Archive for 'back and neck pain'

How antidepressant medication can affect your pain

Many patients with chronic pain become depressed; therefore it is not surprising that many of these patients will receive antidepressant medications. What is very interesting is that these antidepressants not only can decrease depression associated with pain, but they can also decrease pain itself. They are frequently used to treat persistent pain associated with problems in nerves. The reason that antidepressants are effective for pain is that the chemicals in the nervous system that are associated with depression also are associated with pain.

Pain pills blog-Norman Marcus Pain Institute-blog

Antidepressants increase the available amounts of chemicals which affect your mood.  These chemicals include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  The two most common types of antidepressants are:

  1. SSRIs (Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors) – Antidepressants which only increases the amount of serotonin available.  Examples of SSRIs are escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), and sertraline (Zoloft).
  2. SNRIs (Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) – Antidepressants which increase the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine available.  Examples of SNRIs are venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).  Examples of Tricyclic Antidepressants (a type of SNRI) are amitriptyline (Elavil), and nortriptyline (Pamelor).

SSRIs are not as effective for pain relief as SNRIs.

Even though the antidepressants may help diminish pain, their side effects can be unacceptable.  A recent review found that although approximately 1/3 of patients who took antidepressants for neuropathic pain experienced moderate pain relief or better, 1/5 discontinued use due to adverse side effects.[1]

Common side effects of antidepressants are nausea, dizziness, insomnia, weight gain/loss, dry mouth and diminished interest in sex (decreased libido). If you’re not having reasonable pain relief with one of these medications, it should not be continued.



[1] Saarto, T., and P. J. Wiffen. “Antidepressants for Neuropathic Pain: A Cochrane Review.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 81.12 (2010): 1372-373. Print.

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How can we know what back pain treatments make sense?

If the cost of health care is to be reduced in the US, new methods should be established to pay clinicians, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers. If graduating medical students are so laden with debt that paying it off is more important than the possibility of ongoing study and academic pursuit, we must lower the cost to the student of medical education. If the cost of drug development is so high that huge prices must be charged for pills, we must find ways to reduce the cost of development of new pharmaceuticals. These fundamental issues in health care have an impact on the standard of care of back pain in the USA. Read the rest of this entry

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Bedside Manner and the power of suggestion in back pain

Prior to drawing blood, saying a word to patients that suggested pain increased the likelihood of them experiencing pain. You might think of this study as just another example of the importance of “Bedside manner”- the awareness of the importance of the behavior and speech of the physician or other care-takers, on the feeling of well-being of the patient. Eugene Bauer, M.D., a Viennese physician, said in 1931: “A word in the mouth of a physician is as important as the scalpel in the hands of a surgeon”. Words can cut, soothe, and rattle. How you are approached by a doctor is determined not only by their personality but also by the beliefs concerning your problem.

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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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NORMAN MARCUS PAIN INSTITUTE
30 East 40th Street - New York, NY 10016
Tel 212-532-7999 Fax 212-532-5957
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