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Are we really doing enough for women with Endometriosis?

I often myself “Are we really doing enough for women with Endometriosis?”

That is a hard question to answer in one way, but easy to answer in others. But, the bottom line is that we really aren’t doing enough for women with this terrible disease.

Now, before I continue and start with what I am about to stay and before anyone takes this the wrong way and gets upset (which isn’t my intent), let’s look at the positives around endometriosis.

There has been more awareness of the disease than ever before and awareness brings about change. But unfortunately that change can also be slow. But, it is a step forward in the right direction. At least there is now some government recognition is some countries like Australia. It is about time though and we need all countries to step up on this front. Governments also need to do more, including ours here.

Yes, we have surgical interventions, pain killers and hormones to help those who suffer the disease. All of these things, either in isolation, or in combination can help women with the disease. Some women even become asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms), after certain interventions, or a combination of all interventions combined. That is what we would like for all women with endometriosis.

Surgical intervention can control active lesions and the inflammation and symptoms they cause. Pain meds can help control pain, but after a while women will need stronger pain meds to control the pain. The body will get used to the level of pain meds and there are also high side effect profiles. Hormones such as progestins and GnRH agonists can help with the control of symptoms, help with pain and inflammation and also help with the suppression of microscopic and active lesions. But, again it isn’t enough.

We know that despite the current medical model of treatment that women are still being missed and dismissed, women are still in pain, women are still having numerous symptoms, women are having high levels of anxiety, basic bodily functions are being denied or hard to achieve, and women are being offered multiple surgeries, because that is all that the medical model can provide for them. That is the pinnacle and once that is reached, then this leaves very little options left.

Women are then offered radicle treatments and removal of body parts and that is not the answer to their often horrible daily journey either. Hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis, not at all. But it is still being offered as such by the ignorant, ego driven and uneducated out there still. Sure, it can stop you having a menstrual cycle. Sure it can help with symptoms associated with the menses. The trouble is that many women that get relief from hysterectomy actually have adenomyosis as well, or in isolation (usually missed diagnosed or missed completely), which a hysterectomy will help, and these symptoms are then controlled permanently by this procedure. But, the problem then is that these women think that their endometriosis is gone and cured. Not so. If endometriosis has been diagnosed, it will still be there and it can still cause inflammation, and flares, and gastrointestinal symptoms, destabilise moods, causes endo belly, still spread throughout the body, still wreak havoc on bodily functions and most likely still need interventions of some sort.

Many women with the disease are at the point on suicide some days; let alone asking them to undergo reproductive suicide. I am sorry to put it so bluntly, but that is what it is. I have seen young women who have being told that the only way to cure their endometriosis is to undergo reproductive suicide and permanently halt their chance at having a family, all due to ignorance and being told BS, heartless, unethical statements like that. Just go and chop out your uterus and you will feel better they say. No woman should ever be faced with that option because there are ways to manage this disease that many have not even been told about, or even begun to explore. I want every woman to know that hysterectomy does not cure endometriosis and that is a fact. I also want women to know there are options for a normal life, outside the current medical model, or to be used in conjunction with the medical model.

The other issue is that like the fashion industry and their assault of women through marketing, we also have pharmaceutical companies trying to mislead women to believe they have the latest and greatest “fix all” pill for their endometriosis. Again, much of that is just over marketed hype and remarketing of medications and hormones that we already have and are just being sold under another patent and another name. Many women work out very quickly that the benefits being marketed are not forthcoming and are again left with the feeling of despair. I would love to see a new medication to help women. I would love to see the cure all pill appear on the market, but unfortunately there is no such thing, it does not exist and probably will not exist in the near future either.

We also now have women basically addicted to pain medication, because without them, they cannot function in a day to day life. This then leads to judgment by many and we are now seeing women being viewed as ‘druggies’ so to speak. Many women are also being questioned at pharmacies, even when they have a doctor’s script. We also have medical centre GP’s refusing women pain medication because they just have not listened to the women and her symptoms and that she in fact has endometriosis. All they hear is “Here is another addict trying to get pain meds”. No, this woman is in pain and you are not listening to her, or even able to understand the level of distress and pain she is in daily. Sure, pain meds are addictive and they have side effects, but what other options do we have for these poor women? Until someone comes up with a better solution, on a medical level, then this is what women with endometriosis have to do in order to survive their day.

So, yes, while we have come far in awareness and recognition etc, which we desperately need, but we are still stuck in the dark ages as far as medical diagnosis, disease classification, interventions and true clinical and overall health management of the disease. What women with endometriosis need is an individualised, case by case, individualised, multidisciplinary approach to fully treat and manage the disease but this is not happening.  Much of this is due to ego, certain marketing, suppression of research by pharmaceutical interests, lack of funding, lack of education, lack of awareness and people not willing to research or explore new ideas around this disease that don’t fit the model they want to explore, or believe.

There are ways to treat this disease effectively and it requires a multi-modality approach to do so. It requires the team approach that I always talk about. There is good research and evidence out there to suggest that there are some great treatments and management options outside the medical model, which can also be used alongside medical options to enhance treatments and overall health for those with endometriosis. We just need more education, more research, more funding, more open mindedness, less suppression of research and education by those with monetary interests in certain areas of medicine, more subsidisation for affordable treatment options and certain people letting go of old belief systems and ego so that new thought processes and education can occur.

While awareness is great and it brings recognition to those with the disease, we also need to then give those same people ways to manage and treat the disease as well and stop viewing these women and druggies, or hypochondriacs, just because the medical system hasn’t caught up with what these women actually go through and what they need to live on a day to day basis.

I’ll talk about some other options for the treatment and management of endometriosis in some upcoming posts. In the meantime please know there are better ways to manage this disease and while I would love for there to be a “one pill” or “one treatment fix all’ approach, I am sorry but that does not exist and we will probably not see that exist either. We can hope, but please don’t hold your breath waiting. Sorry for the rant, but it need to be said and more needs to be done.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Expert

-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

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Menopause

The average Australian woman reaches menopause at 51 years of age- with a normal range from 40-55. Contrary to the popular concept, the female body does not become depleted of eggs at this time, but the remaining follicles become less and less responsive to hormonal stimulation.

Premature menopause is defined as cessation of ovarian function prior to 40 years of age. About 1% of women will experience menopause before 40.

