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Did you know that listening to music can reduce pain, improve functional mobility, increase sleep quality, and reduce depression in people with Fibromyalgia. Check out this infographic from Skillfully Well & Painfully Aware...

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A recent article in Fibromyalgia Treating says that a blood test that was developed by  Australian researchers called “painHS” can identify color changes in immune cells affected by pain. The blood test for chronic pain instantly informs doctors administering the test to the severity of their patient’s pain.

PainHS was developed by a team of researchers led by neuroscientists Professor Mark Hutchinson will present the findings at a meeting of the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. This is the same team that came up with the “painSEQ” and “painCELL” blood tests. While those tests were accurate, they take a couple of days to produce results. The “painHS” test is instantaneous, which is a huge advantage.

Professor Hutchinson explains that “We’ve now discovered that we can use the natural colour of biology to predict the severity of pain. What we’ve found is that persistent chronic pain has a different natural colour in immune cells than in a situation where there isn’t persistent pain.”

The hope is that the test will lead to new and better treatments for people with chronic pain, and it will also be useful for patients who are unable to report their pain, such as babies or people with dementia who have lost the ability to speak. It can also revolutionize the treatment of animals. “Animals can’t tell us if they’re in pain but here we have a Dr Doolittle type test that enables us to ‘talk’ to the animals so we can find out if they are experiencing pain and then we can help them,” said Dr. Hutchinson.

This amazing new blood test could be a revolution in the treatment and diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and other related chronic pain conditions. For many that have not been taken seriously, this could be a lifeline to the right treatment and medication for their pain. Thank you very much Professor Mark Hutchinson is all I can say.

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Ice vs heat for pain, which works for you? It really is as simple as that. What works for one does not work the same for another. For me personally, its heat all the time, but this simple graphic from Cleveland Clinic on Pinterest explains it all.

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You might struggle to pinpoint the cause of your back pain, but it’s often the result of many different factors in your lifestyle. That’s why you should aim to make changes to your daily routine if you want to alleviate your back problems. In this article, we’re going to talk about positive changes you could make to your lifestyle in order to reduce your back pain. We’re also going to talk about negative habits you could stop. Here are three lifestyle changes that could help to alleviate your back pain.

EXERCISING…

One of the best ways to alleviate back pain is to start exercising more. You might scoff at that idea because the idea of exercise might make you wince in itself. Yes, working out your body can be tiring, but that doesn’t mean it leads to increased pain. Exercising properly can help to keep your muscles working properly and reduce any pain you might be experiencing. It’s all about keeping your body moving. You should try out exercises designed to alleviate lower back pain. The “bottom to heels” stretch is a great place to start. Kneel on all fours and slowly move your bottom back towards your heels. This could help to stretch out your muscles and reduce any pain you might be experiencing in your back. The point is that you should exercise more frequently if you want your body to feel better.

SLEEPING BETTER…

Many physical problems can stem from a bad night’s sleep. After all, rest is crucial to the physical and mental health as a whole. You need to sleep well in order for your body to recover properly after a long day. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just lead to tiredness and a lack of concentration; it can lead to poor health on numerous levels. You might find that your back problems alleviate if you start sleeping better. Of course, it’s not just about getting a good 8 hours of rest every night – it’s about improving the quality of your sleep too. You might want to look into a back pain mattress that has been specifically designed to help alleviate problems with your back. You can do a lot more to reduce back pain if you improve the way your body is supported whilst you sleep. Your bed has a big impact on your body.

STOPPING BAD HABITS…

One final lifestyle change you could make to alleviate your back pain is to avoid bad habits which put stress on that area of your body. For example, your bad posture could be the cause of your pain. If you slouch in your chair whilst you work at the office then you should try working on your posture. Perhaps you could get yourself an ergonomic chair that supports your body. The same goes for driving a car. It’s a negative cycle because extended sitting is only more painful if your back already hurts. You need to address aspects of your lifestyle that might be aggravating your back problems.

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This great graphic from Pinterest explains all the different types of problems that can cause back pain…

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The pros and cons of acupuncture for pain relief. We will all try anything to help alleviate our pain and when I first tried acupuncture I was a real advocate of this complementary therapy. It is used in many NHS general practices, as well as the majority of pain clinics ( which is where I first had it) and hospices in the UK.

