The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”.
Pain is your body’s warning signal, letting you know that something is wrong in your body. When part of your body is injured or damaged, chemical signals are released that travel from nerve system cells (called neurons) to your brain where they are recognized as pain.
For many people living with arthritis, “I’m so tired” is an often spoken phrase. Fatigue is their constant, very unpleasant companion. It is a symptom which is often overlooked or overshadowed by other concerns when treating arthritis, but it can be life-altering to people living with the disease.
Often, research into treatments for arthritis has focussed on other disease symptoms, sometimes leaving out the importance of managing fatigue. Some recent research, however, has focussed on fatigue, why it is harmful, and how it can be better treated.
In an article published in Clinical Care in the Rheumatic Diseases, Basia Belza and Kori Dewing examined fatigue in arthritis and described some strategies for dealing with fatigue and minimizing its impact.
This article cites other research to conclude that 80 – 100% of people living with certain types of inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia, live with fatigue. Most types of arthritis are associated with some fatigue, and it can be one of the most difficult symptoms to live with, and treat.
Fatigue has been defined as “usually or always being too tired to do what you want” (Wolf et al). For people living with extreme fatigue, completing even the simplest tasks, or participating in normal day to day activities, can feel nearly impossible. People who face fatigue as a symptom of their disease can simply feel “too tired” to do the things they want or need to do in their lives.
Causes of fatigue
There are several causes of arthritis-related fatigue, which very often occur together. Belza and Dewing note several causes of arthritis-related fatigue, including: Continue reading →
According to the “Psychological well-being among US adults with arthritis and the unmet need for mental health care” published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and serious psychological distress (SPD; a nonspecific indicator of mental health problems) is higher among adults with arthritis compared to the general population.
The study finds that in individuals with arthritis, mental health issues interact with other health conditions and symptoms of arthritis (e.g., pain, fatigue, and disability) such that a decline in one area can directly or indirectly affect the others. Mental health issues can increase the severity of disability, interfere with disease management, and increase disease severity and mortality. Providing mental health support for arthritis patients can improve their overall wellbeing. It has been documented that treating depression can improve medication adherence, and improve both psychological and physical outcomes for patients.
An important strategy for reducing the pain of arthritis is treating your depression. Two approaches can be used, non-pharmacological and pharmacological, together or individually.
Separate from improving mood, antidepressants have been shown to reduce pain in many different chronic conditions, including arthritis, and they work even when depression is not a factor. How these drugs work to reduce pain is not fully understood, but may have to do with improving sleep, relaxing muscles, or increasing neurotransmitters in the spinal cord that are responsible for lessening pain signals.
Please consult your doctor to discuss your treatment options.
Lupus is the name given to a group of chronic immune diseases. It affects about 15,000 Canadians-approximately one in 2000.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) occurs when the body’s immune system begins to malfunction and attack healthy tissue in various parts of the body, causing inflammation and damage. Tissues affected can include the skin, joints, muscles, kidneys, lungs, heart, blood vessels, and brain.
Like many other forms of arthritis, lupus occurs more commonly in women than in men-women develop lupus approximately ten times more often than men do. While it can strike at any age, it tends to occur most often between the ages of 15 and 45.
While the exact cause or causes of lupus remain unknown, there are a number of factors which researchers believe may trigger the disease, either alone or in combination with one another. These include genetics, hormones, certain types of antibiotics and other medications, prolonged and severe stress, viruses, and sun exposure.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is one of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis. It is estimated to affect up to 1 in 200 people.
Ankylosing spondylitis primarily affects the spine, but can also involve the hips, knees, shoulders, and rib cage. The most common symptom of AS is long-term back pain, along with spinal stiffness in the morning or after a long period of rest (this is the main reason why AS is often mis-diagnosed as ordinary “low back pain”).
Unlike in many other forms of arthritis where women are most affected, three out of four people diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis are men. It tends to strike in the prime of life; while it can strike at any age, it is most common in people between ages 15 and 40. While it has no known cure, it is treatable; with the proper care, people who are diagnosed with AS can lead full, productive lives.
