, was a forerunner in the field of using forgiveness to address chronic pain, and many of Sarno’s concepts have formed the foundation of what Dr. Hanscom now teaches.

 

It’s also important to realize that working on your anger and anxiety issues may be a long-term process. An old issue may be triggered at any time, and unless you immediately address it, your pain may come back right along with your anger and anxiety. As noted by Dr. Hanscom:

 

“It can be base level stress or quirky stress. But you will get triggered. It took me a long time to accept that fact. I teach this stuff. But when I get triggered, I get angry about being triggered.”

 

Surgery Is Best Reserved as a LAST Resort

 

In many if not most cases, pain can be resolved using very simple strategies. The key is to find what works for you, and more often than not, there’s an emotional component that needs to be addressed. Dr. Hanscom, like me, strongly recommends leaving surgery as a very last resort.

 

I also struggled with back pain for about five or six years, despite getting regular exercise and trying a large number of different treatments. Still, I persisted and continued to try different strategies. The approach that finally resolved my back pain was simply to avoid sitting! I now sit about one hour per day, and I have no back pain.

 

“I can’t tell you how bad the suffering is for people with failed back surgery,” Dr. Hanscom says. “I see people like you all the time, where some simple intervention solved the problem. And then I’m watching another person come in with five back surgeries in five years. They started out just like you. It’s hard to watch.

 

I’m incredibly determined to bring this right to the mainstream public. I don’t think mainstream medicine is going to buy into it, but I’m incredibly determined to get this out into the general public knowledge because, right now, the business in medicine is doing procedures that don’t work because they make a profit, period… [But] I’m working very hard about creating my own gravity around the situation, and we’re making some definite progress here at the hospital. My partners and I are looking at [pain] differently.”

 

More Information

 

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Hanscom’s book, Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. Please do keep in mind that while it may initially seem like there’s nothing new here — perhaps you’re already familiar with medication and physical therapy for example, and therefore think it simply will not work for you — it’s the process that makes it work.

 

And most importantly, your willingness to truly and fully engage in the process will determine much of your outcome. Dr. Hanscom views his book as a framework that presents known solutions to the various aspects of pain. Once you understand your situation in light of this structure you will find your own solution.

 

“It’s a very paradoxical process. You actually can’t fix yourself. [But] you are putting tools into place to allow your brain to heal,” he says… “For instance, a lot of people have read the book and started their writing. Nothing really happens until those writing exercises start. Usually by the second or third … phone call they’re sort of doing the tools but they’re heading for the wrong direction.”

 

This happens because sometimes these people are writing all day, long, Dr. Hanscom explains, and that’s actually counterproductive because you’re trying to capture your thoughts and “fix” them — which is another form of trying to regain control.

 

“This is a process about letting go of control, not having more control,’ he says. It’s completely opposite of what we’ve been taught about stress. That’s why I think finding a coach of some sort who can guide you through the process is critical.I do think a psychologist can be very helpful for guidance and wisdom… There’s just not an exact answer for different people. It’s more like a menu of options. But the key is staying persistent with the process.”

 

I would also encourage you to sit less, as sitting may actually be aggravating your back or neck pain. Cut it down to about three hours a day or less if you can. Also, while it’s not a popular idea, consider being grateful that your body is wise enough to tell you that there’s something in your life that needs to be changed, be it emotional in nature, or physical. A book that addresses this is Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, by Dr. Paul Brand. Once you pinpoint the real problem, your pain can finally be released.