Acupuncture is often seen as a form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM).  A UK trial showed patients who received ten acupuncture sessions were far more likely to be pain-free after two years than those who didn’t. An American study saw 60% of back pain sufferers experience a significant improvement after acupuncture.

The word “acupuncture” means “needle piercing”. It is a traditional Chinese medical treatment using very fine needles, which are inserted into the skin at any of the 800 specially-designated points. It originated from a Dutch physician, William Ten Rhyne, who had been living in Japan during the latter part of the 17th century and it was he who introduced it to Europe.

Western medical acupuncture is the use of acupuncture following a medical diagnosis. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body. It works by manipulating the body’s energy flow, or Chi, to help the body to balance and heal itself. Legend has it that acupuncture was developed when it was seen that soldiers who recovered from arrow wounds were sometimes also healed of other diseases from which they were suffering.

This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. It’s likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture. A course of acupuncture usually creates longer lasting pain relief than when a single treatment is used

Practitioners who adhere to traditional beliefs about acupuncture believe that when Qi doesn’t flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. They also believe acupuncture can restore the flow of Qi, and so restore health.

Acupuncture practitioners – sometimes called acupuncturists – use acupuncture to treat a wide range of health conditions. However, the use of acupuncture isn’t always based on rigorous scientific evidence.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidelines for the NHS on the use of treatments and care of patients.

Currently, NICE only recommends considering acupuncture as a treatment option for:

Acupuncture is also often used to treat other musculoskeletal conditions (of the bones and muscles) and pain conditions, including:

  • chronic pain, such as neck pain
  • joint pain
  • dental pain
  • postoperative pain

However, in many conditions where acupuncture is used, there’s less good quality evidence to draw any clear conclusions about its effectiveness compared with other treatments.

Acupuncture is sometimes available on the NHS, most often from GPs or physiotherapists, although access is limited. I had access to this at the pain clinic. My initial trials were for my neck and arm pain and it was extremely successful. We then tried for my low back pain but it didn’t help this at all so I do feel you have to try this treatment first before you know if it will help or not. An initial acupuncture session usually lasts 20-40 minutes and involves an assessment of your general health, medical history, and a physical examination, followed by insertion of the acupuncture needles.

Courses of treatment often involve up to 10 separate sessions, but this can vary.

The needles are inserted into specific places on the body, which practitioners call acupuncture points.

During the session, you’ll usually be asked to sit or lie down. You may also be asked to remove some clothes so the practitioner can access certain parts of your body.

The needles used are fine and are usually a few centimeters long. They should be single-use, pre-sterilised needles that are disposed of immediately after use.

According to the NHS Acupuncture practitioners choose specific points to place the needles based on your condition. Up to 12 points may be used during a typical session, sometimes more depending on the number of symptoms you have.

The needles may be inserted just under the skin, or deeper so they reach muscle tissue. Once the needles are in place, they may be left in position for a length of time lasting from a few minutes up to around 30 minutes.

You may feel a tingling or a dull ache when the needles are inserted but shouldn’t experience any significant pain. If you do, let your practitioner know straight away.

In some cases, your practitioner may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electric current (known as electroacupuncture).

There’s no statutory regulation of acupuncture in England, but many non-medical acupuncture practitioners are required to register with their local authority.

If you choose to have acupuncture, make sure your acupuncture practitioner is either a regulated healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist or a member of a recognised national acupuncture organisation.

The British Acupuncture Council holds a register of practitioners that have been vetted and approved by the Professional Standards Authority. If you decide to have traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture, you can visit this website to find a qualified acupuncturist near you.

When it’s carried out by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is generally very safe. Some people experience mild, short-lived side effects such as:

  • pain where the needles puncture the skin
  • bleeding or bruising where the needles puncture the skin
  • drowsiness
  • feeling sick
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • worsening of pre-existing symptoms

If you have a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia, or are taking anticoagulants, talk to your GP before you have acupuncture.

Acupuncture is also not usually advised if you have a metal allergy or an infection in the area where needles may be inserted.