The approach of menopause is signalled by rising LH and FSH levels as the pituitary attempts to prompt a response by the ovaries.

The menopause signals the permanent end of most ovarian function and hence the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life. Sex hormones don’t only influence reproductive tissues but also have a multitude of other functions including effects on bone and mineral metabolism, cardiovascular function, memory and cognition, effects on the breast and genitourinary system as well as nutrient absorption.

There are a variety of symptoms which are believed to be due to reduced oestrogen levels and approximately 85% of women will experience some of these symptoms to a greater or lesser degree. These symptoms can be summarised as:

Vasomotor symptoms– (these tend to be early onset):-Hot flushes ( or “flashes” as they are called in USA literature), Night sweats, Formication ( a particularly unpleasant sensation likened to ants crawling under the skin – “formica” is latin for ant)

Urogenital Symptoms– (tend to occur about 3-4 years after menopause):-Dry Vagina, Change in vaginal pH, Atrophic vaginitis/altered vaginal discharge, Dyspareunia, Urinary frequency/dysuria/aggravation of stress incontinence

Associated physical changes-these are partly the result of the normal ageing process, but may be accelerated by declining oestrogen levels. These may include decreased fitness and flexibility, changes in distribution of body fat, changes in sleep patterns

Loss of elasticity of skin and support tissues (may result in):- Worsening of uterine prolapsed, Loss of glandular breast tissue ( breast size and texture changes), Skin changes and wrinkling, Less nipple sensitivity and erectile potential, Joint and muscle pain, Skin dryness

Emotional and psychological changes– it is sometimes difficult to separate the hormonal from the personality-driven and situational as the cause for these symptoms, but women at the menopause may complain of such symptoms as:- Anxiety and/or depression, Insomnia, Lack of concentration and poor memory

Effects on Bone– (these effects may not become apparent until some years after menopause) :- Osteopenia/osteoporosis, Fracture and bone pain

There are other symptoms which have been ascribed to declining androgen levels, though the evidence is less clear-cut. These may include such symptoms as:
Change of body shape – increasing fat deposition around abdomen, less at buttocks and thighs
Loss of libido :- Many libido issues are caused by emotional issues and changes to lifestyle rather than being a hormonal issue
Change in body hair distribution– Pubic hair thins, hair on the head may thin or if woman carries the gene for male-pattern baldness may recede at temples and crown. Facial hair may increase.

Treating symptoms of Menopause

The main cause of people seeking treatment for the menopause is for relief from vasomotor symptoms, the main one being hot flushes or night sweats.

There is a lot of misinformation about the peri-menopause and menopause stage of a woman’s life. Some of the peri-menopause (meaning before the menopause) symptoms can start up to 8 years before a woman actually goes into menopause (meaning the menses stop). Then some of the actual menopausal symptoms can last many years after the menses has stopped and this is something that is not discussed enough and often poorly understood by many, including many healthcare practitioners.

Some women with menopausal symptoms do not choose to pursue any medical treatment when they experience it. However, some women have severe symptoms that affect their quality of life, and may need to have medical treatment in the form of hormone replacement. One of the biggest fears around hormone replacement therapy is the increased risk of breast cancer. You can talk to your specialist, or doctor about these risks before you start any form of treatment. There are now compounded bio-identical hormones to assist menopausal symptoms and these may not have the breast cancer risk factors of conventional hormone replacement medications.

Examples of some medical treatments available for menopause include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy, such as taking estrogen therapy at the lowest, most effective dose.
  • Vaginal estrogen, which is applied directly to the vaginal tissues to aid with elasticity and assisting with vaginal atrophy
  • Antidepressants (SSRI’s), have been shown to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in some postmenopausal women.

Traditional medical HRT can also help with bone strength and reduce the risk factors for heart disease.

Bioidentical Hormones

The Women’s Health Initiative of 2002, issued a warning against the long-term use of traditional hormone therapy (HT) because of the increased risk of breast cancer, but this study was poorly explained and created lots of panic for both practitioner and patient alike. Since then alternative methods, such as bioidentical hormone therapy, have been developed.

Bioidentical hormones  are chemically the same as those that the body produces naturally. As a result, the body should is not able to tell the difference between the hormones it produces and the bioidentical ones. Bioidentical hormones can be made from a variety of sources that span plant and animal products and are said to have less side effects than traditional hormone replacement medications. Many women get great relief from Bio-identical Hormones, but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about these and if they are suited for you

Complementary Medicines

Women may also consider trying herbal medicines or other dietary supplements as a means to reduce the incidence of menopause symptoms. There are now many menopausal formulations on the market and anyone wishing to use complementary medicines should speak to a qualified complementary medicine practitioner about what is suitable for them. Never self prescribe natural medicines with consultation from a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Chinese medicine has been treating and assisting symptoms menopause for thousands of years very effectively. The key to Chinese medicine treatment is that a practitioner will assess and treat each person individually, not with the one treatment fix all plan. We aren’t all the same so why should we all be given the same treatment.

It must be noted that up until recent times the Chinese did not have a word for Menopause and that very few women experienced any of the symptoms of menopause. The only ones that did seem to were the rich and those of noble heritage, who ate very rich and luxurious diets. This does show that diet and lifestyle factors do affect menopausal symptoms. Many used to believe that the Chinese didn’t get menopause because of their higher consumption of phytoestrogens such as soy. This has now been proven not the case, as soy products “do not” have any benefit to menopausal symptoms, but adherence to proper diet and lifestyle improvements does.

There is also some really good evidence to show that acupuncture can assist with hot flushes and also assist with the symptoms of menopause.

