Ultrasound Pain Management

Many people associate ultrasound with pregnancy, ObGyn visits and other diagnostics. Since the 1940s, however, ultrasound has been used to induce localized healing. More recently, great healing impacts have begun to be studied.

Traditional Pain Management and Healing

Ultrasound machines produce sound waves that pass through skin and other tissues which produce deep localized healing with little or no sensation felt by the person receiving treatment. In addition, ultrasound increases blood flow, tissue relaxation and scar tissue breakdown – all of which contribute to healing, reduced swelling and pain reduction, according to Physical Therapy Web.

Even more amazing for the needle-phobic among us, ultrasound can be used to deliver medications through the skin. This technique, called phonophoresis, is frequently used to administer cortisone, which reduces inflammation and pain in injuries.

A typical ultrasound pain management treatment takes just three to five minutes, but may be longer if the goal is to reduce scar tissue. The ultrasound machine wand is coated with a gel to reduce friction and kept in constant motion over the area being treated.

Treating Cancer

More recently, British doctors have begun using ultrasound to treat cancer. The Guardian reports that doctors at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have used ultrasound to kill harmful tissues deep within the bodies of patients diagnosed with cancerous bone legions.

This type of ultrasound, known as high intensity focused ultrasound (HiFu), has been seen to successfully treat breast lumps and bone lesions. Researchers speculate that it could also be used to deliver capsules of cancer treatment drugs directly inside a tumor, reducing the negative side-effects of current treatment methods.

Researchers are currently focusing on the use of ultrasound to treat bone lesions related to cancer, but once it’s been perfected researchers believe the technology could have many uses. For example, ultrasound could be used to heat up cancer cells and kill them.

In addition, doctors believe they could inject fatty capsules containing anti-cancer drugs into a patient’s blood stream. When the capsules reach the tumor, ultrasound would be used to heat it up and burst the capsule, delivering the medication exactly where it’s needed.

Researchers have just barely begun to discover all the uses for ultrasound and sound waves. The ways in which they can be used to heal the body are currently limitless.

Reiki in Hospitals

As little as 15 to 20 years ago, the idea of an alternative healing modality such as Reiki being used in hospitals or other clinical settings would have been unthinkable. Fortunately, times have changed and Reiki in hospitals and hospices is becoming more common.

Prevalence

According to an article published by the International Association of Reiki Practitioners (IARP), Reiki and healing touch therapies are one of the top three complimentary practices currently being used in hospitals, with 25 percent of patients requesting it. They looked at the top 25 best hospitals, as ranked by U.S News and World Report in 2002 and found that 60% of them had some type of Reiki program in place.

This uptick in Reiki use is partly thanks to Dr. Oz. The famous heart surgeon has had Reiki and Therapeutic Touch practitioners in his operating rooms for more than 10 years. He’s seen that patients who receive the benefits of these therapies during the surgery experience fewer post-operative complications, both physical and emotional. Dr. Oz has made it a point to talk about these modalities on his television show, which has made them more mainstream.

Why it Works

Reiki treatments, no matter the length, are usually done in a private, quiet setting. Hospitals and other clinical settings by their very nature provide this setting for their patients. There is no additional technology required and long sessions are not necessarily needed to provide patients with the support they need, according to Karuna Reiki creator William Lee Rand.

For example, many patients suffer from needle-phobia, also known as trypanophobia, some to the extent of avoiding medical treatment as a result. Having a phlebotomist or nurse trained in Reiki and providing support to the patient during moments of injection, blood draw, or IV placement is easily incorporated into the normal course of care and makes the entire process easier for the needle-phobic patient.

How it Works

As with many things, the effectiveness of Reiki treatments relies in part on the patient’s willingness to receive it. William Lee Rand tells Newsweek about one woman who didn’t feel anything, but then admits that her husband “forced” her to go. It’s understandable that someone who’s closed off to receiving healing energy won’t get its benefits. Just as someone who is determined not to laugh will not find even the most hilarious joke amusing.

Has Reiki helped you through a hospital stay or surgical procedure?

Mindfulness Meditation and Pain Reduction

You know the saying “it’s all in your head”? It turns out there might be some truth to that. Scientists are discovering a connection between mindfulness meditation and pain reduction.

Non-Opioid Process

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), over 11 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain. Typically, these patients receive pharmacological treatment like opioid medications. While the medications may prove to be effective at managing pain, the CDC believes their use presents significant risks, including addiction.

As an alternative to prescription opioids, the NCCIH conducted a study which showed that mindfulness meditation – where participants turned their attention inward and toward their breath, rather than to what was going on externally – had a positive effect on pain levels. Study participants were given medication to block the opioid receptors in the brain, yet mindfulness meditation still resulted in pain relief.

Repeatable

In the fourth study of it’s kind, Dr. Fadel Zeidan replicated the results of his three prior studies proving that mindfulness meditation reduces pain without accessing the brain’s opioid receptors. In a double-blind, randomized study, Dr. Zeidan studied participants for 20-minutes a day for four days. In every group, including the control group, pain was reduced by more than 20 percent when they used mindfulness meditation. Groups that did not meditate reported a pain increase.

Brain Imaging

In a prior study, Dr. Zeidan coupled patient feedback with brain imaging scans. The MRIs proved that the brain patterns of people who meditate are significantly different than those who don’t. The scans revealed that mindfulness meditation activated the orbitofrontal and anterior cingular cortex, which are associated with self-control of pain. It also deactivated the thalamus which acts as a gateway for sensory information into the brain. With it deactivated, pain signals are not able to enter the brain for processing.

What’s Next

Dr. Zeidan and his team want to figure out the ways in which mindfulness meditation can affect the large number of chronic pain disorders including arthritis and fibromyalgia. At a minimum, they hope to prove that meditation is an effective adjunct to non-opioid pharmacological treatments.

Have you tried meditation to reduce or control your acute pain? How about chronic pain? Tell us how it’s gone for you.

Music and Pain: Calming the Savage Beast

In a previous article, we discussed how sound vibrations can realign the body’s natural vibrations and improve health. It’s no surprise, that the same can be said of music since music is truly just a complex set of sound vibrations. Specifically, music can help reduce and control pain.

Music and Pain Relief: Just a Few Minutes a Day

Psychology Today notes a study that linked two daily sessions of music to reduced pain in chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and other inflammation based pain syndromes. This works best when the type of music is individualized to evoke pleasant feelings or memories in the listener.

Accelerates Time

You know the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun?” It turns out, time also flies when you’re enjoying music. The same Psychology Today article describes a study in which participants were denied access to watches and clocks and placed in an artificially stressful situation (in this case repeated cold baths).

Participants were asked to subjectively rate the length of time they were in the situation. The study concluded that people who listened to happy or relaxing music felt time passed more quickly than those with no music or sad music. It also found that participants who had happy or relaxing music felt less stressed by the cold and that their actual body temperature was higher than participants with no music or sad music.

Reduces Pain Related to Medical Treatments

A study published by Harvard Medical School found that in clinical trials patients undergoing certain medical procedures felt less pain if music was played during the procedures and required fewer sedatives. Further, they found that patients who listened to music in the recovery room had less need for opioid pain medications.

Researchers also found that patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer experienced fewer side effects when they listened to music during their treatments. Specifically, the accompanying nausea and anxiety were dramatically reduced by hearing music.

Restoring a Sense of Control

Finally, researchers found that patients with chronic pain or undergoing painful medical treatments felt more in control of their lives and their situation when provided with music as part of their treatment or procedures. It seems that music heals the body in many ways and can be an effective adjunct to traditional medicine in many settings.

Have you found music helps relieve your pain?

The Clean Bee Campaign: National Honey Month

Did you know that “organic” honey sold in the United States is a bit of a misnomer? The term is referring to what the bees ate within a specified radius from the hive, not the hive management practices, which in commercial beekeeping nearly always include the use of chemicals. These chemicals aren’t just bad for the bees, they’re not great for your body either. One company aims to change that.

Heavenly Organics

Founded in 2005, Heavenly Organics aims to disrupt the honey supply chain. By sustainably harvesting honey from wild beehives in the untouched forests of Northern and Central India and parts of the Himalayan Mountains, the raw honey they bring to market is 100% organic, non-GMO and completely chemical free.

In their most recent endeavor, Heavenly Organics is taking up the plight of the bee and using National Honey Month (September) as the perfect time to release a video series highlighting the struggles honeybees face.

Benny the Bee

Star of the video campaign is friendly Benny the Bee. Benny is a domestic (as in kept by a beekeeper) honeybee who’s lovable if a bit confused. He shows viewers the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals outside the hive, which he must cope with on each foraging trip.

Then Benny takes viewers on a trip back to the hive where the unthinking beekeeper administers harsh chemical antibiotics on a set schedule, regardless of whether or not the hive shows signs of illness.

Benny helps viewers understand the dangers of these chemicals to him and all of his hive mates. (It is worth noting that Benny must be one terribly confused bee since normally only the female bees forage while the males are focused on breeding and diversifying the genetic make up of the hive.)

How You Can Celebrate National Honey Month

To show your support for the bees this month and every month, there are some simple things you can do.

  1. Talk with your wallet – Let’s face it; we live in a capitalist society. If companies are making a profit, they’re not going to change anything. Show your support for the bees by changing your buying habits to exclude chemical treatments such as weed killer.
  2. Check your honey – If you don’t have access to good, local honey, read the labels. Make sure whatever honey you’re buying hasn’t been overly processed and is coming from a clean a source as possible.
  3. Watch the Benny the Bee.
  4. Check out Heavenly Organics’ website.
  5. Learn more from The Honeybee Conservancy.

Easing Chronic Pain with Diet

Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain according to a study cited on painmed.org. As Barby Ingle, President of the International Pain foundation explains it in a Pain News Network article, chronic pain is frequently caused by inflammation which does not properly dissipate. Fortunately, there are non-chemical ways to manage chronic pain.

Eat Your Way to Ease

Turmeric

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what you eat impacts your pain. Specific changes in diet can significantly reduce pain levels. One great and tasty example of this is turmeric. Turmeric is commonly used in Indian and Chinese diets and frequently prescribed in Ayurveda treatments. According to a local expert, turmeric works best when taken with ground black pepper.

Turmeric and black pepper are easily added to dressing, eggs, or meat rubs. There is evidence to suggest that taken regularly this combination is at least as effective as ibuprofen. In addition, there has been at least one study to show that turmeric inhibits the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in rats.

Veggies

According to Doctor William Welches, a pain management specialist, vegan and/or Mediterranean inspired diets significantly reduce pain. The basic guidelines he suggests include:

  • Eating at least eight or nine servings of vegetables daily – in all colors. The variety of nutrients provided in the rainbow of vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones, reduce pain and maintain a healthy nutritional balance for the body.
  • Restrict dairy and grains. Dairy causes mucus membranes to thicken which can increase pain. Many grains are also simple carbohydrates, which the body processes as sugar and adds to pain. Instead, choose whole grains such as barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt, or whole wheat.
  • Avoid red meat. Although many people place value on a great steak or burger, red meat is more likely to raise cholesterol or blood pressure and cause weight gain. This isn’t only unhealthy for your cardiovascular system, it also aggravates pain. Carrying around more weight is hard on your body – reducing the load reduces pain.

The Right Fats

Even when trying to lose weight, some fats are necessary in everyone’s diet. Certain fats actually help the body regulate various systems and flush out toxins. In addition, certain fats actually reduce pain. Diets rich in omega-3 have been shown to significantly reduce the pain and frequency associated with migraine headaches. Omega-3 rich foods are easily added to any diet. Fish, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter and ghee are all excellent sources of omega-3.

How as your diet impacted your pain levels?

Pets Ease Anxiety in Clinical Settings

In previous posts, we’ve looked at the effectiveness of pet therapy in hospice and hospitals. It turns out that pets are effective at reducing anxiety in other clinical settings as well. This likely comes as no surprise to pet owners, but the evidence takes away any doubt.

Mental Health Institutions

A study published in Psychiatric Services looked at 230 patients being treated for a variety of psychiatric conditions. Patients were asked to complete an anxiety questionnaire before and after therapy sessions. After evaluating the results, researchers concluded that animal therapy reduced anxiety levels in all patients, regardless of the reason for hospitalization, while routine therapy reduced anxiety levels only in those patients with mood disorders.

During Therapy Sessions

James Madison University’s Counseling Center conducted a study to see how animal assisted therapy sessions benefited their students. They found that all students who came to the counseling center and had an animal in the room during their therapy sessions gained more from those sessions than students who did not.

During the sessions, students who had animals involved had an easier time opening up to the human therapist and experienced an endorphin release which carried throughout the remainder of the day. Overall, students who received animal assisted therapy achieved a better sense of well-being and greater self-esteem compared to students who did not have animals involved in their therapy sessions.

As Social Workers

The New Social Worker magazine recently published a study showing the benefits of animal assistance in the course of social work, primarily in helping soldiers with PTSD who seek help from a social worker. By working with social worker dogs, veterans learn the world is safe as they teach the dogs the same thing.

In addition, children with severe illnesses who received visits from social workers experienced increased benefits from these visits. Sick children demonstrated lower levels of stress, anxiety and fear when social workers included animals in their sessions.

How to Get Started Easing Anxiety with Your Pet

Whether you want to bring animal assisted therapy to your clinical setting or learn more about becoming a volunteer dog handler, there is extensive training involved. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges has some guidelines for starting. In addition, you’ll want to check with the specific requirements in your area or facility.

Pets in Hospice: Death and Dying in the Comfort of Animals

The Only Sure Things…

The wise and wonderful Benjamin Franklin once said, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” That may or may not be true, but what is true is that death need not include suffering. Hospice care was created to provide comfort and care in peoples’ last days, whether or not they have family. Bringing in animals to provide solace for lonely patients in hospice care is becoming a growing trend.

Easing the Transition

Cats and dogs with a calm, cuddly temperament can make great hospice volunteers. As explained by Very Well magazine, patients often withdraw and turn inward as they near death. They may become less inclined or less able to talk to loved ones, but the presence of a dog or cat can be a great source of comfort.

The online news journal Legacy.com provides a great example of how animals help patients in hospice care. JJ is a golden retriever whose mom is a hospice nurse. JJ’s media debut as a hospice therapy dog came when she was video taped pushing her nose under the hand of a dying patient, licking her and providing comfort. This particular patient was blind and had no family. Rather than letting the woman pass over alone, JJ was there for the final moments.

Hospice staff and the families and friends of patients also have their hearts lifted by visits with a dog. Death is most difficult for those left behind and the calming, loving presence of a therapy animal can help ease the pain of loss and grief.

Hospice Horses Too

We’ve already looked at how horse therapy helps a variety of physical issues. Full size horses wouldn’t do well in a hospice setting, but miniature horses fair much better. According to Equitrekking, miniature horses who receive special training are able to comfort in ways similar to dogs and cats.

Miniature therapy horses must be trained to handle crowds, stairs, and a variety of other situations most horses would find intimidating. Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses is one program focused on bringing miniature horses to those who most need the comfort they provide. Check out this video to see how a miniature horse provides comfort to one dying woman.

For the Love of Vets and Dogs

Veterans see and deal with many traumatic experiences in service of our country. They frequently come home physically and emotionally damaged. The most common emotional challenge vets face is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Vets dealing with PTSD have difficulty readjusting to life away from the battle field. The Veterans Association (VA) believes owning a dog may help alleviate some of the PTSD symptoms vets manage.

New Leashes for Vets and Dogs

According to National Geographic, 11 to 20 percent of vets who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD each year. Organizations like K9s For Warriors and Paws for Veterans seek to help both homeless pets and traumatized vets by matching them up. The dogs get forever homes and the vets get a companion who helps them heal and readjust. A true win-win.

According to a story on NPR, and the VA’s own website, the VA encourages dog ownership to help with PTSD symptoms, but won’t help pay for their purchase or care due to a lack of evidence surrounding the actual benefits. Veterans, however, tell a different story. They believe that owning a dog trained to help with their PTSD saved their lives. The VA’s own statistics show that 22 vets commit suicide daily – that’s more than 8000 per year. Based on what the vets themselves say, many of these deaths could be prevented with a properly trained dog.

One Vet’s Story

Cole Lyle served overseas in the Marine Corps for six years. He told the Huffington Post about his challenges with PTSD and his newfound passion – thanks in part to his dog Kaya. Lyle was given prescription medications to treat his PTSD and depression upon his return to the U.S., but he felt they only exacerbated his symptoms. After two of his friends killed themselves while on the medications, Lyle decided to drop them – cold turkey.

Instead of seeking alternative chemical assistance, Lyle approached his family and friends for financial support to get a PTSD assistance trained dog. He was matched with Kaya, a German shepherd who Lyle credits with helping him regain control of his life. Lyle is now a college student and advocate for soldier rights, particularly with regard to getting laws passed that make it easier for vets to own a PTSD assistance dog. He’s currently working with lawmakers to pass the PAWS Act.

The Zen of Fish

If you’ve ever spent time at a public aquarium or keeping fish in a tank at home, you’ve likely noticed the sense of peace and calm you feel when watching the fish. For some, extended time around fish tanks can lead to a Zen-like state of mind. Science now shows that this feeling has deeper physical and mental impacts.

Biodiversity Calms Human Biology

A controlled study recently published in Environment and Behavior measured participants’ vital signs while observing aquariums with varying ranges of biodiversity. Although the study observed greater benefits with more bio diverse tanks, the physiological benefits of lower blood pressure and heart rate were observed in participants viewing empty tanks as well. These benefits were observed after only a few minutes.

To further emphasize the benefits of fish tanks, researches believe that these effects can be extended to a clinical setting. For example, if a live feed were set up from a public aquarium to a hospital, researchers theorize that patients would experience a significant reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. Perhaps some innate understanding of this is why many dental and doctor offices have fish tanks in their waiting rooms?

Blue Environment Cures the Blues

A recent study in the International Journal of Life Sciences Research looked at the mental health benefits of keeping fish at home. Although researchers are unsure how it works, they were able to find a connection between keeping a fish tank and a reduction in need for mental health medications to treat depression and/or anxiety.

When participants spent time gazing at a fish tank, the amino acid GABA, which stabilizes mood was released. Participants who reported feeling anxious, depressed or stressed noted a reduction of the feelings after gazing at the fish tank for several minutes.

The Zen of Fish

For years, scientists have been touting the positive effects of water. Humans spend time in water/fluid in the womb and many theories suggest that this leaves humans programmed to respond with calm and ease to water. One yoga blog theorizes that the swaying movement of plants in a fish tank are hypnotic and could even improve the yoga class experience. If you’re looking for a new pet or to add a little “Zen” to your home, cultivating the zen of fish with a fish tank may be the ideal solution.

For the down to earth