Pain Management

How Pain Affects The Brain

How Pain Affects The Brain

When someone suffers from pain, particularly chronic pain, it can affect various aspects of one’s life. Pain impacts the emotional, physical, and mental capacities in ways that affect behavior and the ability to perform cognitive functions like thinking and memorizing.

The constant suffering from pain triggers other pain-related symptoms. It can influence thoughts, feelings, sleep patterns, and concentration.

Researchers have discovered that in a healthy brain all the regions exist in a state of equilibrium. For example, when one region is active, the others quiet down. However, in people with chronic pain, a front region of the cortex mostly associated with emotion “never shuts up,” said Dante Chialvo, lead author of a Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine study researching the effects of pain on the brain. Chialvo is also an associate research professor of physiology at the Feinberg School. Chialvo added, “The areas that are affected fail to deactivate when they should.”

In essence, the affected areas of the brain are on full throttle, wearing out neurons and altering their connections to each other.

How the Brain Processes Pain

People who experience persistent pain know how debilitating it can be. Research covering the different ways the brain processes pain indicate that the brain reacts differently to short-term pain than it does to long-lasting pain. When the body experiences chronic or long-lasting pain, it can change the central nervous system, and influence sensory, emotional, and modular circuits that would otherwise inhibit pain.

In fact, chronic pain is now considered a neurological disease of its own — accompanied with symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is due to the cognitive and emotional states of the Central Nervous System. The longer pain exists, the greater it becomes, and the more a person will be prone to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.

How the Brain Functions Under Pain

Chialvo and his colleagues at the Feinberg School used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of people with chronic low back pain and a group of pain-free volunteers. Both groups were tracking a moving bar on a computer screen. The study showed the pain sufferers performed the task well but “at the expense of using their brain differently than the pain-free groups,” Chialvo said.

When certain areas of the cortex were activated in the pain-free group, some others were deactivated, maintaining a cooperative equilibrium between the regions. This equilibrium is known as the resting state network of the brain. In contrast, with the chronic pain group, one of the nodes — a point where pathways intersect— of this network did not quiet down as it did for the pain-free people.

There are long-term implications to chronic, long-lasting pain on the brain. The constant firing of neurons in these regions of the brain could cause permanent damage, Chialvo said.

“We know that when neurons fire too much they may change their connections with other neurons and even die because they cannot sustain high activity for so long,”
Chialvo explained.

Chialvo suggested that the subsequent changes in wiring “may make it harder for you to make a decision or be in a good mood to get up in the morning. It could be that pain produces depression and the other reported abnormalities because it disturbs the balance of the brain as a whole.”

Pain Affects Memory and Concentration

Pain interferes with the memory trace needed to hold information for processing, and long-term storage. This not only impacts a person’s ability to remember, but also hinders your ability to concentrate and focus on the moment.

Brain Testing of Back Pain Patients

Chronic back pain doesn’t just hurt, it also appears to cause thinning of certain regions of the brain, which may lead to cognitive impairments, according to a neurological study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers examining the link between pain and such thinning had hoped that successfully treating back pain would halt that process. Instead, it reversed it! Six months after surgery or spinal injections, a brain region associated with pain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — had thickened.

“We thought it would be able to slow down the thinning, but to actually recover was pretty amazing,” said study researcher Laura S. Stone, PhD, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal.

Stone and colleagues recruited 18 patients who were seeking treatment for chronic lower back pain, which they had for at least one year. Prior to treatment, each patient had an MRI to measure cortical brain thickness and to evaluate brain activity during a simple cognitive test.

Fourteen of the 18 patients underwent similar testing half a year later. Their test outcomes were compared to scans of 16 people without back pain.

“The extent of the thickening was surprising to us,” said study co-researcher David A. Seminowicz, PhD, of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. “Every patient who had less pain or decreased disability after treatment showed a thickening in that area.”

That area is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in how we perceive pain. While it was the only brain region that showed significant thickening after treatment, several other regions appeared to improve, as well.

Treating Back Pain with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors can manipulate the body’s alignment to relieve pain and improve function and to help the body heal itself. The most positive research on chiropractic therapy has focused on spinal manipulation for low back pain.

Chiropractic treatment may also help people with other musculoskeletal related pain.

If you are tired of living with pain, consider visiting your local chiropractor at NewEdge Wellness Center located in Kennewick. Call (509) 737-9355 or schedule your appointment by going to schedule online.

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Are Chiropractic X-Rays Necessary?

Are Chiropractic X-Rays Necessary?

One of the most important elements of chiropractic care is diagnostics. Chiropractors rely on a variety of diagnostic techniques in order to fully understand what is happening in a patient’s musculoskeletal system. A chiropractor needs to know how a given treatment intervention could bring about positive results in a patient.

