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Chronic pain: Sorting out the facts from the myths

woman in painWhen you suffer from chronic pain, it’s easy to get confused as different friends try to offer you different advice. Some may say exercise is the answer, other will advise rest! Some may want to tell you that the pain is all in your head, or that a course of medication will alleviate your symptoms for good, but is this true?

To help sort through some of the confusion, this blog will look at some of the most common facts and myths surrounding chronic pain.

Myth #1   You can cure chronic pain by treating the underlying cause

Although this can sometimes be true, chronic pain is often much more complex than that!

Anyone suffering from chronic pain must consult their doctor to see if an underlying cause for the pain can be found. However, if the cause of the pain can be determined, treatment of the underlying problem does not always mean an end to the associated pain. Sometimes that pain can linger. In other cases a doctor may not be able to reach a diagnosis, and the source of the chronic pain can remain a mystery.

Often those suffering with chronic pain will benefit most from a two-pronged approach; treating both the underlying problem and separately treating the pain as well.

Myth #2   Bed rest is the best way to treat chronic pain

Outdated medical advice for people with various types of chronic pain, was bed rest.

In some cases this may still be the best advice, for instance in the first couple of days after an injury. However, where chronic pain is concerned, often carrying on with your normal day to day tasks can be the most beneficial course of action. Bed rest in some cases can actually make things worse.

Of course, all cases are individual, and it is very important to get advice from your doctor.

Myth #3   Chronic or increased pain is part of the ageing process

This is particularly damaging myth! No matter what your age you should always go to see your doctor if you are suffering from chronic pain.

It is true that as you age your likelihood of developing painful conditions, such as arthritis, increases. But with the right diagnosis, most chronic pain conditions can be treated, with patients seeing a significant improvement.

Fact #1   You should see your doctor even if you only have mild chronic pain

No matter how mild your chronic pain, you should consult your doctor. The pain may signal an underlying problem, and often early treatment can prevent the pain from worsening and becoming difficult to treat.

Additionally, if patients put off seeing a doctor, it can lead to unhealthy ways of dealing with pain such as overuse of over-the-counter painkillers.   In some cases it can even cause depression, sleep deprivation, isolation and problems at work or in the home.

Fact #2   Chronic pain might not go away completely, even with good treatment

Unfortunately, with chronic pain, there is often no instant cure! Complex pain conditions can take time to treat, with a combination of traditional and alternative therapies.

With each case being unique, different solutions will work for different people. Although there is no guarantee that chronic pain can be completely cured, in most cases patients can expect to see an improvement in their quality of life with treatment.

Fact #3   Chronic pain and depression are connected

Studies have shown that chronic pain and depression do seem to be connected. With people who suffer from chronic pain, often suffering with depression, and vice versa.

This is a very complex issue. It is true people with depression can be more sensitised to pain, but this does not mean that the pain is ‘in their heads’, their pain is very real. In fact studies on the brain have shown that emotional pain and physical pain activate some of the same areas of the brain. Furthermore, some anti-depressant medications are successful at treating chronic pain conditions, even in those patients who are not suffering from depression.

Have you found this article helpful? We would love to hear your insights. Tell us about your thoughts and experiences by posting your comments below.

How to find a pain management clinic and what to expect

guy in painIf you suffer from chronic pain. and if you’re finding that ordinary medication isn’t helping, your doctor may recommend that you attend a pain management clinic.

These clinics do more than just alleviate pain. They also help with occupational therapy, psychology, physiotherapy, general nursing and alternative therapy.

When you visit a clinical specialist, they will assess your specific needs and circumstances and review any pain medication you’re currently using. This could be:

  • Drugs to relieve minor pain
  • Anti-Inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen which are used to treat inflammation.
  • Prescription only drugs called corticosteroids which are used for more severe inflammation.
  • Opioid drugs which are given to treat severe pain.
  • Antidepressants, which not only treat depression but also treat pain and help you to sleep This is something you may have difficulty doing, when you are in pain.