It’s generally safe to have acupuncture when you’re pregnant. However, let your acupuncture practitioner know if you’re pregnant because certain acupuncture points can’t be used safely during pregnancy.

There are a number of good sites on this therapy, but a good starter is Acupuncture UK  and an excellent book is ‘The Acupuncture Handbook – How acupuncture works and how it can help you’, by Angela Hicks, which is available from Amazon and other good bookshops.

NYR Natural News wrote in their December issue that ‘Treating children with chronic pain can be complex, due to kids’ vulnerability while they’re growing and the fear of causing long-term effects. To make matters worse, studies into the therapeutic options for treating children’s pain is limited’.

‘Angela Johnson, MSTOM, MPH, a practitioner of Chinese medicine of Rush’s Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, led a recent study that found that acupuncture may be a safe and effective add-on integrative medicine treatment for chronic pain in children. Results of the study were published in Alternative and Complementary Therapies‘.

With any alternative or complementary therapy, pain relief can react differently with each person but if you find this helps then it’s worth going for this treatment even privately. I find it beneficial for my neck but not for my lower back and I also feel that some practitioners are better than others. Check out if someone can recommend an acupuncturist before booking one.

As a form of alternative medicine, acupuncture is one of the most popular options that is used routinely today. It has the potential to relieve many different types of pain, reduce stress levels within the body, and numerous other well-being needs that someone may have. There is even the potential of relieving joint pain that is associated with arthritis. In return, there are some specific disadvantages that must be considered before receiving a treatment according to Health Research Funding. 

The pros and cons of acupuncture.

  1. Useful for a wide array of health conditions with a 4000-year track record of proven results
  2. Relatively no side effects or adverse reactions
  3. The focus is on increasing your overall health, instead of just reducing symptoms
  4. It has the potential to provide people with higher levels of energy.
  5. It may help with other certain physical conditions as well.
  6. It can be incorporated into a treatment plan with traditional medical techniques.
  7. Some health insurance policies actually cover acupuncture.
  8. New forms of acupuncture don’t even require needles. Instead of using needles, some acupuncturists are using low-intensity laser beams.
  9. Acupressure may help to provide relief without the cost or risk of acupuncture.
  10.  It can be a reassuring practice.
  11. Acupuncture is a noninvasive treatment.

The cons of acupuncture being –

  1. It can quickly cause infections to occur.
  2. The training of the acupuncturist can affect the quality of the treatment.
  3. There is no guarantee of success.
  4. The symptoms that brought someone to an acupuncturist may get worse.
  5. It can disrupt lifestyle routines.
  6.  It often takes a lot of time to experience success.
  7. Treatments can be costly and often aren’t covered by health insurance policies.
  8. Needles inserted incorrectly can cause physical harm.
  9. Acupuncture is known to create high levels of fatigue.

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Fibromyalgia is all in your head – The top misconception is that people think fibromyalgia isn’t a real medical problem or that it is “all in your head.” Definitely not, just because fibromyalgia is an invisible illness with no discernible cause, it can be easy to dismiss fibromyalgia sufferers and their reports of pain. Many people can’t believe that someone who looks healthy could actually be in debilitating pain.

Only women develop fibromyalgia – no men can have it as well although women have a higher rate of diagnosis.

Diet can heal fibromyalgia – if it was that easy there would be very few people suffering from the condition. While diet and other lifestyle choices may relieve some of the symptoms for those who live with fibromyalgia, there is no one-size-fits-all approach — what may work for one fibro sufferer may have no effect on another. To date, research which shows any one particular diet or treatment is helpful to those living with fibromyalgia is often conflicting and patients often have to try multiple different treatments, diets, and alternative therapies to find out which works best for them.

Fibromyalgia isn’t a real disease – apparently, this misconception has a grain of truth. Diseases have specific and traceable causes. Since fibromyalgia does not have a set of causes that lead to diagnosis, it is not technically a disease. However it is a condition and is also known as a syndrome, fibromyalgia is classified as a disorder because it is a collection of symptoms that occur together.

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are the same conditions. People with fibromyalgia may also be diagnosed with chronic fatigue, but the connection doesn’t necessarily go both ways. In fact, many of those with CFS may have no pain at all, just unrelenting fatigue. They are completely different disorders that happen to share some symptoms.