One of the most heavily relied on diagnostic techniques in chiropractic care is the X-ray. An X-ray is thought by some to be antiquated, with many other imaging processes being developed since the X-ray. However, X-rays provide doctors with a deeper understanding of a patient’s pain or discomfort.

The Importance of X-rays in Diagnosis by Chiropractor

These imaging processes are all essential in the use of surgery and invasive procedures to get that far inside the body. An X-ray can show a chiropractor exactly what is happening in the body when it comes to alignment and structure. This makes an X-ray very valuable as chiropractic care uses spinal manipulation and other techniques that involve movement of skeletal components with the hands or with the use of an instrument.

It’s worth noting that X-rays are not used universally in chiropractic care. In a majority of patients, the chiropractor is able to determine what is occurring in the musculoskeletal system — without the need for imaging technology.

In short, X-rays are considered by many in this field to be a key component of the chiropractic practice. However, X-rays are not indispensable in chiropractic care.

Reputation of X-rays in the Medical Community

The International Chiropractors Association (ICA), states that “radiography is a scientifically proven, clinically valid and an appropriate method to evaluate multiple aspects of human spinal anatomy, identify vertebral subluxations, altered spinal biomechanics, postural misalignments, pathology and in providing information and safeguards in rendering chiropractic care in clinical practice.”

Despite the claims of the ICA, there are chiropractors who question whether X-rays are necessary or even ethical. These concerns come from a campaign of the medical community known as Choosing Wisely — a program created by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in 1989.

As X-rays are a routine part of chiropractic care, the ICA issued a response to the idea of choosing wisely. “ICA recognizes radiographic studies are the standard of practice in chiropractic care,” and that encourages chiropractors to “raise their voices and be heard.”

How Safe Are X-rays?

Many patients might wonder about the safety of X-rays. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that radiation exposure from a digital x-ray of the spine is less that you would receive flying in plane from Los Angeles to New York. What’s more, the FDA recommends people not refuse an X-ray, because the risk of not having an X-ray when you might need one is far greater than the small risk of exposure to radiation. The FDA’s statement continues, “when a doctor determines the need for an X-ray, it is for your safety, benefit and diagnosis.”

Although X-ray equipment does vary with the manufacturer, there is no difference between a chiropractic X-ray and another type of X-ray. An important factor to consider when getting an X-ray is the part of the body that is being X-rayed. Different body tissues absorb the radiation in various ways.

The amount of radiation emitted from an X-ray can be measured. The average person is exposed to about 3.0 millisieverts or mSV, of radiation per year. This exposure results from naturally occurring radioactive materials or cosmic rays. The FDA states that 0.1 millisieverts from a chest X-ray equals 10 days of typical background radiation exposure.

X-rays of the arms and legs, or extremities, have a lower effective dosage than chest X-rays. Lower torso X-rays, however, have a higher effective dosage. What this means is the effective dosage is determined from the actual body part that is X-rayed, not the intensity or duration of the X-ray.

The Limitations of X-rays

X-rays use electromagnetic radiation that penetrates soft tissue and does not capture it on film. As a result, an X-ray will typically not show any abnormalities involving ligaments —including herniated discs, bulging discs, sciatica, pinched nerves or disorders affecting the spinal cord.

When Are X-rays Necessary?

There are chiropractors who use X-rays as standard procedure either as a precaution to rule out pathology — such as a possible tumor or fracture, and/or to aid in determining where to adjust the spine.

X-rays are recommended for the following types of medical situations:

  • If the patient has sustained a significant traumatic injury, as a bone may be broken or a joint may be dislocated
  • If an infection may be causing the patient’s pain
  • If any significant disease is suspected, such as cancer or a possible tumor
  • If any type of joint disease is suspected, such as arthritis causing joint pain
  • If the patient is over age 50 and has experienced any type of trauma (even a minor one)
  • For most patients over 65 years of age
  • Anyone diagnosed with or who may be at risk for osteoporosis.
    The X-ray could be important to identify or rule out a possible vertebral fracture from osteoporosis
  • Any suspected spinal instability
  • If a patient has had long-standing pain that has not responded to or resolved with previous health care treatment

As a general guideline, an X-ray is indicated if it is likely to inform the type of treatment recommended for a patient; In any of the above cases, an X-ray would likely provide critical information that will direct treatment protocols and/or referral options for the patient;

An X-ray is not necessary for the following medical situations:

  • To identify problems with soft tissues (muscles, tendons, or ligaments) or within the spinal disc itself; X-rays are only effective in identifying pathology with bones and joints, not with soft tissues;
  • Purely for exploratory purposes; Most practitioners will likely determine the cause of a patient’s pain before ordering the X-ray or other diagnostic test and will use the test to confirm their findings;
  • If there is a possibility that the patient could be pregnant;

The bottom line is that when used appropriately, X-rays can identify and/or rule out specific pathology and help guide appropriate treatment.