Things to do at home

In addition to medical and complementary medicine treatments, there are many at-home treatments that a woman can do to reduce menopausal symptoms. These include:

  • Avoiding triggers that are know to make hot flushes worse. Examples can eating spicy foods, drinking hot beverages, acidic foods,  being in hot weather, or being in hot rooms.
  • Using water-based vaginal lubricants during sexual activity to reduce discomfort due to dryness and thinning tissues. Vaginal estrogen creams may be needed as well
  • Reduce Stress & Practicing stress-relieving techniques. Examples can include mindfulness, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, yoga,  journaling, massage, counselling and other forms of relaxation therapy
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of hot flushes and contributes to many other health issues such as certain cancers.
  • Do Weight Baring Exercise. Weight baring exercise is needed to keep strong and health bones and it also has other health benefits. You can also look into doing yoga and pilates to help with core strength and to help with pelvic floor strength and tone. Exercising can also help to relieve stress.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises. Kegels exercises or use of Jade eggs (known as yoni eggs), or Ba Wen Balls, can help with pelvic floor muscles and increase blood flow into the vagina and pelvic floor area and also help with bladder control

Summary

It must be noted that menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life and menopause is not a medical condition. The main reason that women seek help in menopause for is the menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, dryness and loss of libido etc. At my clinic I use a multi-modality and individualized approach to treating  and assisting the symptoms of menopause, using a combination of Medical science, Integrative Medicine treatments,  Chinese herbs, Diet, Nutritional supplements and Lifestyle changes and find this gives the best results in assisting my patients.

Regards
Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

 

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Weeding Out Endometriosis

Explaining endometriosis to people is not always easy and sometimes you have to use analogies that seem strange at first, but once you get the gist of where I am going with it, it will all make sense. But before I start, I always like to say that please take the personal out of things and just know that what ever analogy I use, it is with good intention and always about helping others.

I just know that when I used the “Endo is like Rust” analogy, which is what it is like, a few people took it to heart as though they had a rusty uterus and this is not what I was saying. Not at all. Please know that I have loved ones with this horrible disease, so I am here to help, and my main aim now is to help as many people as possible with what I know, and how to treat people properly. I am also about getting the message out there so that women to not have to remain silent about this disease any longer. My motto is, and always will be, “Period Pain is Not Normal”

So, sit back, take out the personal and know that I am writing from a place of caring and sharing and a place of getting the message out there to help you all. Sometimes you just have to tell it how it is, in order for people to sit up and listen, so here we go J

Many of you have read my article of “Rust Never Sleeps and Neither Does Endometriosis” and the reason I wrote this is because endometriosis and how it attacks the body, is very much like how rust attacks metal. If you haven’t read the article, please do so that you can see what I am trying to convey.

I am always doing lots of speaking events and seminars on Women’s Health and also presenting for workshops on Endometriosis. It is so great to get the message out to the world, so that both the public and healthcare professionals can be educated on this subject better. We need to stop having this disease “Missed” and women being “Dismissed” as I am always saying now. This disease should not be taking 8 years from onset to definitive diagnosis. It used to be 12 years. This is disgusting, to say the least, and there is no excuse for this to be happening, except poor education, sloppy diagnosis, lack of training, negligence and dismissive egos that need an attitude adjustment.

But, in saying that, we also need to teach women to be empowered and not just put up with being told “This is normal”, or “Just go on the pill and it will fix it”. That is bullshit (sorry). But it is true. There needs to be a better way and we need to stand up and say “Enough”. But we also need to not let the disease define you and get caught up in the blame game either. We also need to get people to stop “Dr Googling” too, as this is also spreading the misinformation. It is great to be educated, but good old “Dr Google” is full of false information and research shows that up to 75% of the health information that the public can access on google, is either wrong, or only partially true.

Now that I have had my little rant about the injustices of many, I would like to share what I have been sharing to others about what endometriosis is really like and how hopefully we can prevent it from returning, hopefully for good. I do know this is possible with the right care, right follow up treatments and right team of people helping. I see it daily and know what I share to be true. But, again it requires the person to follow the advice given and then to get the information out there. It also requires people to not be defined by their disease and break free from these chains to open their minds to the possibilities of new thought, new treatments and new ways of doing things. We need to not be caught up in what may cause the disease, but what we can do to help those with it now.

Of course prevention is crucial and so important, but once the disease is expressed in the body, what caused it is irrelevant. We can argue about the hypothesis of what may be the initial causal factor until the end of time, but that isn’t helping those with the disease now. The most important factor is how we can help those with it live a normal life and hopefully one day in the future to be free of the disease completely. At least  for now, we can look at hopefully giving people a better quality of life than the one they are living each day. From my experience, I do know that this is possible with the right team of people working the help the individual.

To be honest, the most likely cause of this disease is now known to be genetic links, or chromosomal, most likely through the parental mode of inheritance. Gene therapy is probably going to provide the biggest breakthrough in this disease in the years to come. But like any breakthrough, we just have to wait and see what happens there. You heard it here first. I do believe genetics does play a big part, but like any disease, it is not the only contributing factor. But, all this aside, we need to focus on the here and now to help those who need help now. In order to make change, you need to make those changes required. If you change nothing, nothing will change. I also get how hard it is for those whom have suffered so long to pick themselves up, to make those changes. Believe me, as someone who has been through a major life threatening illness and pain and crawled their way back to good health and do what I do now, I get it. I’ve been to that point of wanting it all to just stop and I get what many women put up with on a daily basis. Pain is pain, no matter where it has stemmed from.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I have now been explaining that Endometriosis is like a weed. Why would I explain it like this?

Like a weed, endometriosis grows and spreads. You can physically remove the weed (surgically), but unless you control the regrowth, seeds have been dropped (endometriosis regrowth) and then the weeds pop up again and start to grow once more. Sound like endometriosis too you?

Like any weed, it needs certain things for its regrowth. We have just talked about the dropping of the seeds ( regrowth) but it needs a food and fuel source to make it grow (estrogens, insulin, inflammatory response from external factors, stress etc). Then once the seeds are fed, the regrowth continues and then the garden is infested with the weed plague once more. Then you need to try and physically removed the weeds again once more and so the cycle begins again. Are you seeing what I am getting at yet?

Just like these weeds, endometriosis is often removed and many people then either believe they are fixed, or they do not do anything post surgery to prevent that regrowth. Before they know it, they again have to go back for more surgery. Often when people do try to control the regrowth (Progestins, Mirena etc), they are only employing one method, for which is either not effective enough, or the weed (Endo) is now resistant too.

This is why we need to employ a multimodality approach post surgery to hopefully complete eradicate the weed regrowth and halt the life cycle of these seeds being spread and to start growing again, thus starting the horrible cycle all over again

Now that we can see how endometriosis is really like a weed that can spread throughout our garden, we need to look at what we can do to hopefully stop it coming back, or spreading into other parts of the body.

Like I said, treatment must be individualised, using a multimodality approach, taking the clinical problem in its entirety into account, including the impact of the disease and the effect of its treatment on quality of life. Pain symptoms may persist despite seemingly adequate medical and/or surgical treatment of the disease.