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Samsung, Travelers Insurance, Bayer and AppliedVR have teamed up in a new 16-month study to evaluate virtual reality (VR) for pain reduction and therapeutic purposes. The belief is that VR can potentially be a drug-free tool for pain management. Similar VR studies are happening in Canada. Earlier this year, researchers from Simon Fraser University’s Pain Studies Lab recruited people with and without arthritis to play their VR game. Their goal is to understand how VR can be used as a tool for enhancing physical activity, which can help reduce pain.
According to Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai, the study will use technology from Samsung, Bayer and AppliedVR as a supplement to manage pain in patients with acute orthopaedic injuries of the lower back and extremities. The study will be funded by Travelers and Samsung. Dr. Spiegel added: “We need to find ways to stem the tide without relying entirely on medicines. Health technology, like virtual reality, has tremendous potential to improve outcomes while saving costs, which is why we’re so excited about this collaboration among academia and industry.”
Do you have severe pain? We need your valuable input.
The Common Drug Review (CDR) is currently welcoming patients and their caregivers to provide input to patient organizations on the manufacturer’s submission for tapentadol hydrochloride (Nucynta) for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, continuous, long-term opioid treatment, and:
that is opioid-responsive; and
for which alternative treatment options are inadequate.
The CDR is part of the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). The CDR conducts objective, rigorous reviews of the clinical and cost-effectiveness of drugs, and provides formulary listing recommendations to the publicly funded drug plans in Canada (except Quebec).
To help them make their recommendations, the CDR accepts input from patient organizations and groups, like Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE). Because patient input is vitally important to government decision-making about medications, we would like to gather your views and share them with the CDR.
The University of Regina is looking for participants to evaluate an online pain self-management program, completed with Do-It-Yourself Guides, Stories and Additional Resources.
The University of Regina is seeking seniors to enroll in a research study to evaluate a pain self-management program for older adults(www.onlinetherapyuser.ca/olderadults). This program is only offered in English.
The research study is led by Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, Ph.D., Professor and Research Chair in Aging and Health, University of Regina. The purpose of this study is to explore the acceptability and effectiveness of a remotely-delivered chronic pain management program tailored to older adults, the Pain Course, when delivered in both online and printed (workbook) formats.
This program requires a 3-month commitment, as participants will have 2 months to work through the course material with a 4-week follow-up period.
Recruitment will take place across Canada and participants will be eligible for the study if they:
are a resident of Canada
are 65 years of age or older
have experienced pain for more than three months
do not have severe depression or anxiety
have regular access to a computer and the internet
Potential participants will be required to complete a preliminary screening and telephone assessment. If participants meet the inclusion criteria, they will be required to complete questionnaires at pre-treatment, post-treatment and 4-week follow-up.
The course includes 5 Core Lessons over a 2-month period, along with Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guides, Stories and Additional Resources that will be available throughout this period.
Working with your physiotherapist to treat your arthritis pain and symptoms
Physiotherapy is often part of a well-balanced treatment plan for many of the more than 100 types of arthritis. It focuses on maintaining, restoring or improving physical function as well as preventing and managing pain, through the use of non-medication treatments.
When choosing a physiotherapist, it is important to look for someone who has experience treating your type of arthritis, if possible. As well, it is important that you feel comfortable with your therapist, and that you relate well on a personal level.
A physiotherapist will examine your body, and assess things like joint range-of-motion, muscle strength, and swelling or instability in affected joints. A physiotherapist will also likely look at any diagnostic imaging-like x-rays-that you have had done, as well as results from any laboratory testing-for example, blood tests or joint aspirations. Finally, the therapist will want to hear from you about your symptoms, mobility, and changes in your body. Then, using the assessment above, the physiotherapist develops a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to the client’s needs. Some of the treatments used by physiotherapists include: Continue reading →
Findings from a recent study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology may explain why Raynaud’s is more common in women of childbearing age. The study examined the relationship between palm blood flow and estrogen in mice. According to researchers, “estrogen may contribute to the development of Raynaud’s phenomenon in women”.
Estrogen is a one of two main sex hormones that women have. It is responsible for female physical features and reproduction. Estrogen creates the changes common in puberty, such as growth of the breasts, hair in the pubic area and under the arms and the beginning of menstruation. The hormone helps control the menstrual cycle, protect bone health and keep cholesterol in control. Below is a helpful infographic Hormone Health Network to help you understand what estrogen is.