Like many chronic pain sufferers, you may find that medication alone doesn’t provide enough relief. If you attend a pain management clinic, you’ll see that they can offer a range of alternative treatments such as:

  • Injections to your nerves to block the pain.
  • Injections into muscles or joints which can relieve pain and stop muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy such as an exercise programme, massage or water therapy.
  • The use of a TENS machine which send small electrical impulses through to your nerves.
  • Acupuncture, which is the Chinese method of inserting very fine needles into your skin at certain areas in order to relieve pain.
  • Relaxation Therapy. Learning relaxation techniques can help you reduce stress and relieve pain.

Pain also effects your general well-being and it is important to receive psychological support or counselling. This will help you deal with any anger issues you might have or depression brought on by the fact because you can no longer live the life you had before. It can also help you with feelings of frustration and anxiety about your condition.

If you decide to seek the help of a pain management clinic, ask yourself some important questions beforehand, in order to ensure that you pick the clinic best suited to your needs:

  • Does the clinic treat my particular condition?
  • Are the staff friendly and helpful and do they put you at ease?
  • Will the staff develop a treatment plan that it tailored to my condition?
  • Will I be able to involve my family?
  • Will there be communication between the clinic and my own doctor?
  • Will the clinic communicate with me efficiently?
  • Will the clinic’s team communicate with each other, so that each stage of my treatment is properly monitored and assessed?

As well as showing you how to manage and treat your pain, you will be given a pain treatment plan to work through. If you want to know where your nearest NHS pain clinic is, then log on to the National Pain Audit website. Click search for a clinic and put in your postcode. A list of clinics will appear within a certain radius to your home. Private clinics can usually be found by putting in the words ‘private pain management clinics’ into your search engine and then the name of your town.

If you have attended a pain management clinic, let us know. We would love to hear how your clinic has helped you manage your pain. Please post your comments below.



Chronic Pain and its Symptoms

What is Chronic Pain?Any pain that lasts longer than three months is defined as chronic pain. It is now recognised as a genuine medical condition.

Chronic pain can be caused by a number of different factors including a back sprain caused by lifting something heavy, a whiplash injury, falling over, or an object falling on top of you. It can also appear as a result of a viral infection, brain abnormalities or an emotional trauma.

If you have had an accident and you still have pain after three months it’s recommended that you see your doctor. Chronic pain is thought to be caused by the nervous system which causes nerve impulses to send the brain messages about tissue damage that was never there in the first place, or that has come from a previous injury which has now healed. It is still a complex subject in the medical world and that is why it is sometimes so difficult to treat.

Examples of chronic pain are:


Fibromyalgia can develop on its own, without a known cause, or it can come about through accident or trauma. It can be caused by any of the factors named above, a fall, a whiplash injury, a sprain or by an object falling on top of you.

The pain has often been described as the kind of pain in your joints and muscles that you get with a really bad dose of flu. It is intense and it is sometimes worse in the mornings. The symptoms lead to other problems such as lack of sleep and fatigue.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

This condition can be caused by muscle strain or injury and leads to pain in your muscles, which can flare up with stress or anxiety. It can give you painful symptoms in other parts of your body, which don’t seem to be related to the sensitive muscle points.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Fatigue is a long term tiredness throughout your whole body. It can give you muscle pain, exhaustion, headaches and cause lack of sleep. It can be brought on or made worse through an injury.

Chronic back pain

Chronic back pain effects your lower back and it makes sleeping comfortably extremely difficult. Lack of sleep then makes you anxious and unable to concentrate. Like ME it can brought on, or made worse by an injury.

Post whiplash injury syndrome

Whiplash can leave you with an aching neck and shoulders, ringing in your ears, dizziness and fatigue, which in turn can lead to stress, disturbed sleep and depression. You can suffer with whiplash as a result of tears to the tendons and the muscles in your neck.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

This is a type of arthritis that effects the spine, causing neck and lower back pain. It can be triggered by illness or injury. It sometimes causes the spine to curve or to fuse.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is caused by damage to the central nervous system. It affects your arms, legs, hands or feet and the pain varies in severity. It is usually brought about by an injury or a trauma.


The most common signs of Lupus are a rash on the face, fatigue, shortness of breath and headaches. You might also suffer from skin lesions and dry eyes. The condition occurs when the immune systems starts to attack healthy tissue. It can be brought on by injury and emotional stress.

Other Effects

The symptoms of chronic pain can be described as shooting pains, a burning sensation, aching, soreness, or stinging. It is not only the pain that effects your way of life. It can have a knock on effect and alter the way you live completely.