The real focus needs to be on prevention and treatment strategies post surgery. Even better still, lets prevent it before it starts

There is an ancient Chinese saying – “To try and treat a disease once it is fully expressed into the body is like trying to forge arms once a war has already started, or like trying to dig a well once you are already thirsty – Yellow Emperors Classics of Internal Medicine”

The same goes for endometriosis. Once the disease is there and expressed into the body, it is hard to treat, especially is known methods of treatment are failing and this individualised, multimodality approach is used.

A Multimodality Approach Needs To Include:

  • Surgery
  • Pain Management
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Exercise
  • Pilates/Yoga
  • Changes to Diet
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Holistic Medicine
  • Anything people have tried and has worked for them

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologist guidelines for the “Investigations and Management of Endometriosis” have the following quote:

“Many women with endometriosis report that nutritional and complementary therapies such as homeopathy, reflexology, traditional Chinese medicine or herbal treatments, do improve pain symptoms. They should not be ruled out if the woman feels they could be beneficial for her overall pain management and/or quality of life, or work in conjunction with more modern medical therapies.

This is why it is vital to take careful note of the woman’s complaints and to give her time to express her concerns and anxieties, as with other chronic diseases, just as I do for all of my patients. Healthcare providers actually need to listen to the woman and her concerns. Women need to be listened to and be heard and be nurtured

It is also important to involve the woman in all decisions, to be flexible in diagnostic and therapeutic thinking, to maintain a good relationship with the woman and for healthcare providers to seek advice where appropriate from more experienced colleagues. This is something that I try to educate all my patients with and something I also try to educate healthcare providers with when I do my seminars and speaking events about Women’s Health issues and diseases like endometriosis.

But while there are thing that healthcare providers need to do, there also things you must do also. These include

  • Reducing Stress
  • Look at Emotions and How They Affect You
  • Exercise
  • Get “You Time”
  • Eat more protein and less High GI Carbs
  • Eat less process and package foods that we now call “Carbage”
  • Loss some weight if you have excess fats (which spike estrogens)
  • Gain some weight if you are underweight.
  • Do Something You Love (At least once per week)
  • Laugh Often (Even if some days you feel like crying)
  • Spend Time With Friends and Loved Ones
  • Make Love J ( Climax and Oxytocin are your friends)
  • Do Not Let The Disease Define You
  • Don’t Buy Into The Label
  • You are more than this disease
  • If something is helping, then continue with it, no matter what anyone tells you
  • Just remember that “You” are uniquely “You”

Please remember these words :

  • Do Not Let The Disease Define You
  • Don’t Buy Into The Label
  • You are more than this disease
  • If something is helping, then continue with it, no matter what anyone tells you
  • Don’t buy into everything you read on the internet, social media, or “Dr Google. To be honest, I ban “Dr Google” with my patient (haha)
  • Make sure you have a good laugh each day, but remember it is also OK to have a good cry too
  • It is OK to unplug every so often
  • It is OK to take the “Superwoman” cape off every so often too.
  • Remember “You” are uniquely “You”

This is why it is so important to not get caught up in what others have done, or tried and may not now be working for you either. We need to look at you as an individual and treat you as such. What works for one person, may not work for another. This is why an individualised multimodality approach is needed to help prevent and treat this horrible disease and we often need a team of people, on the same page, to help treat this properly.

Don’t forget to “Get A Second Opinion”, or a Third, or Fourth, or Tenth one if needed

In many other areas in life we will get multiple quotes, and opinions. Yet, when it comes to our health, we often only get one quote, or maybe two.

Just because someone has your history, or is nice to you, or maybe recommended by a friend etc, does not make them a good practitioner. It does not mean that you cannot get another opinion. If someone isn’t helping you, then you need to look at changing, no matter who they are, or how well they know your history. Not every specialist you see is a good surgeon either, so please remember this. You need to have someone who specialises in endometriosis and who has done advanced surgical training, not just minimal training. There is good and bad in every profession and the medical profession is not exempt from this either. Neither is the complementary medicine profession, or allied health care profession exempt from this either. Your health is important and so is the value of another opinion. Not every practitioner has all the answers. If someone isn’t helping you, then don’t be scared to change.

Lastly please remember to know that there is always help out there. I am always here to help and I am a specialist in this area, alongside many other Women’s Health issues and Gynaecological issues. You can always come and see me in person, or make an appointment via skype, for those who live at a distance. I have a great team of people I work with to give you the best help possible. I have a team of some of the best health care professionals there is and I make sure all of them are at the top of their game in their chosen profession.

Let me be the conductor of your health issues and help you get the treatment and advice you so desperately deserve. I am here to listen to you and hear you. I make sure you don’t have things “Missed” and aren’t “Dismissed “ and why my treatment motto is “Leaving No Stone Unturned”. I am out there as a voice for women and being a crusader for women’s health everywhere. I don’t mind stepping on a few toes, and ego’s to get you the best help possible J

Take care and remember that “Period Pain Is Not Normal” and neither are and other “Menstrual Irregularities” that women face on a daily basis. I know what you go through daily and I am out there making sure you all get heard. Let’s end the silence on this horrible disease for you, and the ones close to me whom I love, adore and care about also.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Retina 20 07 2016

Girl Taking Medication

Could You Be Suffering With Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammatory bladder condition in which there is persisting chronic pelvic pain, urinary frequency and urgency, bladder pain or pressure, and it can also resemble the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, but there will be no infection present. The pain can range from being mild to severe.

Worldwide Interstitial Cystitis affects up to 100 million people and it can affect both men and women, regardless of age. IC is also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and chronic pelvic pain (CPP)

Women with interstitial cystitis may experience many of the same symptoms as those with endometriosis. Women can have both Interstitial Cystitis and endometriosis at the same time. Some people with IC may also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes

People with IC have chronic symptoms in the urinary tract that last more than 6 weeks in duration. Infection has not been identified as a cause of IC. Physical and emotional stress can worsen the symptoms of IC.

