muscle pain posts Archives

How to decrease headache frequency

A recent study of a simple resistance exercise program for the neck and shoulders, in office workers who complained of weekly headaches (HAs), showed an approximately 50% reduction in HA frequency vs. a weekly health education control group. The exercise groups were 2 minutes or 12 minutes of daily exercise. The remaining HAs were no different in terms of intensity or duration of pain.

HAs are the most commonly reported pain problem. If brief exercise could have such a dramatic effect on HA frequency, it should be considered as a standard intervention for all office workers who appear to have muscle tension type headaches. However it is not clear why neck and shoulder exercise reduce HA frequency. It is understandable that exercising muscles that are tense and stiff from repetitive strain, for example bending your head and neck over a desk for hours at a time, could help relax stiff and tense muscles. which can cause back and neck pain.  But just performing an action to address HAs on a daily basis may make you more aware of the circumstances surrounding a headache episode. Since headaches are frequently brought on with emotional stress, being more aware of and addressing stress has been shown to reduce HA frequency through various interventions.
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Above all else, do no harm!

In our desperate wish for pain relief, we sometimes receive treatment that is harmful. One of those treatments may be botulinum toxin, frequently provided as Botox injections to tender muscles. A recent article showed how Botox could produce permanent damage in muscles with normal muscle fibers being replaced with fat cells.
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Knee pain, back pain, and muscles

A large study of army recruits demonstrated the protective effect of exercise on the development of knee pain. Male and female recruits who performed 4 stretching and 4 strengthening exercises for 7 weeks, were 75% less likely to develop anterior knee pain.
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Follow-up to recent Failed Spinal Fusion post:

The patient mentioned in the blog posted in March, 2011 copied me on an email he sent:

“I’ve been waiting for clearance from my surgeon who finally declared my fusion as failed (FBSS) in early March and offered no additional hope for pain reduction. At one-year post surgery I could be evaluated for an implanted morphine pump or spinal cord stim. Pain management started experimenting with oxymorphone and hydromorphone, which both had bad side effects and were less effective than the oxycodone. I’ve had the first two weeks of treatments with Dr. Marcus. The first week he did my left side lower back and leg, this Monday he did the right side lower and mid back. Pain reduction is at least 90%! I have much more energy, am more active and I’m beginning to feel flexible. He is also working on my mid-back and legs. I’ve been able to reduce oxycodone from ~180mg+/day to 60-80mg/day.”
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Obesity and Understanding BMI with back pain

People in all industrialized countries are being harmed by a world-wide obesity epidemic. We generally determine if we are the proper weight by calculating the BMI (Body Mass Index): dividing your weight in pounds x 703 by your height in inches squared. If you weigh 140 pounds and are 5 feet, 8 inches, your BMI would be 21.28-
(140 x 703/68 x 68). Normal is 18.5-24.9, overweight is 25-29.9 and obese is over 30. A study of patients in 30 European countries found that over 70,000 new cancer cases were attributable to excess BMI in 2002. Obesity is also associated with an increased incidence of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, coronary artery disease and dementia.
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Painless back and muscle injections

Pain is a deterrent to many patients when offered a therapeutic injection. There is some encouraging news on ways to make injections more comfortable.

A Cochrane review found that adjusting the pH, with bicarbonate, of a lidocaine injectate for local anesthesia, reduced the discomfort for patients without reducing analgesic effectiveness. The burning sensation produced by the acidic pH of lidocaine injectable is diminished by adjusting the pH upwards from the 3.5 -7.0 usually found in commercial preparations, to approximately 7.4.
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An important study in Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research [468(10):2678-89], reports that over time the function of the shoulder deteriorates in a significant number of patients who underwent rotator cuff repair, despite continued pain relief in many of the same patients.
The conclusions published in the abstract are found in the next paragraph:
“The early high functional scores after primary rotator cuff repair or reconstruction of the types we performed in the 1980s did not persist. The function achieved postoperatively was lost, as ROM and strength decreased to less than preoperative values. However, alleviation of pain was long-standing in most patients. Based on our data, we should warn patients to expect less
than permanent relief with those repairs. We cannot say whether the same will apply to currently performed types of repairs.”
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Source of your back, shoulder and neck pain

A 35 year old executive complained of neck and shoulder pain radiating into his fingers along with difficulty using his fingers. His MRI showed bone spurs in his neck which were causing compression of the nerves going into his arm. A neurosurgeon had suggested that he have surgery to remove the spurs and to fuse the vertebra in his neck.

He was given cervical spine epidural steroids and after the 2nd injection his pain and difficulties in his hand were eliminated, but the pain in the region of his shoulder blade persisted. He felt that it was time to revisit the neurosurgeon, but I told him that pain only in the shoulder isn’t typical for a problem in the spine.
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Measuring Low Back Pain Treatment Outcomes

The article in the European Spine Journal highlights a major difficulty in assessing the effectiveness of various back pain treatments. No two studies used the same criteria to measure improvement. The lack of uniformity appears to be present in every aspect of the enigma of low back pain. Recent studies demonstrated that the tests a family physician uses to establish probability of a disc herniation may not be valid. There are inconsistent criteria for fusion vs. a simple laminectomy or foraminotomy for back pain. Injection techniques vary widely for back pain thought to be from nerve or muscle.
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Is chronic back pain adequately treated?

I just read an article on the under treatment of chronic pain with the most common associated disease states listed as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and sickle–cell anemia. Since physical deconditioning is fraught with many serious negative consequences, such as obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and diabetes in addition to be being a cause of most common pain problems, it should probably rank as a form of disease.
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Activity and quality of life

A recent article showed that even gentle but regular physical activity in middle aged women reduced the incidence of hip fractures. Lack of exercise contributes to many of the health problems with which we are confronted- obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, dementia, arthritis, and osteoporosis. At a time when the cost of health care is so important to each of us as Americans, awareness of inexpensive interventions and self responsibility for our well being should be foremost in our minds.

Proper exercise should take into account your level of conditioning before you begin any program. Many new exercisers will strain their weak or stiff muscles causing pain and disillusionment with their new found passion and quit. Remember the most important thing about your exercise plan is that you are able to and actually return for your next scheduled session.
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If I get back pain will it go away?

Although Low Back Pain (LBP) is thought to affect around 80% of individuals, it is also thought to be self limiting and get better quickly (within weeks). Studies of patient populations however suggest that it is actually a more serious problem. Although most patients who experience back pain do not see a doctor, 60-80% of those that do are still reporting pain one year later and in those whose pain has disappeared, 20% will have a recurrence within months.
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Chronic Low Back Pain and Fibromayalgia

A recent article discussed the number of patients with Chronic Low Back Pain (CLBP) who also had Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). This article is an example of the confusion in medicine about both conditions. Believe it or not although the most common diagnosis for low back pain is non-specific low back pain, referring to sprains and strains of muscles and other soft tissue, there is no agreed method to look for and treat muscle generated low back pain. Patients with
Fibromyalgia on the other hand, although complaining of pain in muscles, are for the most part not considered to have muscles as the cause of their pain but rather problems in their nerves that are experienced as pain in muscles.
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Back Pain Treatment

Please refer back to the past two blogs to find the background material for todays blog. Although the number of CARF approved pain centers in the US halved, the number of outpatient pain centers mushroomed. The services provided however focused on two areas:

  1. Medication management
  2. Nerve blocks and other invasive procedures.

Although many patients could be helped with one or both of these approaches, many patients in need of physical therapy and psychological services that were integrated with the overall treatment plan, would no longer receive optimal treatment. Reimbursement would be the driver of care rather than the needs of the patient. Centers could not stay in business and provide care that insurance companies would not cover. The shift toward procedures became an accepted standard of care and new organizations of pain physicians were formed whose membership focused predominantly on invasive procedures.
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Spinal fusion surgery for back pain was reviewed in three articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week http://cot.ag/bjDgWW . The sobering conclusions were that we are spending up to 10 times more for complicated new surgical procedures and frequently getting worse outcomes and up to twice as many complications.

 

Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the history of back pain treatment. An article in Spine http://cot.ag/dASfWh analyzed the cost of the treatment of back and low back pain in the United States.  It found that the cost of care from 1997 to 2005 went up from $62 billion to $86 billion and at the same time the number of patients reporting difficulty in functioning because of their pain also went up by 25%. Spending 65% more ($34 billion) resulted in worse outcomes.
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History of Muscle Pain

A review of comprehensive pain treatment textbooks finds no chapters dealing with muscle pain aside from sections on “Myofascial Pain Syndrome” discussing “trigger points” as the defining characteristic of syndromes with painful muscles. This points up a fundamental problem in discussing and understanding clinical muscle pain- the lack of agreed terminology to describe what is found when a painful muscle is examined. All muscle pain logically cannot be the result of trigger points. Treating every patient with tender muscles with injections will frequently result in failure to eliminate the pain. To better appreciate this lack of understanding, the history of muscle pain should be reviewed.
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What causes my back pain?

With severe back pain we frequently worry about having a herniated disc. If you have back pain and get an MRI chances are you’ll find something. At NY Hospital/Weill-Cornell, 90% of the MRIs of the low back are read as abnormal. But most back pain is diagnosed as “Idiopathic /Non-specific”, referring to sprains and strains of soft tissue such as muscle. But common soft tissue problems are not seen on the MRI so we often incorrectly assume that what we see on the image, such as disc herniaton/bulge, degenerated discs, spinal stenosis, facet arthritis, spondylolisthesis, is the cause of the pain. When we treat these “causes” we have many failures. Actually in some studies more than 50% of the back surgeries are unsuccessful leading to a new diagnosis, Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Some clinicians recognize that muscles could be a source of the back pain and have attempted to treat the muscle that they have identified by applying pressure (palpation) to the suspected painful muscle. There are a variety of treatments that are offered. I will discuss some of them next time.

~Norman J. Marcus, MD
Norman Marcus Pain Institute, New York NY 
 
“Your New York City Pain Relief Doctor”
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The Blog to Illuminate and Eliminate Chronic Pain

It is my wish to inform patients and colleagues about the possibilities of eliminating pain even when it is thought to be permanent (chronic) or require an invasive proceedure such as surgery, nerve injections, spinal cord stimulation or a morphine pump to achieve any relief.

Our story begins with the recogniton that the current standard of care doesn’t work very well. An article in the Jouranl of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in February, 2008, by Martin, Deyo, et al.. reported that even though the cost of neck and low back pain in the USA increased from $26 billion in 1997 to $86 billion in 2005, there was no improvement in treatment outcome. $86 billion is also the amount we spend on cancer.

Actually patients were reporting that they were more impaired by neck and back pain in 2005 than in 1997. It appears that the reasons that we frequently offer to explain low back pain such as herniated discs, degenerated discs, arthritis, and spinal stenosis, are frequently wrong since treating these so called causes results in no, or partial, temporary improvement. What is missing from the published diagnosis and treatment guidelines for common pain problems such as low back, neck and shoulder pain, is any approach which addresses muscles as the primary source of pain.

In future postings we will look at some reasons why muscles are ignored and what you can do about it.

~ Norman Marcus, MD
Norman Marcus Pain Institute, New York NY
 
“Your New York City Pain Relief Doctor”
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