Lack of Sleep
For example pain effects your sleep patterns, maybe you don’t sleep as well as you used to, consequently when you wake up in the mornings you don’t feel rested.

Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and this means that you don’t have the energy to do what you normally do through the day. You may not be able to work or look after your family.


Not being able to live your life as you did before you suffered from chronic pain can lead to depression. This means that you will withdraw from family and friends and you may become fearful and irritated. You may lose your job and stop going out altogether.

Lack of Libido
Chronic pain can affect your libido. This might cause problems as you may feel guilty, or your partner might not be understanding.

Family Stress
The fact that you are suffering will of course affect your family and that’s why it is important to recognise the symptoms of chronic pain and get the right treatment.

If you suffer from any of the above conditions, get in touch and share your story. You’ll find the address of each of our offices on the contact page. We would love to hear from you.




Brian Barr Win £650,000 Settlement for Chronic Pain Sufferer

Brian BarrSteve Dean (not his real name) has achieved a settlement of £650,000 for his road accident claim just 10 months after approaching Brian Barr to act for him.

Mr. Dean was in a car accident in October 2011. He suffered injuries to his right hip, knee, ankle and foot with ongoing pain. He had pain in his neck and back. Mr. Dean was also suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He instructed us in August 2014. By that time his previous solicitors had, in nearly three years, obtained an admission of liability for the accident and one report from a psychiatrist. They had also received an offer from the Defendants to settle the claim for £100,000, which his solicitor and barrister urged him to accept. He was not prepared to do so.

Court proceedings had to be commenced by October 2014 and Brian Barr immediately did that. They also rapidly obtained medical reports from an orthopaedic surgeon, a rheumatologist, a pain consultant and a psychiatrist. Mr. Dean had been running a successful business and a report was obtained from a forensic accountant on his business losses. An occupational therapist prepared a report on his care and equipment needs. It was apparent that he had a widespread chronic pain syndrome which was neither Fibromyalgia nor Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Brian Barr supplied the Defendant’s Solicitors with a fully detailed Particulars of Claim, a Schedule of Loss and all the expert evidence. The Defendant’s insurance company were anxious to try to settle the case and damages were agreed in June 2015 at £650,000. Mr. Dean also recovered his legal costs.

Brian Barr comments: “This was an extremely challenging case, not least because a great deal had to be done in a short period of time. This man was suffering greatly because the chronic pain condition was magnifying his physical injuries. Nevertheless, he has achieved a substantial award and we hope that this will be of great help to him in the future.”

What is Whiplash and what’s the best way to treat it?

What is whiplash?guy in pain
Whiplash is a common complaint for anyone unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic accident. According to the NHS website, it is caused when:
The vigorous movement of the head overstretches and damages the tendons and ligaments in the neck.”

Other causes of whiplash may include:

  • A sudden blow to the head (for example, during contact sports such as rugby);
  • A slip or a fall;
  • Being struck on the head by a heavy object.

Although whiplash is not a life threatening injury, it can be an extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable experience for the patient. In the worse case scenario, whiplash may even lead to a prolonged period of disability: whilst most victims are soon on the road to recovery, others may experience symptoms for much longer.

What are the symptoms?
It is important to note that the symptoms of whiplash may not appear immediately following the original trauma. In fact, it can take between 6-12 hours for them to develop, with the pain and stiffness continuing to worsen over the following days lists the common symptoms of whiplash as follows:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headache
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaw pain
  • Arm pain and/or weakness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Back pain

More severe symptoms, in chronic cases, may include:

  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Drug dependency
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Sleep disturbance (insomnia)

How is it diagnosed?
Whiplash can be diagnosed by a GP or hospital Dr following an initial examination. Tests aren’t usually required, but the Dr will want to know how the injury occurred, in addition to as much information as possible about the symptoms. He/she may also:
examine your neck for signs of muscle spasms and tenderness and assess the range of movement in your neck.”

If the Dr suspects that a more serious injury may have occurred, the patient may also be sent for scans or x-rays:

“The most important first step is to make sure there is no major injury to the neck, head or the rest of the body requiring immediate treatment.”