Interstitial Cystitis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Chronic pelvic pain that lasts 6 months or more
  • Symptoms affected by the menstrual cycle
  • Pain, pressure, discomfort or unpleasant sensation that may worsen as the bladder fills
  • Urinating often alleviates the pain and may give a temporary sense of relief;
  • Suprapubic pain or discomfort
  • Pelvic pain (lower abdominal pain), sometimes extending to the lower part of the back, the groin and thighs
  • In women there may be pain in the vagina and vulva
  • In men, pain in the penis, testicles, scrotum and perineum
  • Both men and women may have pain in the urethra and rectum
  • Pain with sexual intercourse in both men and women (dyspareunia)
  • Pain on ejaculation in men
  • Pain may worsen with specific foods or drinks
  • A frequent need to urinate (frequency), including at night (night-time frequency or nocturia)
  • An often urgent or compelling need to urinate (urgency)

The pain may be experienced as discomfort or tenderness or irritation or burning sensation in the bladder, in the form of spasms in or around the bladder, or stabbing or burning vaginal pain or simply a feeling of pressure on or in the bladder or a feeling of fullness even when there is only a little urine in the bladder.

In many people, the pain is relieved temporarily by urination, while other people may also feel strong pain following urination.

The pain or discomfort may be constant or intermittent. It may also be felt throughout the pelvic floor, including the lower bowel system and rectum. In some patients the pain may be very severe and debilitating.

Other people, particularly in the early stages, may have milder frequency with/without urgency and without a true sensation of pain. What they may experience, however, is a feeling of heaviness, fullness, discomfort or pressure.

Diagnosis

During the evaluation of potential IC, several tests may be completed to make a diagnosis. These tests may include taking a full medical history, completing a bladder diary, pelvic examination, including a neurological exam and urinalysis to rule out or diagnose an infection

Other diagnostic tests that can be carried out include:

Cystoscopy: This is performed inserting a tube, with a camera attached, into the bladder to evaluate the lining and to look for inflammation and signs of disease. A specialist may also evaluate the bladder capacity with a cystoscopy.

Urodynamics: The bladder is filled to test its capacity by measuring the pressure during filling and voiding. These tests evaluate the function of the bladder, urethra, and sphincter muscles.

Biopsy: During a cystoscopy, a biopsy may or may not be taken to rules out cancer or other inflammatory bladder conditions that can cause pain similar to IC.

Potassium sensitivity test: This is a test in which potassium and water are instilled into the bladder. In healthy bladders, pain is not felt with either solution. In cases of IC, however, pain is typically experienced when the potassium is instilled.

Diet

People with IC may be sensitive to certain foods and beverages. There is a range of items a person may need to excluded from their diet after receiving an IC diagnosis. This will be different for each individual but there are certain foods and drinks that an individual with IC should be aware of potentially needing to avoid. There are food and drinks such as:

  • tea and coffee
  • Soft drinks and soda (including diet drinks)
  • alcohol
  • citrus, citrus drinks and cranberry
  • artificial sweeteners
  • spicy food

Some people with IC may need to a food elimination diet over several weeks to see which specific foods and drinks may be exacerbating their symptoms. There are many foods that do not have an irritating effect on the bladder and contain vital nutrients to help fight disease. This is why elimination diets and specific dietary requirements need to be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

People with IC should also give up smoking if they are a smoker, as the chemicals can affect this condition too.

Treatment

The treatment of interstitial cystitis is complex and needs a multimodality approach to treat it effectively. It may require treatments such as:

  • Urodynamic Therapies
  • Physiotherapy with a specialised pelvic floor physiotherapist
  • Pelvic Floor Therapy (Kegels, Yoni eggs, Ba Wen Balls, internal TENS)
  • Surgery, including laser surgery
  • Neuromodulators, such as electrical nerve stimulators
  • Injections, such as Nerves blocks, Antispasmodics and Botox therapy
  • Pain medications- including narcotics, NSAIDS, Anti-inflammatories,
  • Hormone therapy, both oral and intravaginal
  • Antidepressants
  • Acupuncture
  • Pilates and Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Herbal Medicines, including Chinese Herbal Medicines
  • Amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants
  • Sex Therapy and counselling
  • Mindfulness
  • Adopting health sleeping habits

Your specialist or healthcare provider will discuss the best forms of treatment for your individual case. People with IC should also be referred to a Urodynamic and Pelvic Floor Specialist who specialises in this area.

Complications

Complications from IC can vary between individuals and why there is no one treatment fix all approach to this conditions. IC can affect a person life on so many levels. It can affect their bladder volume, their quality of life, their sex life, their libido and have an affect on sexual intimacy and it can also cause them emotional distress. It is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s life both physically and mentally and why a multimodality treatment approach is needed.

Causes

The exact cause of IC is not known, but there are several theories as to what triggers the condition. Some possible causes include:

  • Damage due to previous surgery
  • Defects in the lining of the urinary bladder that cause irritation
  • Overstretching of the bladder due to trauma
  • Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Genetics
  • Allergy

IC is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects many people world wide. It cannot be fully cured and requires close clinical management and care. A multimodality treatment approach needs to be adopted that is suited to the individual. When this is done properly, people with IC can still have a good quality of life.

Recommended treatment usually involves diet and lifestyle changes, stopping smoking, drinking less before bedtime, and scheduling planned toilet breaks to ensure the bladder does not get too full.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

 

What causes a burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva?

A burning sensation in and around the vaginal, vulva area is a relatively common complaint that many women experience and something that is seen in practice very often. There are so many different causes of vaginal and vulva burning, including irritants, sexually transmitted diseases, atrophic vaginitis, thrush, lichen sclerosis, climates changes and is very common in peri-menopause and the menopause period. Each of the causes has its own set of symptoms and the treatments can all vary, depending what the cause it.

In this article we will look at the common causes of having a burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva area. We will also look at treatments and management of these as well.

Before we start, it is important that women know that often people use the wrong term for the vagina and the surrounding area and often refer to a woman’s genitals as just being the vagina. It is important that we use the correct terms for a woman’s anatomy so that we can correctly identify were problems are.

The vagina is more the internal part of the female genitals and the vulva is the external part. Th Vulva is an umbrella term for the various parts of the external female genitals. These parts include:

  • Mons pubis – the fatty ‘pad’ that’s covered in pubic hair
  • Labia majora – outer lips
  • Labia minora – inner lips
  • Clitoris – small organ that’s packed with nerve endings
  • Urethral opening – which allows the passage of urine
  • Vestibule – area around the opening of the vagina
  • Perineum – area between the vagina and anus

Now that we understand the proper terms for the anatomy, lets have a look at what some of the common causes of burning sensation are.