If you are in need of a chiropractor in the Tri-Cities area, we suggest you contact NewEdge Wellness Center, located in Kennewick, at (509) 737-9355. Schedule your appointment today with NewEdge Wellness.

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The Healing and Health Effects of Cannabis

The Healing and Health Effects of Cannabis

By far, the natural health product garnering the most attention today is cannabis in all its many forms. That includes the plant itself, CBD oil, CBD products and THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. For years, federal law has restricted not only the use of cannabis, but also research on the plant’s effects.

Currently, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. This classification indicates that cannabis has no accepted medical value, but many people disagree! Cannabis is now fully legal and decriminalized in 10 states plus the District of Columbia. On the other end of the spectrum, 9 states fully criminalize it. The remaining 31 states offer some level of legalization, usually for medicinal purposes or the sale of CBD derivatives.

The difference between CBD and THC

If you’re not familiar with the health and medicinal properties of cannabis, a good place to start is with the differences between CBD and THC. CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. The cannabis plant has more than 100 different cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Researchers believe that THC is part of the plant’s natural self-defense mechanism. Heat in excess of 270°F activates THC’s psychoactive properties. Without heat activation, consuming the raw plant (which you can do) will not produce any psychoactive effects.

The effect of CBD on health

You can ingest CBD in a number of forms. Among the most common are oils and tinctures, topicals, RSO, vape cartridges, aerosol sprays, capsules and dried cannabis. The bioavailability of the CBD will depend upon how you ingest it. Eating CBD provides the lowest bioavailability (<20%). Inhalation or sub-lingual (under the tongue) administration can double CBD's bioavailability. By itself, CBD has no psychoactive properties. Used in the proper concentrations, CBD can provide relief from some seizure disorders, pain and inflammatory responses ( neck pain lower back pain, sciatica ), anxiety disorders, Crohn's Disease, multiple sclerosis symptoms and opioid withdrawal symptoms. CBD is a serotonin 5-HT receptor partial agonist, which means that it offers beneficial effects on mood, decreases anxiety, and supports and heals the central nervous system. It also shows the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells, relieve headaches, improve sleep and protect the brain and nerves. It's important to note that you can get CBD preparations that are 100% THC-free. If you are required to take routine drug tests (as part of your employment, for example), use only THC-free CBD formulations. If you do not, you can test positive for THC, which can cause you to fail a drug test. Keep in mind that full spectrum CBD products contain small amounts of THC and you will need to avoid taking any full spectrum CBD product. CDB oil derived from hemp (a plant related to cannabis) is legal for use in all 50 states, as a result of the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, provided that the extracts contain less than 0.3% THC (a negligible amount). CBD extracted from cannabis may or may not be legal, depending upon the state you're in. Washington State has fully decriminalized cannabis use for both medical and recreational purposes.

The effect of THC on health

Like CBD, you can administer THC in a number of different forms. Most people choose to smoke cannabis, since it offers improved THC bioavailability over other methods. In humans, THC can alleviate pain, spasticity, anxiety and other responses generated by the sympathetic nervous system. It also increases the appetite. THC is the active ingredient in two mainstream prescription medications: Drobinol and Sativex. Doctors prescribe these drugs to curb nausea and improve appetite in patients with certain conditions.

Not all varieties of cannabis are equal, especially when it comes to their THC levels. Over time, growers have bred and hybridized cannabis plants to deliver more THC than nature intended. High concentrations of THC can cause adverse side effects in some users. Side effects can include paranoia or anxiety; dehydration, dry eyes and dry mouth; hunger; sleepiness or lethargy; and temporary memory or cognitive impairments.

An interesting note is that CBD naturally counteracts many of these side effects. Since some cannabis strains have been manipulated to produce an outsized concentration of THC, the amount of naturally occurring CBD in these varieties may no longer be enough to offset unpleasant side effects.

Using Cannabis

Many people focus on the treatment aspect of cannabis use. In other words, they don’t seek it out until they have a problem. Cannabis can provide a range of supportive and preventive health benefits that many people overlook.

CBD is generally recognized as safe an effective by the World Health Organization. Toxicity testing – mostly on animal subjects – is limited, but preliminary results indicate that it would be difficult (if not impossible) for a human to overdose on CBD. Massive doses of CBD have been shown to cause respiratory and cardiac failure in some primates, but the test doses were not in any way comparable to those of human users. CBD does not produce psychoactive side effects, so finding a therapeutic dose is trial-and-error dependent. Start conservatively and increase your dosage until you find the amount that meets your needs.

Since the potential for negative side effects is greater with THC than with CBD, the best advice here is to start small and see what happens to you. “Starting small” may mean taking only a few puffs of a pipe or pre-roll ( cannabis rolled cigarette ), rather than consuming the entire thing. If you don’t want to smoke, edibles offer a controlled way to consume THC. 5 mg of THC is considered a modest dose, and edible products should indicate their THC content.

Cannabis can both support good overall health and disease prevention and treat a range of disorders. If you would like more information about how to incorporate CBD, THC or a combination of the two, please contact us at NewEdge Wellness at 509-737-9355.

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Seeking Sciatic Relief? Look No Further!

Seeking Sciatic Relief? Look No Further!

Sciatic nerve pain (also known as sciatica) is a common symptom that affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Doctors estimate that as many as 4 in 10 adults will experience sciatica at least once in their lives. The pain, which can range from mild to intense, originates from the sciatic nerves and impacts the legs, back and buttocks. What can you do to treat this painful symptom and restore your well-being?

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs down each leg from your lower back and ends just below your knee. It is the longest, widest nerve in the human body. Typically, sciatic nerve pain affects one leg or the other. It does not typically occur in both legs at the same time. This is because the pain results from pressure to or injury of the sciatic nerve after it has branched into each leg. It generally originates from an injury or irritation to the lower lumbar or lumbosacral spine. The pain can reach all the way into the foot and toes of the affected leg, depending upon where the sciatic nerve is being aggravated.

The symptoms of sciatic nerve pain

Symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Constant pain in the buttock on the affected side
  • Increasing pain or discomfort when sitting
  • A shooting pain that travels through the leg and back when standing
  • Tingling, numbness or burning sensations in the affected leg
  • Weakness in the affected leg
  • Difficulty moving the affected leg

Sciatica is not a condition by itself, but it is a symptom of other conditions, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Muscle spasms in the back
  • Disc herniation
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis

The most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is a herniated disk in the lower lumbar or lumbosacral spine.

In addition to these conditions, your habits can create the right environment for sciatic nerve pain to occur. These include:

  • Not exercising
  • Being overweight
  • Sleeping on surfaces that are too hard or too soft
  • Wearing high heels frequently

You can successfully treat some of the causes of sciatic nerve pain, thereby eliminating it. Other conditions may make sciatic nerve pain a regular reality for you. However, you can learn to manage your pain!

Assessing sciatic nerve pain

Initially, it’s important to determine whether your sciatic nerve pain results from a temporary or resolvable condition. Therefore, it’s essential for us to examine the condition of your spine. Once we know where the pain originates and why it appears, we can develop a successful treatment plan to eliminate, minimize or manage your pain.

When your pain results from treatable, preventable or reversible conditions, you must address its underlying causes. If you sit for long periods of time at work or you do not exercise regularly, we can help develop a treatment plan to address these components of your wellness. Likewise, if your mattress is too hard or too soft, sciatic relief may also involve addressing this truth!

Women who wear high heels put themselves at a greater risk of developing sciatic nerve pain. If this describes you, we can show you why wearing high heels changes the alignment of your spine and opens you up to developing spinal nerve pain. By reducing the height of your heels or wearing flat shoes, you can allow your irritated spinal nerves to heal.

Improper weight management can also lead to the development of nerve pain. Carrying excess weight can put enormous stress on your legs, hips and lower back. By following a program of weight management designed to help shed pounds, we can not only help resolve your back pain, but also help you avoid other weight-induced common side effects.

Other conditions that can cause sciatica, like pregnancy, are temporary. If you experience sciatic nerve pain resulting from pregnancy, you can take comfort in the fact that your sciatica will resolve when you give birth to your baby. Until then, we can develop natural, non-invasive and non-drug therapies and interventions that can help relieve your pain.

Sciatic pain treatment

Making sure your spine is in good alignment can help relieve pressure on the discs in your back and allow an irritated disc to heal. We can provide effective sciatic pain treatment and relieve pressure on one or more affected discs, often in just a few visits.

Some patients also find sciatica relief in the form of alternating hot and cold compresses on the affected part of the spine.

Although it may not seem like it in the moment, exercises and light stretching can actually help relieve sciatica. By strengthening the muscles that support the lumbar and lumbosacral spine, you can diminish the nerve impairment. We can create a program of light stretching and exercise that can help strengthen your spinal muscles and keep your spinal vertebrae in proper alignment.

When your back pain results from chronic, degenerative conditions, we can provide a path to pain management that allows you to avoid the use of addictive, life-destructive pharmaceutical painkillers. Our treatments can help you manage your chronic pain naturally, and in some cases, help restore function and health that medical doctors may have told you was gone forever.

If you’re experiencing lower back pain symptoms consistent with sciatica, please give us a call today at NewEdge Wellness at (509) 737-9355 to set up an initial consultation.

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