 

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Lifestyle

Meditation is as effective as antidepressant drugs

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Meditation is just as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating anxiety or depression, but without the side effects, according to a study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The study was funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The researchers analyzed the results of 47 prior randomized, controlled trials conducted on a total of 3,515 people suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, chronic pain, stress and other health conditions. In all the trials analyzed, mindfulness meditation had been compared to a placebo or to other treatments. Mindfulness meditation consists of the regular practice, often 30 to 40 minutes per day, of a person remaining aware of their surroundings (such as sounds), thoughts and emotions, without forming attachment to their outcomes. This is in contrast with concentration practices, in which a person focuses on a single thought or activity (such as chanting or looking at a candle) to the exclusion of all other thoughts. “Many people have the idea that meditation means just sitting quietly and doing nothing,” researcher Madhav Goyal said. “That is not true. It is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 9 percent of U.S. residents meditated at least once in 2007, while about 1 percent said that they used meditation as a medical treatment.

Effect similar to drugs

The researchers found that people who underwent a roughly eight-week mindfulness training practice experienced a 5 to 10 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to placebo groups, and a 10 to 20 percent reduction in depression symptoms. The research also suggested that meditation led to significant reductions in pain, although these findings were not conclusive. “This is similar to the effects that other studies have found for the use of antidepressants in similar populations,” Goyal said. Little or no effect was found in the other areas of chronic health studied, such as attention, sleep, weight or substance abuse. “Our review suggests that there is moderate evidence for a small but consistent benefit for anxiety, depression and chronic pain,” Goyal said. “There is no known major harm from meditating, and meditation doesn’t come with any known side effects. One can also practice meditation along with other treatments one is already receiving.”

Meditation for its own sake

The findings suggest that mindfulness meditation may be useful as a substitute or complement to drugs for many chronic conditions, Allan Goroll of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital wrote in an accompanying editorial. “The findings of such research should be the subject of conversations that need to begin in every examination room and extend to engage the media, who play a key role in determining patient attitudes toward health care and the demand for services,” Goroll wrote. Goyal also called for health providers to educate patients about the benefits of meditation. “Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that meditation programs could have in addressing psychological stress, particularly when symptoms are mild,” he said. Meditation is not a cure-all, Goyal warned, but it can still provide significant benefits, even above and beyond the treatment of chronic conditions. “We should keep foremost in our mind that meditation was never conceived of as a treatment for any health problem,” Goyal said. “Rather, it is a path one travels on to increase our awareness and gain insight into our lives. The best reason to meditate is to increase insight into one’s life which is probably good for everyone.” Sources for this article include: http://www.bloomberg.com http://science.naturalnews.com Health and Wellness Associates

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Rx to Wellness

Risk of Depression increases with use of prescription pain killers.

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If you take prescription narcotic painkillers known as opioids for 90 days or more, you may significantly raise your risk of developing major depression, according to new research that adds to growing concerns surrounding the use of these common medications.

While those who took the drugs for 90 to 180 days had a 25 percent increased risk of depression, those who took opioids for 180 days or longer were at a 53 percent increased risk of developing depression compared to those who did not.

In other words, the risk seemed to go up the longer the painkillers were used, and also went up as the dosage increased. The researchers concluded:

“…the risk of development of depression increased as the duration of opioid analgesic exposure increased.”

Why Might Prescription Painkillers Lead to Depression?

It’s not entirely clear how the drugs may be involved in depression, although it is widely known that they have a strong impact on your brain. The drugs work by binding to receptors in your brain to decrease the perception of pain.

But they also create a temporary feeling of euphoria followed by dysphoria that can easily lead to physical dependence and addiction. The researchers speculated that there could be numerous factors linking opioid painkillers with depression:

“Some of these include opioid-induced resetting of the brain’s ‘reward pathway’ to a higher level, which means the chronic use of narcotic pain killers can elevate the threshold for a person’s ability to experience pleasure from natural rewards such as a food or sexual activity.

Other factors may include body aches months and years after the use of opioids has stopped, side effects such as adrenal, testosterone and vitamin D deficiencies and glucose dysregulation.”

Use of Prescription Opioid Painkillers Has Quintupled

The study’s lead author shared the startling statistics that “the use of prescription opioid analgesics has quintupled recently and that more than 200 million prescriptions were issued to patients in 2009 in the US.”

Given the magnitude of their use, their link to depression could constitute a “public health problem,” he said.

It wouldn’t be the first time the drugs have been linked to health problems of epidemic proportions. Prescription drug abuse has been called the fastest-growing drug problem in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as the number of deaths from opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone rose nearly four-fold between 1999 and 2009.

Men are still more likely to die from prescription painkiller overdose, but women are quickly catching up. Nearly 50,000 such deaths occurred among women between 1999 and 2010, and the statistics revealed by the CDC give a somber view of this growing problem:

  • More than 6,600 women, or 18 women every day, died from a prescription painkiller overdose in 2010
  • There were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.
  • In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women — about one every three minutes.

The problem, once primarily seen in inner cities, is now even spanning to rural areas, hitting people of all ethnic backgrounds and income levels.

Opioids Are Among the Most Commonly Abused Drugs

Opioids like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl are one of the most commonly abused drug classes. These drugs are not only addictive, they can lead to slowed breathing and death if too much is taken, and the risks are compounded if you add alcohol to the equation.

Hydrocodone, a prescription opiate, is synthetic heroin. It’s indistinguishable from any other heroin as far as your brain and body is concerned. So, if you’re hooked on hydrocodone, you are in fact a good-old-fashioned heroin addict.

Worse, pain-killing drugs like fentanyl are actually 100 times more potent than natural opioids like morphine, making the addictive potential and side effects associated with prescription drug use much higher. At the root of the problem, of course, is the fact that so many Americans are struggling with pain.

Chronic pain affects 100 million Americans – that’s more than the number impacted by diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Yet, many physicians simply do not know how to help their patients manage, or eliminate, chronic pain without the use of these risky drugs.

The ‘Pain Prescription’ That Won’t Increase Your Risk of Depression (or Any Other Chronic Disease!)

If you suffer from chronic pain, prescription medications should be your last resort. Rarely, if ever, should they be your go-to option. If your physician has not spoken with you about some of these natural methods to address pain at its most foundational level, it may be time to seek out one who will. The four steps I recommend doing first, include:

  • Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
  • Reduce your intake of most processed foods as not only do they contain sugar and additives but most are loaded with omega-6 fats that upset your delicate omega-3:omega-6 ratio, which will contribute to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
  • Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars (especially fructose) from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
  • Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.

Try These 5 Natural Options Before Even Considering Painkillers for Chronic Pain

Once you’ve addressed the basics above, try these safe pain-relief techniques to help eliminate your pain without the need for prescription drugs:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but there’s quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. Underlying emotional issues and unresolved trauma can have a massive influence on your health, particularly as it relates to physical pain. According to Dr. John Sarno, a psychiatrist who uses mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain, EFT has a greater than 80 percent success rate.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine6 and funded by the National Institutes of Health, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.
  • Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain, and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline – reversing the damaging effects of stress by slowing heart rate, respiration and metabolism and lowering raised blood pressure. It is a particularly effective therapy for stress-related tension, which experts believe accounts for as much as 80 to 90 percent of disease.
  • Acupuncture: Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.7
  • Relearn proper posture: The Gokhale Method addresses the root cause of physical pain, which is typically caused by improper posture. The method teaches you to reclaim your primal posture, which is the way your body was designed to stand, sit and move. You can also try Foundation Training—an innovative method developed by Dr. Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain. The exercises are designed to help you strengthen your entire core and move the way nature intended.
  • Infrared Lasers therapy like K Laser can be profoundly effective and should be considered as an alternative before any surgical procedure for pain relief.

There Are Alternatives to Prescription Painkillers

If you have chronic pain of any kind, you don’t have to make the hard choice to either suffer from your pain or suffer from the side effects of prescription painkilling drugs. Please understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives that provide excellent pain relief without increasing your risk of depression or any of the other health hazards that pain medications often cause.

  • Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than prescription drugs like NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  • Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
  • Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind that most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.
  • Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards.
  • Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  • Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.

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