Common causes of vaginal and vulva burning sensation

1.Skin Irritation

There are many things that can irritate the skin of the vulva and vagina when they come into direct contact with it. This is known as contact dermatitis.

Irritants that can cause contact dermatitis, inflammation and burning symptoms include non pH neutral soaps, certain fabrics, perfumes, vaginal hygiene sprays, some lubricants and allergens. As well as burning sensations, women may experience the following:

  • severe itching
  • redness and rawness and sometimes bleeding
  • stinging feelings and sensations of heat
  • pain and sometimes

The main way to treat irritation is to avoid whatever has caused the irritation in the first place. Avoiding the irritant and allowing the inflamed area and the skin to heal is one of the best things to do. Sometimes, a woman may require medications to settle the inflammation, or dermatitis down.

2. Candidiasis (Thrush, Yeast infections)

An overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina can lead to a burning, stinging sensation and one of the common causes of issues for women. Candidiasis, or thrush is very common in women and is causes through changes in the gut and vaginal flora and this then leads to overgrowth of bacteria, which causes many of the following symptoms

  • itching
  • soreness
  • pain during sex
  • pain or discomfort when urinating
  • discharge from the vagina (either white, or coloured)

Women are more likely to be prone to getting thrush if they are taking antibiotics, using certain form of hormones and contraceptives, have a weakened immune system, live in humid climates, have diabetes, are pregnant, or not cleaning themselves properly. High stress can also lead to changes in the gut and vagina flora and this can also lead to thrush.

Thrush is usually an antifungal medicine called azoles. Azoles can either be used internally into the vagina, or taken orally as a capsule, or both at the same time. Pre and Probiotics should be taken to help build up the good bacteria and women should take care with personal hygiene. Partners may also need to be treated to prevent further reintroduction of thrush via sexual intercourse.

3. UTI- Urinary tract infection

When a woman has a urinary tract infection (UTI), she will be likely to feel burning in and around the vagina when urinating. There may be other presenting symptoms such as:

  • needing to urinate more frequently, or have urgency to urinate
  • pain with urination
  • smelly, or cloudy urine
  • blood in urine
  • pain in lower stomach and radiating pain into the back and kidney area
  • feeling tired or unwell

When a woman has a urinary tract infection antibiotics will be needed and the antibiotics needed will depend on what the cause of the infection is. Usually an infection will clear up in around 5 days after starting a course of antibiotics.Repeat medication may be required if an infection returns.

4. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15 to 44. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when there is too much of certain kinds of bad bacteria in the vagina, affecting the balance of good bacteria and flora. One of the main symptoms of BV is a burning sensation in the vagina, which can also occur when urinating.

BV does not always cause symptoms but when it does cause symptoms, besides a burning sensation, it can cause the following:

  • white or gray vaginal discharge
  • pain and irritation
  • itching and redness
  • strong fish-like odor, especially after sex (one of the key symptoms)

Having BV can increase a woman’s risk of STI’s and it can also increase her risk of miscarriage, once she is pregnant. If you think that you may have the symptoms of BV, you need to have it check by your doctor as soon as possible. BV is usually treated with antibiotics and you can use complementary medicines to assist in the treatment as well. It is a good idea to restore the good bacteria into the gut and vagina as well. This can be done through the use of prebiotic and probiotic bacteria combined.

5. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a common STI and is caused by a parasite that is passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. Many people may not know that have Trichomoniasis, but symptoms can present with a burning sensation and may  also present with  the following:

  • itching, redness, or soreness
  • discomfort when urinating
  • women can have vaginal discharge that can be clear, white, yellow, or green and with a fishy smell

Trichomoniasis can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage, so it need to be treated asap. Trichomoniasis is treated by using certain forms of medicines called azoles.

6. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an sexually transmitted infection where bacteria called Neisseria gonorrheae infect mucous membranes, such as the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. If a woman is infected with gonorrhoea she can experience vaginal burning when urinating, as well as the following symptoms:

  • pain when urinating
  • vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding between periods

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right medical treatment and it needs to be treated with specific medications. Often dual forms of medication are used for effective treatment.

7. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common STI caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and is  transmitted through sexual intercourse with someone who has the infection.

If a woman comes in contact with chlamydia through intercourse, many times she may be asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms) and this is why it is often known as a silent infection. When symptoms do occur it can cause a burning sensation in the vagina and surrounding area. There can be other symptoms which include:

  • increased vaginal discharge
  • pain with urination and pain during sex
  • bleeding during sex and between periods

Chlamydia can cause damage to a woman’s reproductive organs and can affect her fertility, so it is important to have this treated as soon as possible.  Chlamydia is treated using specific high dose antibiotics. Treatment may also require IV antibiotics and for someone to be admitted to hospital while these are being administered.

8. Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by skin-to-skin contact with a person with the herpes virus. Once a person has the virus, it stays with them for life. Sometimes the virus can remain dormant and then at certain stages of life (during stress, illness etc), it can become active and start producing symptoms.

If the virus becomes active, they might experience a burning sensation in the vagina, along with some of the following symptoms:

  • an itching or tingling sensation
  • flu-like symptoms
  • swollen glands
  • pain in the vaginal area, particularly when urinating
  • change in vaginal discharge

Painful sores, blisters, or ulcers may also develop after a few days. The symptoms of genital herpes can be treated with antiviral medication but once you have herpes, it cannot be cured. You just need to manage it and its symptoms.

9. Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a skin condition that affects the vulva area in women. Lichen sclerosus can cause burning sensation around the vulva area. It can also cause the following symptoms:

  • itching and tenderness.
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Wrinkling and white patches

Postmenopausal women are most susceptible to have lichen sclerosus. The cause is thought to be an autoimmune response of some kind, since the condition is associated with autoimmune disorders such as Graves’ disease and vitiligo. Treatment includes topical steroid creams, other medications, silica cream, zinc cream and regular medical monitoring. Lichen sclerosus is linked to an increased risk of vulvar cancer.

10. Menopause

Vaginal and vulva burning can be as a result of the perimenopause, or menopause stages of life. The shifting levels of hormones in a woman’s body before she enters menopause can affect the vagina and surrounding area. Burning sensations, in the vagina and around the vulva area is one possible result of these changes, especially during sex.

Some of the common symptoms of the perimenopause/menopause period are:

  • hot flushes & night sweats
  • difficulty sleeping
  • reduced sex drive
  • vaginal dryness
  • headaches
  • mood changes
  • Pain with sex
  • Atrophic vaginitis.

Not all women entering menopause have treatment to relieve symptoms, but there are often options available that a doctor, or healthcare practitioner, can outline, including hormone therapy. There are also many natural therapies that can help during peri-menopause and menopause stages of life.

What you can do to help yourself

Many causes of vaginal burning require medical treatment. If you are concerned, the best you can do is to see your healthcare practitioner. There are things you can do before seeing your doctor. Sometimes a ice pack or cold compress to the affected area can help reduce the burning sensation. You can also try some over the counter soothing creams, or antifungals.

Make sure you are practicing proper hygiene and cleaning the outer area of the vulva properly. Women should avoid using douches, which can affect the good bacteria and internal flora of the vagina.  Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothes can help reduce irritation in the vaginal area. It is also important to avoid products that could irritate the area further, such as perfumed soap, scented toilet paper, and sanitary products with deodorant, or a plastic coating.

Possible complications

Some causes of vaginal burning, such as urinary tract infections, BV, STI’s, lichen sclerosis can have some serious complications if left untreated. Cancer also needs to be ruled out so this is why it is important to have any symptoms of burning checked out by your doctor.

STI’s can affect future fertility and are also harmful to women who are pregnant, as they can affect their baby, or pregnancy. Many STI’s can cause preterm delivery and also increase the risk of miscarriage.

While some causes of vaginal and vulva burning may go away on their own over time, it is still important to go and get your doctor’s advice just to be safe. If your symptoms aren’t going away, are becoming worse, or are of a concern, then the woman should go and see a doctor as soon as possible. The longer you leave something, the worse it can get and the more issues it can cause, if left untreated. Many of the cases of burning sensation in the vagina and around the vulva will be relieved once the underlying cause is treated properly and with the appropriate medicines.

While medical options will be needed for some conditions, there are complementary medicines and complementary medicine modalities that may be able to assist your particular issue, or alongside medical treatments. Please always see a qualified healthcare practitioner and not use Dr Google, or take advice from friends or family for any medical advice.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

Dr Andrew Orr Logo Normal 20 07 2016

Alternative Ways to Assist Pain and Help with Pain Management

After my recent posts of the management of pain, pain medications and how pain affects so many people lives daily, it is pretty clear that there are lots of people out there in pain. Worst still it highlights what I have known for many years, is that many people who are in pain, or have inflammatory pain conditions, are not being managed really well. Unfortunately many are also trying to manage their own pain conditions and may even be dependent on pain medications. Some of these medications taken long term may in fact be exacerbating their current symptoms, or actually making their pain and inflammation worse. Some of the medications may in fact by shutting off the body’s ability to know that it isn’t actually in pain anymore, but the body actually thinks it is. It is such vicious never ending cycle for many people and there seems to be no long-term, or short term, solutions for many who have to endure the physical and emotional consequences of all these things combined.

The one thing for sure, is that pain often isn’t managed well and there need to be more done to help those in pain. But, it also requires those in pain to seek proper help too. Again it is a bit of complex issue and many in pain often get dismissed initially as well, or are looked at as people who are dependent on pain medications just seeking more pain meds.

Pain does need proper management and if pain is not managed properly, it can do more damage than the medications health professionals, and the person in pain, are worrying about. But sometimes the blanket pain medication treatments don’t work, or they just aren’t enough, and this is why when it comes to pain, it need to be managed with a multi-modality approach. It really cannot just be all about taking medication, or telling people to just go and learn to live with their pain and all will be OK. It won’t be OK and we need to start to educate all concerned that there other options that may assist the current medical treatments and management strategies.

Let’s look at some of the alternatives to pain medications and how these things can help assist those in pain and can be used alongside medications to give better control of pain and also help in reducing dependency of pain medications.

1.Watch your diet

Eating the right foods may provide some protection from the symptoms of pain and the disease state that you may have. The role of diet in inflammatory conditions has been investigated in recent years due to the influence of diet on some of the processes linked to certain disease states that are causing pain and inflammation on a daily basis. Many of the so called anti-inflammatory diets out there are now outdated and have outdated nutritional and dietary advice that don’t really help much at all.

People in pain need to adopt an anti-inflammatory (grain free, primal, ketogenic style diet) to assist with settling any inflammation in the body and also helping the immune system.  This also needs to include prebiotic and probiotic bacteria to help with digestive function, immunity and gut health.  Regulation and restoration of gut function and the microbiome is so important and assisting with pain and inflammatory conditions.

Excess bad carbohydrates increase insulin response and this then causes the body to store fats and stops the burning of fat. This also leads to inflammatory conditions and more inflammation in the body. Excess body fat, now known as obestrogens (because it is estrogenic) needs to be controlled and managed through diet and exercise too. Excess fat and excess weight all lead to inflammation and stress on the body and this can also exacerbate pain and pain pathway.

Certain environmental estrogens, known as endocrine disruptors,  such as preservatives, plastics, pesticides and insecticides that can be ingested through certain nutrients have been suggested as risk factors for exacerbating pain and creating inflammation in the body too

2.Try complementary medicine and complementary therapies

Many people with pain and inflammatory disease states find symptom relief from using a range of different complementary and alternative medicines. There is some good solid research to show that certain natural medicines may help with the management of pain and inflammatory disease states and the associated symptoms. There is now some good research to support many natural medicines treatments such as Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, omega 3 oils, probiotics, chiropractic/osteopathy, Yoga, Pilates and more.

Out of all the natural medicine therapies, Acupuncture and Chinese medicines has been one of the most researched and have shown to be the most beneficial and to assist those suffering pain and chronic inflammatory disease and their associated symptoms. Acupuncture has been widely researched to assist with many pain conditions and is now even used in some emergency departments around the world, for acute and chronic pain. Chinese herbal medicines have been used for centuries for pain and inflammatory disease and modern research has shown that certain Chinese herbs and herbal medicine formulas may assist with pain and painful conditions.

Certain strains of prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to help with the immune system, microbiome, bowel, and digestive associated symptoms of some pain conditions. Probiotics have also been shown to not only help with digestive and immune function, but also with the psychological function as well. It does need to be specific strains of probiotics though. Correction of the microbiome, but using pre and probiotics may assist in reduction of inflammation in the body and thus assist with pain and painful disease states.

There are also western herbal medicines and naturopathic herbal formulations that can assist with pain and assist with pain management. There are also certain amino acids and nutritional medicine supplements that have been shown to assist with managing pain and inflammatory conditions. Like any conditions, management need to be done on an individualised approach and what works for one person, may not work for another.

Chiropractic and Osteopathy have been used for centuries to assist with pain and pain conditions. By correction of the sublaxations and correction of posture, this can assist in better nerve functioning, better blood flow to muscles and also help with pain reduction and reducing inflammation.

Just like with medical treatments, when it comes to complementary medicines, it is important to find someone who is a qualified practitioner and who specialises in pain management. Just like in the medical model, this can also be hard to find. Please find someone who is a registered healthcare practitioner, or part of an association for qualified healthcare practitioners.

3.Boost intake of omega-3 fatty acids

The is lots of research on the health benefits of taking Omega 3 fatty acids and a diet high in these healthy fats. Omega 3 fatty acids may assist many inflammatory conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease, arthritic conditions and many conditions where inflammatory processes are then leading to pain.

Researchers have also found that the type of fat included in your diet makes a difference in your risk factors for inflammation and pain conditions. Studies have shown that people whose diets were heavily laden with trans fats increased their risk of the expression of inflammatory disease by 48 % when compared with individuals who ate the least of these. By comparison, women whose diets were rich in omega-3 oils lowered their risk of inflammatory conditions by 22 % compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, flaxseeds, almonds, and walnuts, may be helpful for pain and inflammatory conditions. Another way to get Omega 3 fatty acids is through supplementation, but please make sure you are using a practitioner only grade omega 3 supplement to ensure higher potency and better quality control.  Just remember, it is all about reducing inflammation.

4.Exercise

Often, people who experience pain fear exercising, in case it causes more problems for them. But over time, regular physical activity may decrease the pain and discomfort that you feel. High-intensity exercise and resistance training may assist in helping to reduce the reducing the symptoms of pain and reducing inflammation in the body.

While resistance training and high intensity interval training may assist in pain management and reducing inflammation in the body, some of the more gentle forms of exercise, such as Yoga and Pilates, may also assist in reducing pain and inflammatory response in the body too. Yoga and Pilates can stretch and strengthen your muscles, help with core strength, help with circulation, which all may be beneficial for pelvic pain management and stress reduction.There has been lots of research into the benefits of Yoga and Pilates and how it can assist pain and inflammation.

No matter what exercise, you choose, exercise may help those with pain and inflammation in many ways, including:

  • encouraging the circulation of blood to your organs
  • maintaining nutrients and oxygen flow to all your body systems
  • assist with decreasing pain and inflammatory response
  • assist with reducing stress
  • releasing endorphins in the brain, which are pain-relieving, “feel good” chemicals

Research has shown that those who engage in some sort of regular exercise have fewer symptoms of pain and less inflammation that those people who do not participate in regular exercise.

5.Managing Stress Levels

Stress and emotional factors are probably one of the most under rated causes of pain and inflammatory response. Stress and emotional factors are big factors in any disease and can make any disease worse. Not only can stress and emotional disorders be exacerbated by pain and inflammation, but so can pain and inflammatory symptoms be exacerbated by stress and emotional disorders, in a never-ending cycle. Pain and inflammation could contribute to making your stress levels, or emotion issues worse, due to the impact that the associated symptoms have on all aspects of your life, including family and personal relationships and work.

Stress management, Counselling, Mindfulness and Relaxation techniques may all assist in reducing stress and emotional disturbances that exacerbates inflammation and pain pathways and painful conditions.

People with pain and chronic pain and inflammation need to manage stress by using mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These can help you to increase your awareness of your body, refocus on something calming, and reduce the activity of stress hormones and inflammation in the body. It is all about learning coping mechanisms and what works best for you, not what works best for others.

6.TENS and Neuromodulators

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an inexpensive nonpharmacological intervention used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain conditions. These small battery-powered devices deliver alternating current via cutaneous electrodes positioned near the painful area. The parameters of pulse frequency, and pulse intensity are adjustable and linked to TENS efficacy. TENS activates a complex neuronal network to result in a reduction in pain

Neuromodulation is the process by which nervous activity is regulated by way of controlling the physiological levels of several classes of neurotransmitters. Many pain management specialist now use a common form of neuromodulation involves using a device to deliver electrical current in therapeutic doses to the spinal cord to disrupt pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain, converting them to a more pleasant tingling sensation. This has been proven a safe and effective therapeutic approach for managing chronic pain of the arms and legs, neck and back often after spine surgery, or for other neuropathic conditions.

In Summary

It is important to know that people with pain and disease states that are causing chronic pain, will need a multi-modality, or team approach to deal with this disease. The team you need and modalities that you will need will be dependent on your individual symptoms. This will mean finding practitioners who will listen to you and also be open to trying some of the alternatives to some of the pain medications and opiates alongside pharmaceutical medications. As I said before, these alternatives may assist in treating your pain and managing your pain long term and also help with reducing some of the pain medications you may have been dependent on. Try and find healthcare professionals that can offer you a multi-modality approach for ongoing care and support and who also have a team of other people who specialise in the disease you are suffering from too. Again, the approach that you and your pain management specialist, or healthcare provider, choose to take will vary depending on your signs and symptoms.

Before starting any pain management, or new treatment, it is important to know all of your options and the potential outcomes of all of them and to know that the people that you are seeing are specialists in your condition and know how to manage the disease properly. That can often be the hardest thing to find and why you need to do your homework and see people who are specialists in this area of medicine. Too many people are missed and dismissed purely because they are just seeing the wrong people in the first place.

Lastly, if you are in pain and have a pain condition, please do not try and keep managing it yourself, or try to self-medicate. You need to be managed properly and should be getting the advice of a professional, not your friends, family or social media buddies. Pain needs to be managed and it needs to be managed properly and this also goes for pain medications as well. If you are still in pain and pain symptoms are getting worse, this means that you need to get something done about it because your disease may in fact be getting worse, or your body may not be responding to medication any longer.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned