chronic pain

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Therapy Used For Trauma, Chronic Pain Snubbed By Establishment

What does it take for the American Psychological Association to bless an alternative type of therapy?

It’s a question that Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Rick Leskowitz, director of the Integrative Medicine Project at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, has been asking for years.

Dr. Leskowitz sent me an email after I wrote about yoga for treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that another approach, called Energy Psychology, a kind of psychological acupuncture without needles, is “the most impressive intervention I’ve encountered in 25 years of work.” I was intrigued.

From Facebook Fight to Alternative Treatment

One of his patients, Nicole McCarthy, told me that after she was hit by a car — intentionally, by a teenage driver — and suffered a traumatic brain injury, among other damage, Energy Psychology was the most effective treatment to heal her emotionally. McCarthy, a 41-year-old dancer, said the therapy allowed her to talk about the accident for the first time without hyperventilating and crying, and to overcome the deep fear and psychic trauma associated with the hit-and-run. (It occurred after a Facebook feud between her daughter’s teenage friends spiraled out of control). Just one session, she said, “was a life-altering experience for the better. It’s a tool I will use for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Leskowitz cites his own clinical experience and a growing number of studies showing the benefits of the practice. For instance, two recent studies involving combat veterans found that after six sessions of intensive Energy Psychology, the vets show marked relief from their PTSD symptoms.

The APA Just Says No

But the American Psychological Association says the science behind the therapy still isn’t adequate, and it won’t grant continuing education credits for training in Energy Psychology. Continue reading

Pain During Sex? There’s Hope In A Little-Known Treatment Option

About one-third of women experience pain during sex, says a new report. But treatment is available.

About one-third of women say they have pain during sex, according to a comprehensive new series of reports on the sexual lives of Americans published this week in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Debby Herbenick, one of the study’s authors, told me that number “surprised” her — she didn’t think so many women would report that kind of pain.

But it doesn’t surprise me — because I’m one of them.

Here’s my story:

Earlier this year, to put it bluntly, I started having pain during sex. For a while, I ignored it, telling myself it was probably just a passing problem that would resolve on its own. It didn’t.

I went to see my fantastic ob/gyn, Beth Hardiman, the woman who delivered my two children, and whom I trust with the most intimate details of my life. She did an exam and told me my vaginal muscles were locked in permanent spasm, like if you gripped your shoulders up to your ears and never let go.

“You need pelvic floor massage,” she said. (You can imagine what I envisioned.) “I’m giving you a prescription for pelvic floor physical therapy.”

Now, I thought I was a savvy health care consumer, having written on the topic as a journalist for the past 10 years. Plus, I’ve had two babies, so I thought I was fairly familiar with the pelvis. Wrong. I had never, ever heard of pelvic floor physical therapy. And I never realized how many complex systems — reproductive, urinary, gastrointestinal, neurological, psychological, and musculoskeletal — can be involved in pelvic pain.

Dr. Hardiman told me that many doctors hadn’t heard of it either. And if they did, they pooh-poohed the field as a bunch of amateurs blithely assigning kegel exercises to their patients. But she said so many of her patients complain of painful sex and related problems that pelvic floor physical therapy, as a specialty, should be far more recognized and respected. She gave me a list of 25 pelvic floor physical therapists in the region. The first five I called were completely booked and not taking new patients.

Then I found Rachael Maiocco, a pelvic floor physical therapist in Chestnut Hill, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Rehabilitation Services. There was a three-month wait to see her, but eventually, I was scheduled for eight visits. Continue reading

Report: Smoking Pot Helps Relieve Chronic Pain

Note to chronic pain sufferers: Please Inhale.

Canadian researchers, overcoming significant political and regulatory hurdles, found that when patients smoked marijuana, their chronic pain diminished (their moods improved too, but we probably didn’t need a study for that.)

The groundbreaking clinical trial, with results published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, determined that:

“Low doses of inhaled cannabis containing approximately 10% THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), smoked as a single inhalation using a pipe three times daily over a period of five days, offered modest pain reduction in patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain (pain associated with nerve injury) within the first few days. The results also suggest that cannabis improved moods and helped patients sleep better. The effects were less pronounced in cannabis strains containing less than 10% THC.”

In an editorial accompanying the study, Henry McQuay, an emeritus fellow from Bailliol College, Oxford writes: “If patients are not achieving a good response with conventional treatment of their pain, then they may, reasonably, wish to try cannabis. If medical cannabis is not available where a patient lives, then obtaining it will take the patient outside of the law, often for the first time in his or her life. Good evidence would at least buttress that decision.”

This may be easier said than done. A report in The New York Times this week says that even people with prescriptions for medical marijuana are confronting hostile employers. In some cases, they’re getting fired for failing drugs tests even with a legitimate medical reason to smoke pot.