What is the treatment?
The good news is that, in most cases of whiplash, the symptoms should begin to either improve on their own, or with some basic treatment. GP’s will assess individuals on a case-by-case basis for the best course of action, which may include:

  • Advising the patient to move his/her neck, rather than keeping it still with a brace or collar. The NHS website explains that:
    Your neck may be painful but keeping it mobile from an early stage will improve its functionality and speed up your recovery”
  • Taking painkillers (for example, paracetamol or ibuprofen for milder pain; or stronger ones, such as codeine, may be prescribed in more severe cases)
  • Depending upon the severity of the symptoms, there is also a chance that the Dr may recommend physiotherapy

You can read more about how whiplash is treated, including in the instance that the patient begins to develop any psychological symptoms, here.

Chronic whiplash
Whilst most cases of whiplash should clear up without any lasting damage, in some patients the symptoms may be severe or longer lasting (up to 6 months or more). In this instance, the injury may impact upon the individual’s ability to work or enjoy leisure time: potentially causing anxiety and depression as a result. Where chronic whiplash is diagnosed, a GP may recommend a more intensive treatment programme, or even referral to a specialist.

Do remember that it is imperative that you see your GP if you are suffering from any chronic neck pains that are affecting your ability to work or carry out everyday tasks. 

Have you ever suffered from whiplash, or suspected that you may have done? What treatment/s did you receive and how long did it take for your condition to improve?


How to Cope with Chronic Pain

Whether you have lived with chroniYoung woman meditating on a wooden jettyc pain for years, or have only recently begun to suffer with it, we thought you might be interested to discover three tried-and-tested techniques for pain relief.

We hope that at least one of them both inspires you and helps you to manage your pain.

  • Relaxation
    Relaxation techniques focus on slow, controlled, deep breathing that may take your attention away from the pain you are feeling, as well as helping to:
    release tension from muscles and relieve pain.”
    The three major relaxation techniques are as follow:
    • Autogenic relaxation
      Reducing stress through a combination of body awareness and visual imagery;
    • Progressive muscle relaxation
      Focusing on tensing and relaxing groups of muscles;
    • Visualization
      Using visual imagery to take the mind to a calm and peaceful place. Each of the senses may be called upon to add a richer sense of the relaxing space you would like your mind to travel to.

The Mayo Clinic list the following benefits that may be experienced through practicing relaxation techniques, suggesting that they can reduce stress symptoms by:

    • Slowing your heart rate
    • Lowering blood pressure
    • Slowing your breathing rate
    • Reducing activity of stress hormones
    • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
    • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
    • Improving concentration and mood
    • Lowering fatigue
    • Reducing anger and frustration
    • Boosting confidence to handle problems
  • Gentle exercise
    We have said it before, and we’ll say it again… gentle exercise might be the last thing that you feel like doing when suffering from chronic pain, but it may be just the thing to help! According to an article in
    “Several people found that exercise relieved their pain through the release of endorphins, natural pain relieving chemicals. Others did not experience noticeable pain relief but felt that they were physically fitter, had more strength and had reduced their weight by being more active.”
    Talk to your GP or physiotherapist about different options to try, including:

    • Yoga
    • Walking
    • Tai chi
    • Pilates
    • Aerobics
  • Distraction
    Distraction techniques can move your focus away from thinking about pain, and concentrate it upon positive thoughts instead. The Pain Management Network have produced a helpful guide about some of the techniques that you might consider using, including:

    • Listening to music
    • Drawing/doodling
    • Reading
    • Puzzles
    • Imagination walks

One of our favourite distraction techniques relates to a recent trend for adult colouring books, such as Johanna Basford’s bestselling and beautifully illustrated ‘Secret Garden’.

Take a course
If none of the above options appeal, you may also consider taking a course to discover how to better manage your pain. The NHS offers free self management courses for anybody that lives with long-term chronic conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis. The aim of these courses is for patients to:
“to develop new skills to manage their condition (and any related pain) better on a day-to-day basis. Many people who have been on a self management course say they take fewer painkillers afterwards.”
You can find out more about the course and programmes on offer by self management UK here.

Have you experimented with any of the above techniques in order to manage the symptoms of chronic pain? Did you notice any benefits? Do you have recommendations for other techniques to try? We always love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

How to help friends and relatives suffering from chronic pain

Woman helping with the ironingWatching a loved one suffering from chronic pain can be a challenging experience. One of the difficulties expressed by people in this position is knowing what support they can provide.

With this in mind, we have undertaken a little research to find examples of some of the nicest gestures friends and family members have done to help a loved one affected by a chronic pain illness (such as fibromyalgia).
We thought we’d share a few of our favourite examples with you…

  • Offer to accompany your friend to a hospital appointment
    We all know that attending a hospital appointment can be a pretty unpleasant experience. The wait, in itself, may be particularly daunting: leaving you with time on your hands to build up worry, or negatively reflect upon the meeting ahead. Why not check with your loved one to see if they have an upcoming appointment and, if you can make yourself available, offer to take them along and wait with them. The fact that you have even offered will let them know how important they are to you!
  • Educate yourself
    By educating yourself about the symptoms and treatments of chronic pain, you can better support your friend or partner as they learn to cope with their illness. Whilst you can’t provide a cure for their chronic pain condition, you can let them know that you understand a little of what they might be going through. There are plenty of great resources on the internet that will provide you with some helpful information to get started. Here are just a few:

  • Show support through your dietary choiceshealthy food
    If your loved one has been told to avoid certain foods (that might cause a flare in symptoms), a nice gesture might be to offer to prepare a special meal that takes any of his/her dietary requirements into account.
  • Help out with the household chores
    Anybody that suffers with chronic pain will know that even seemingly simple household chores can become a real cause for consternation. As Nina McLean, a 31-year-old midwife in Melbourne (Australia) explains:
    “When I was in heaps of pain, the thought of changing fitted sheets and sorting out the buttons or snaps on a duvet cover made me turn cold.”
    Why not ask your friend/partner if there are any chores around the house that they could do with a pair of helping hands with. Even scheduling in a couple of hours could potentially make a world of difference to them.
  • Give the gift of warmth
    Applying warmth to achy joints can have a really soothing effect, so heat pads or a hot water bottle are great gift ideas for anybody suffering from chronic pain. Along similar lines, a beautiful warm blanket would make another thoughtful gift: etsy has a particularly gorgeous selection.
    You can check out some other great gift ideas here.

Becoming a caregiver
If you want to provide more in depth support for someone you know who is in pain have put together some excellent resources that you might find useful.

“Taking an active role in helping to manage a loved one’s pain may help you feel more useful and worry less.”

Do you care for a loved one who suffers with a chronic pain condition? What tips can you share that have really made a difference to your friend or partner’s quality of life?


10 Daily Habits to Reduce Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain can be tough Workoutat the best of times, but staying positive and
keeping active can be a great way to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, as well as helping to beat the blues. Here are ten great tips that we found to get you started

  • Tip #1 – Keep fit!
    Whilst exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are suffering from chronic pain, it may be exactly the thing you need! Even gentle daily exercise can help to release endorphins (the brain’s feel good chemicals), boosting your mood and helping you maintain a positive outlook on life. Exercise can also help to keep you toned, flexible and strong: all important qualities when it comes to managing your symptoms.
    Why not consult your GP or physio, and try to work out an exercise plan that will work for you?
  • Tip #2 – Avoid alcohol
    Although it can be tempting to reach for the alcohol when you are feeling stressed out or in pain, alcohol acts as a stimulant. This means that whilst it may help you to get off to sleep; it promotes shallow sleep, reducing your ability to get that good night’s rest that you are likely in need of.
    According to Paul Chelminski, Assistant Professor of Medicene (University of North Carolina):
    “Alcohol has no direct pain-relieving properties. There is a strong relationship between chronic pain and anxiety and depressionSo in general, we should not encourage a perception that alcohol relieves pain because, in fact, it puts patients at higher risk for complication from their pain medications.”
  • Tip #3 – Cut out the cigarettes
    Like alcohol, cigarettes can act as a crutch that we reach for during anxious moments. We don’t need to tell you about the negative effects of smoking on your health, and the fact that it is likely to cause a worsening of your symptoms in the long run.
    However, quitting is easier said than done, right? Don’t give up on giving up just yet! There is lots of help available to support you along the way, and we’ve put some info together here, which we hope you find useful.
  • Tip #4 – Eat healthily
    Eating a well-balanced diet can have positive effects on both your health and mental outlook. Although there is no firm evidence to suggest that a particular diet can improve your symptoms, some people do claim that they feel better if they avoid certain foods.
    You can find out more about how your diet may help to control your fibromyalgia symptoms here. Do remember to first consult your GP or nutritionist before making any significant changes to your diet.
  • Tip #5 – Keep a pain journal
    Keeping a diary of how your pain levels are affected each day can be a useful way of tracking your symptoms, and finding links between aspects of your lifestyle that may improve/worsen your condition. recommends keeping a record of your pain score (from 1 to 10), with a note of which activities you did each day. Take the journal with you next time you see your GP, and discuss any of your thoughts and findings.
  • Tip #6 – Relax!
    Take time out for yourself each day to give your body a chance to rejuvenate. Whether its sharing a dinner with friends; going for a massage, or putting your feet up to watch a movie: a well-balanced lifestyle should involve making enough time to do the things that make you feel relaxed and happy. Don’t forget that learning to relax may also include not being afraid to say no to the things that you don’t feel up to doing. Not feeling well enough to attend that party at the weekend? A good friend will totally understand, so try not to give yourself additional stress by worrying about letting other people down.
  • Tip #7 – Try meditationFotolia_67340426_XS
    Taking time out to mediate each day can be the perfect way to ease your stresses. In addition, as meditation helps to relax you, you might discover that it also helps with pain relief. Find out more about different meditation techniques here.
    Considering enrolling in a meditation class? can be a really great way to find one local to you
  • Tip #8 – Take up a hobby
    Sometimes if we focus on thinking about pain too much, it can (arguably) contribute to the experience of it. Taking up a new hobby may be a good way to distract your self from your aches and pains, and give you a focus to look forward to each week. You can read more about some great fibro-friendly hobbies in this article, by the Fibromyalgia Network.
  • Tip #9 – Educate yourself when it comes to your medication
    Do you understand how your prescribed medication works, and what its side effects might be? Keeping informed about your course of treatment, and any adverse reactions that you may be having with it, can be a great way to maintain a control over your illness. If you don’t feel like a particular tablet is having a positive effect, perhaps you can explain to your GP why you think this, and discuss any other possibilities that may be available to you.
  • Tip #10 – Remember you are not alone
    Dealing with a chronic pain illness can be an extremely isolating experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from trusted friends and family members. Support groups and online forums can also be a great way to connect with others who may be going through similar issues as you. It’s really important to remember that there is always help out there if you reach out for it.
    Discover a fibromyalgia support group near you by following this link.

Which of these ten tips have you found most helpful? Do you have any more to add to the list?

Scientists Identify neural mechanism responsible for chronic pain

woman in painScientists from the University of Berne (Switzerland) have recently made an exciting breakthrough that may pave the way for a new treatment for chronic pain. Publishing their study in the scientific journal Neuron, the researchers have identified a cellular mechanism that they believe contributes to the development of chronic pain.

Lead author of the study, Thomas Nevian, of the Department of Physiology, suggests that despite the high numbers of chronic pain sufferers, adequate treatment strategies are missing in many cases, explaining that:

“The constant perception of pain severely influences the quality of life of the patients and represents an extraordinary emotional burden…” and that: “understanding the development of chronic pain is of outmost importance for neuroscience research.”

What has the research revealed?

In discussing their findings Nevian, and his fellow researcher Mirko Santello, describe a region in the brain known as Gyrus Cinguli which is, according to associated with the: “emotional aspects of pain”, and “pain memory”. It is within the neurons of this part of the brain that the key to the team’s discovery can be found.

Here’s the science:

“Pain is perceived by electrical impulses in the neurons. Therefore, the two researchers were searching for changes in the electrical properties of neurons in the limbic system. They found that neurons were more excitable in the Gyrus Cinguli. This was attributable to a down regulation of a specific ion channel, a protein in the cell membrane that determines the electrical properties of the cell. This led to an increased number of nerve impulses in these cells and thus to an increased perception of pain.”