People with fibromyalgia should avoid exercise -Joints that ache and muscles that hurt due to fibromyalgia are like rusty gates that need oil. Proper exercise can help fibromyalgia patients slowly and carefully smooth out those pain.

Fibromyalgia is not serious – it may not be a life-threatening condition but it is certainly a life-changing one.

The pain is not real – In people who have fibromyalgia, the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. As a result, they react more strongly to touch and pressure, with a heightened sensitivity to pain. It is a real physiological and neurochemical problem. The power of the mind is a real factor in pain perception. For example, studies have shown that anxiety that occurs in anticipation of pain is often more problematic than the pain experience itself. In that sense, the mind has a negative impact on symptoms.

Information source from Pain Doctor, and Fibromyalgia New Today, and the Mayo Clinic.

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Inflatable Lumbar Support Cushions for travel are a must for people suffering from low back pain. I find travel in a car particularly painful and also on a flight. Using a support cushion definitely helps with the pain but with all the additional hand luggage you have when you travel a lumbar support pillow is something you would probably leave behind.

However, you can still have your support pillow by investing in an inflatable lumbar support pillow which can easily be packed in your hand luggage ready for the journey. Three of the best inflatable lumbar support cushions are –

  1. Runnacc is an ultralight inflatable pillow for neck and lumbar use while traveling, available from Amazon for £12.99
  • THE MOST COMPACT ULTRALIGHT INFLATABLE CAMP PILLOW ON THE MARKET – folds to the size just like a soda can, and inflate to a comfortable head or lumbar support. This backpacking pillow can be easily carried in your backpack or pocket for easy access!
  • IMPROVED ERGONOMIC DESIGN for better neck support so you can get a good sleep!
  • ENHANCED COMFORT and DURABILITY: Enhanced design and layers for head support that is constructed from strong, durable, water-resistant material. Whether you’re leisurely vacationing with your family, camping for the weekend, or backpacking the mountains – this is the best air travel pillow!
  • EASY to INFLATE and DEFLATE – To inflate, open exterior valve, then inflate by mouth. To deflate, open exterior valve to release.
  • IDEAL CHOICE- Perfectly suitable for camping, hiking, beach traveling and tent traveling, etc.

 2. Winomo is another inflatable pillow for neck or lumbar support while traveling and again is available on Amazon for £12.99 Compact, ultra-lightweight and inflatable camping pillow. It can be folded to the size of less than a soda can and inflate to a comfortable head or lumbar support.

  • Portable. With small folded size, you can put it in your backpack for easy access.
  • Ergonomic design for better neck support so you can get a good sleep.
  • Enhanced design and layers for head support that is constructed from strong, durable, water-resistant, elastic TPU fabric.
  • Easy to inflate and deflate. The big valve allow you to inflate or deflate fast and easily.

3. BackBooster 1001 is a larger inflatable lumbar support cushion but also folds away after use, from Amazon for £14.99

  • inflatable lumbar cushion for traveling, working, and driving
  • High-quality, waterproof PVC construction with nylon strap
  • Inflates in just a few breaths and deflates to pocket size
  • No metal parts; includes convenient nylon travel bag
  • Measures 13.5 x 14 x 3.1 inches (W x H x D)#

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Cupping therapy is given by using glass cups to create localised partial vacuums. It’s an ancient Chinese therapy, found in records dating back 3500 years, and involves using heat inside glass or bamboo cups. This draws up the underlying tissues and causes the blood to form in the area and help the healing process there.

Like other forms of Chinese treatments, they believe in the fact that if the ‘Meridians’ are blocked in your body, then it makes it difficult for healing to take place. They call Meridians ‘Qi’ (chi) which are pathways in the body that give you energy for life. There are five meridians on your back, which when opened, allow the energy to travel the whole length of the body. It has even been said that cupping is probably the best way of opening those meridians.

Another healing aspect of cupping therapy is through the release of toxins in your body. Cupping is the best deep tissue massage available and is a very safe therapy to have. It activates the lymphatic systems, clearing colon blockages, arteries and capillaries. Some of the conditions cupping therapy can be used to treat include constipation, IBS, diarrhoea, headaches, back pain, arthritis, fatigue, sciatica, skin problems, Fibromyalgia, period cramps, weight problems and more. It works by reducing the pain we feel in our bodies.

It involves the use of a warmed cup, which is placed upside down on a specific acupuncture point. This then creates a vacuum to draw the blood and energy to that point. I had a number of cupping therapy treatments in a Physiotherapy department of the NHS. To be truthful, this therapy did not help me in any way, but that is not to say that it will not help others, otherwise it would not be available on the NHS.

Treatwell the hair and beauty booking site has a list of the top 20 places for cupping in the UK, another website where you can find therapists for this type of treatment is The Therapy Directory. They explain the difference between wet and dry cupping. Wet cupping is used when the therapist makes a small incision on the skin after the cup has been removed. The cup is then applied again to draw out a small quantity of blood. After the procedure, the therapist will use an antibiotic ointment and dressing to prevent infection.It is believed that this method helps to remove toxins from the body to promote natural healing.  Dry cupping (also known as ‘air cupping’) doesn’t use heat to create the suction. Instead, it uses a specially designed pump which is attached to the end of the jar. The pump is used to create a vacuum. Some practitioners prefer this method as it gives them more control over the amount of suction. Because this method doesn’t use heat to create suction, there is also no risk of accidentally burning the skin.

There is a cupping therapy association -which is dedicated to helping you in finding out details, practitioners and testimonials. They explain cupping therapy as a negative pressure, rather than tissue compression is superior for bodywork for pain, stubborn conditions, repetitive strains, inflammation, toxicity, chronic fatigue, disgestive problems and a slough of other issues we confront as we grow older. 

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What is another option instead of facet joint injections which have been stopped in most areas in the UK. Some postcodes are still receiving these injections but the majority have been axed by the NHS. The reason they say is not just because of the cost but also because they do not give pain relief for long enough and so are not cost effective.

As my readers know I had regular facet joint injections (every four months) and found them a great help to my low back pain. Since they stopped them I have had two sessions (four months apart) of steroid injections into trigger points but they have been no help whatsoever so these will also be stopped.

I have looked into other types of pain-relieving injections for lower back pain and mainly come up with epidurals as another option. This is not something I have been offered but I have also read only recently that these can actually only give short-term relief of pain similar to facet joint injections.  So what is another option instead of these injections for people in chronic pain. Well, according to an article on the Manchester NHS site a new stem cell therapy is an option for this type of pain.

“A team of medical experts from Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust (CMMC) and the University of Manchester are pioneering a new procedure capable of repairing worn out intervertebral disks – the back’s shock absorbers – with a single injection. The process uses a ‘smart’ gel, which contains stem cells taken from a patient’s bone marrow. When injected into the sufferer, the gel allows new tissue to be generated.”

Stem Cell Thailand say that the ONLY proven effective alternative to back surgery is disk regeneration using enhanced stem cells. The Regeneration center of Thailand offers the most advanced treatment for sports related injuries and Chronic Degenerative Disc Disease. Their stem cell injections for back pain is much safer than invasive surgical procedure and seeks to treat the actual cause of the disease and reverse the condition through a targeted multi-step treatment to regenerate the damaged discs to their normal, healthy state.(Sivakamasundari and Lufkin 2013)*

The Regenerative Clinic in Harley Street London use this treatment and say stem cell therapy and PRP can help patients avoid spinal surgery and the side effects of epidural steroid injections. These procedures utilise the patient’s own natural growth factors or stem cells to treat bulging or herniated discs, degenerative conditions in the spine, and other back and neck conditions that cause pain.

According to Back Pain Expert Researchers at Manchester University’s Division of Regenerative Medicine are still currently running clinical trials in people with back pain to test a revolutionary treatment that could repair damaged intervertebral discs. The revolutionary new treatment based on stem cells, pioneered by Dr Stephen Richardson at Manchester University, may turn out to offer a permanent cure for back pain related to damaged intervertebral discs. For over five years, and backed with funding from the Arthritis Research Campaign, he and his colleagues at the Division of Regenerative Medicine have been developing a way of using cells from the body to regenerate the nucleus polposus in the damaged intervertebral discs.

However, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this type of treatment to replace facet joint injections is not going to be available on the NHS in the near future.

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