The next part of the team’s research involved an investigation of how they might treat pain sensitivity. They found that if they activated a receptor that was sensitive to serotonin, they could restore a normal function to the neuron. This, in turn, has the effect of reducing the perception of pain:

“It has been known for some time that serotonin can modulate pain perception and the function of some drugs is based on this,” Thomas Nevian says. “Nevertheless, what is new in our study now is that we were able to identify a specific subtype of serotonin receptor that reduced the perception of pain more efficiently. This is an important result, which might help to treat chronic pain more efficiently in the future.”

How does this research affect fibromyalgia patients?

As with most scientific breakthroughs, the results of the Berne team’s research will take a little while to filter down onto the market: so it will be some time before fibromyalgia patients are able to benefit from any drugs that are designed on the basis of these results.

The good news is that the more research that is done in this field, the closer we are coming to finding a reliable solution to treating chronic pain. Now wouldn’t that be something!

Which pain management solutions have you found most effective in the treatment of your fibromyalgia symptoms? Share your experiences!


Does Smoking Make Chronic Pain Worse?

SmokingIf you suffer from fibromyalgia and happen to be a smoker, then you are probably more than used to hearing negative things about your smoking habit. Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, smoking really isn’t doing you any favours. As Bruce Vrooman, MD, a specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pain Management explains:

“While some patients appreciate the short-term, nicotine-induced relief of a cigarette, it may actually worsen their pain over time”

How does smoking affect chronic pain?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, smoking can affect the symptoms of chronic pain in the following ways:

  • The nicotine in tobacco releases chemicals into your body like dopamine – giving off a “reward” sensation. This is one of the reasons that smoking can be so addictive;
  • The chemicals in tobacco also inhibit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the tissues and bones. As blood flow is already limited to some areas of the body, such as the discs in the spine, degeneration can occur: sometimes resulting in lower back pain and osteoporosis;
  • Smoking is often connected to fatigue and slower healing.  This can have a negative impact upon conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Studies (that focus upon the links between smoking and fibromyalgia) show that smoking can also have the following negative effects:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Increased tender points
  • Depression (women only)

Further clinical evidence

Over the years, researchers have been exploring the links between smoking and chronic pain and have all come to the same conclusion… it’s time to stop!

  • In 2014, researchers at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine revealed that smokers are more than 3 times more likely than non-smokers to develop chronic pain. Lead author of the study and a technical scientist at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Bogdan Petre describes how: “Smoking affects the brain…We found that it affects the way the brain responds to back pain and seems to make individuals less resilient to an episode of pain.”
  • In 2012, a team at the University of Rochester conducted a study of more than 5,300 patients who suffered from chronic pain; and the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that those: “who quit or never smoked had less pain than those who continued to smoke.”
  • In 2013, Norwegian researchers surveyed over 10,000 people before concluding that there was a definite link between smoking and chronic pain. Research leader, Dr. Aslak Johansen of the University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, reports:
    “The smokers had the lowest tolerance to pain induced by cold water, followed by the former smokers, and men and women who had never smoked had the highest pain tolerance. These results suggest that nicotine consumption leads to a long-term hyperalgesic effect.”

How do I quit?

You have read the evidence and know the facts, but for the long-term and occasional smoker alike, tobacco is a famously hard habit to quit. So, what’s the best way to go about it?

The first thing to do is focus on the amazing benefits that a smoke-free life can bring you. Your GP can talk you through the options for quitting that may include the following:

  • NHS Stop Smoking Service
    Your local NHS Stop Smoking Service can provide you with one-to-one or group support, expert advice and plenty of encouragement;
  • E-cigarettes
    These electronic devices replicate real cigarettes by producing a vapour that is potentially less harmful than tobacco.  Whilst clinical trials are yet to confirm the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes, they have become an increasingly popular method to quit smoking;
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
    NRT can help ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking, by releasing a controlled amount of nicotine into your body.  NRT can come in a number of different forms, including the following:

    • Skin patches
    • Nasal spray
    • Mouth Spray
    • Inhalators
    • Chewing gum
    • Tablets, strips and lozenges
  • Medications
    For those that find it impossible to quit with other methods, your GP may prescribe one of the following two medications:

It’s important to note that these medications are not suitable for everybody and do come with a risk of side effects. You can do some further reading here.

Has smoking had an adverse affect on your chronic pain symptoms? Have you quit smoking and found that your symptoms have improved? We’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback!