Tips For Dealing With Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is one that last more than 3-6 months , or pain that extends behind the expected period of healing. This blog post explains the different types of pain caused by Parkinsons disease and how to address pain brought on by the disease, by medications, or by comorbid disease. It is always best to treat pain before it becomes chronic.
Identify The Cause Of The Pain
The first step in treating pain is to try to identify the cause. As I noted in the last essay, there are many different causes of pain for people with PD. If we look at the most common pain problems, low back and neck pain, we can see that there are many different causes for each. Many doctors order x-rays of the spine for these conditions, and they may be needed. The main problem with x-rays of the spine is that they always show arthritis, which is because virtually everyone over the age of 60 has arthritis in the spine. Whether thats the cause of the pain or not is usually not clear.
However, x-rays will show if theres a compression fracture , or a tumor. Since older women frequently develop compression fractures even without a fall, this can be important because we know then that the pain is likely severe, but time limited, and will resolve in a month or two. This makes it easier to treat with strong medication, like narcotics, because there is less concern for addiction. X-rays do not show discs, but disc herniation is much less common in older people so its of less concern.
Chiropractors focus entirely on spine pain and may be very helpful. Since many medical doctors are not very familiar with PD, I assume that many chiropractors probably arent either. Therefore it will be helpful to find one who is familiar with PD. Probably the best way to do this is through a Parkinsons Disease support group in your area.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Symptoms of Parkinsons disease and the rate of decline vary widely from person to person. The most common symptoms include:
Other symptoms include:
- Speech/vocal changes: Speech may be quick, become slurred or be soft in tone. You may hesitate before speaking. The pitch of your voice may become unchanged .
- Handwriting changes: You handwriting may become smaller and more difficult to read.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Sleeping disturbances including disrupted sleep, acting out your dreams, and restless leg syndrome.
- Pain, lack of interest , fatigue, change in weight, vision changes.
- Low blood pressure.
Other Pain Conditions Associated With Parkinsons Disease
Akathisia refers to an unpleasant agitating sensation that is reported in about 20% of Parkinsons patients usually in the form of restless legs syndrome . Although not all patients report akathisia as being a strictly painful sensation, it is known to cause insomnia and discomfort that can be treated if the health provider is able to recognize it . In addition, a potential source for chronic pain are the various gastrointestinal abnormalities seen in PD. These include dysphagia, constipation, impaired gastric emptying, and problematic absorption, which could lessen the effects of oral antiparkinsonian treatments and diminishes quality of life in about half of patients with PD . Pathology behind enteric symptoms appears to correlate with -synuclein deposition and subsequent degradation of gastric innervation . In the long term, this has been noted to increase susceptibility to potentially painful infections .
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Lower Back Pain And Back Of The Neck Pain Are Most Common
Pain occurs for a number of reasons and its not always clear what the cause is, making it difficult to figure out how best to treat it. I believe that most common pain problems in Parkinsons Disease are the same as in the general population, but amplified. Low back pain and back of the neck pain are probably the most common pain conditions in PD. The reason Parkinsons Disease patients have so many problems with their low back and their neck is their posture. Parkinsons Disease causes a stooped posture. Some of this happens with age anyway, particularly in women after menopause when their bones soften, but is always worse from the PD. All Parkinsons Disease patients have some degree of stooped posture and many also tilt to one side. Because of the stooped posture, the muscles in the lower back have to pull much harder to keep the spine upright.
Pain Stress And Biomarkers Of Stress
Stress and pain are often closely linked. Each has an impact on the other, creating a vicious cycle that sets the stage for chronic pain and chronic stress. Therefore, stress management should be a component in pain therapy.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia® defines the term stress as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. The result of stress can be explained as physical or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existing equilibrium.
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Physiological Pathways Of Pain Relief
In the early 1960s, theories initially developed by Melzack and Wall were introduced. They proposed three features of afferent input that were signed for pain: the ongoing activity that precedes the stimulus, the stimulus-evolved activity, and the relative balance of activity in large versus small fibers. The concept of the gate control theory was introduced. Pain messages encounter nerve gates in the spinal cord that open or close depending upon a number of factors . When the gates are open, pain messages pass more easily and pain can be intense. When the gates are closed, pain messages are prevented from reaching the brain and may not even be experienced. Although the details of this process remain poorly understood, it can help to explain why various treatments are effective.
The existence of low-threshold mechanoreceptive C-tactile afferents was initially described by Vallbo et al. These afferents comprise a second anatomically and functionally distinct system that signals touch in human beings. The activation of these fibers is more closely related to limbic functions rather than cognitive and motor functions. Although rapid, accurate, and informative A touch acutely reflects the external world through cutaneous events in an exteroceptive manner, CT activation shares more characteristics with interceptive modalities. This slow, affective nature is likely to be involved in the maintenance of physical well-being.
Other Treatments Of Lower Back Pain
NSAIDs which include medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as acetaminophen, can be very beneficial for pain in PD, as they are for the general population. These medications do not typically have neurologic side effects, so they are well tolerated in people with PD. They can have other side effects though, so as always, discuss all medications that you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, with your doctor. If these medications do not provide sufficient back pain relief, your doctor may prescribe a pain medication. In addition, he/she may refer you for a procedure such as an epidural injection to help with lower back pain. Rarely, surgery may be recommended if a specific structural reason for pain is identified.
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Pain Is An Unfortunately Common Problem In Parkinsons Disease
Of course, pain is common in the general population, especially among older people. A recent American study found that pain affected about twice as many people with Parkinsons Disease than those of the same age and gender without PD. About 50% of Parkinsons Disease patients in that study suffered from painful disorders. Men and women seem to be about equally affected. A very well described scenario is the patient who is followed for a painful frozen shoulder for a year or so before a tremor develops leading to a diagnosis of PD. Pain clearly plays a major role in quality of life. Everyone with chronic pain enjoys life less, leading to a vicious cycle in which pain causes depression or isolation which in turn leads to more pain.
Parkinson patients suffer from the same pain problems that other people have, often amplified by the motor dysfunction, but they also have additional pain problems which are unique to PD.
One recent review classified the types of pain Parkinsons Disease patients have into: musculoskeletal, in which the pain results from problems with the muscles , bones or joints dystonic, which is due to abnormal muscle contractions caused by the Parkinsons Disease or the medications used to treat it radicular pain, which is feels like the pain caused by pinched nerves central pain, which is presumed due to abnormalities in the brain, and is a continuously present pain that cannot be explained otherwise and discomfort related to an unpleasant urge to move.
What Causes Pain In Cases Of Parkinsons Syndrome Sufferers
Parkinsons Syndrome Sufferers may present with various combinations of back, buttock and leg pain, numbness and muscle weakness, Symptoms are often aggravated by an abnormal asymmetrical gait arising from loss of spatial awareness muscle spasm and loss of limb control. The back pain may arise from irritation within the disc wall but more commonly arises from the pinching of the trapped nerve in the exit doorway from the spinal column. The foramen may be distorted and the nerve is tethered by years of scarring reaction to repetitive bruising, can not evade the pinching by the bulging distorted disc wall or overriding facet joints . The disc may be degenerate and bulging and contribute to the irritation of the tethered nerve. When advanced the compression causes numbness and weakness to develop. The patchy weakness or spasm of the muscles controlling the spinal segments results in asymmetrical loss of control or stiffness of the disc levels and aggravation of the effects of the local pathology at each level and aggravation of symptoms arising at these levels.
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Treatment Of Chronic Pain In Parkinsons Disease
Effective management of chronic pain conditions is a difficult task, with up to two thirds of patients reporting dissatisfaction with their treatment results. Unfortunately, PD is not exempt from this reality and achieving satisfactory outcomes when managing chronic pain in PD patients is exceptionally challenging. The extensive heterogeneity of pain that is experienced in PD patients presents obstacles in identifying targets for treatment. Furthermore, a lack of controlled studies has left a dearth of evidenced based treatment recommendations, and current regimens are largely based on case reports and empirical evidence . Nevertheless, an array of pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment options is available to attempt to relieve the chronic pain symptoms of PD patients. The treatment options are summarized in table 2.
Table 2. Treatment Options.
Specific Pain Syndromes In Pd
Orthostatic hypotension can cause headache or neck pain . If necessary, antihypertensive co-medication should be adjusted in accordance with recently given recommendations . Additional measures are physical exercises, fluid intake, wearing of compression stockings class two, and administration of substances such as midodrine, fludrocortisone or, in severe cases, L-threo-3,4-dihydroxyphenylserine . Camptocormia is often accompanied with pain. Prior to therapy the cause has to be differentiated . In addition to the use of pain killers, the focus is on physiotherapy. There is no specific pain medication recommended currently.
Migraine is reported less often in PD, and often associated with depression and sleep disturbances . Therefore the therapy has to focus on the comorbidities as well. The usual medication for migraine can be used, but due to an increased risk for orthostatic hypotension in PD, caution should be exercised with beta blockers .
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Parkinson’s Pain Can Be Linked To Depression
If exercise and/or adjusting your medications do not help with the pain, ask yourself and your healthcare provider if you might be depressed. Pain in Parkinson’s disease is linked to depression, and treating the depression may help to diminish any persistent pains. Depression affects about 40% of people with Parkinson’s. In some cases, psychotherapy may alleviate pain from Parkinson’s.
If you don’t have depression or if the pains persist after treating your symptoms of depression, then you may want to consider seeing a pain specialist before taking over-the-counter remedies. Pain control specialists have a whole array of pain control treatments and techniques, ranging from special medications to special surgical procedures, that are known to be effective.
Strengthening Exercises Or Stretching May Be Helpful
Imagine that the spine is like a telephone pole or the mast of a sailboat. If the pole is not exactly upright, even a slight tilt requires a great force to keep it from tilting further and falling. In the human body, this means that the lower back muscles are under great stress. It also means that the tension on the back bones is much increased as well. This worsens whatever problems, like arthritis, that are already present. The same process applies to the neck, although the forces are less great. Strengthening exercises or stretching may be helpful. Almost everyone over the age of 60 has arthritis in their spine. Luckily most dont have pain from it, but those who do will have it worsened by the spine curvature caused by the PD.
PD patients also frequently have an aching discomfort in their muscles, particularly in the thighs and shoulders. I think this is due to the rigidity, or stiffness, that is part of the Parkinsons Disease syndrome, but Ive seen many patients with this pain and no apparent stiffness on examination, hence not explained. It is common and it often, but not always, responds to alterations of the usual Parkinsons Disease medications for movement. Exercise and stretching may be helpful as well and should always be tried first before increasing medications.
Pain is a challenge in PD. We cant measure it and often cannot find its cause. It is, however, often treatable, and reducing pain improves quality of life.
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Pain In Parkinsons Disease: A Spotlight On Women
This 2-page interview with neurologist, Dr. Jori E. Fleisher, discusses pain in Parkinsons disease with some interesting statistics about women and pain. Dr. Fleisher outlines the 4 primary types of pain in PD, how depression interferes with pain management, the role of exercise and medications in pain management as well as alternative therapies.
Who Should I See To Discuss My Parkinsons Pain
Your first point of contact should be your primary doctor. Whether that means your family doctor, neurologist, or Movement Disorder Specialist , start by asking them how to manage your pain. They may prescribe you one of the medications listed above, offer suggestions about altering your lifestyle, or refer you to a pain specialist.
Pain management specialists are physicians with specialized training in the field of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating pain so, speaking to one of these specialists might be helpful for you. Be sure to get a referral from your primary care doctor, though, to ensure you are visiting a physician who understands the complexity of treating Parkinsons-specific pain.
Health and wellness providers like physical therapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists can also be valuable members of your care team. Be willing to try new things and approach alternative therapies with an open mind, as no ones path with Parkinsons pain is the same. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. Consider visiting different specialists to find a treatment plan that works best for you.
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What Is Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a nervous system disease that affects your ability to control movement. The disease usually starts out slowly and worsens over time. If you have Parkinsons disease, you may shake, have muscle stiffness, and have trouble walking and maintaining your balance and coordination. As the disease worsens, you may have trouble talking, sleeping, have mental and memory problems, experience behavioral changes and have other symptoms.
Not Your Usual Neck And Back Pain
There are many ways to get a backache. This is new for me lower back pain that leads to spasms and literally drives me to my knees.
It doesnt feel like the pain from overdoing it in the garden. Every gardener knows that exquisite twinge from too much lifting or shoveling. After all the years I have gardened, I know that pain well. This is not my usual lower back pain.
An article published in 2018 in the European Spine Journal found significantly more cases of low back pain, with longer durations, in patients with Parkinsons disease than in healthy controls. Parkinsons patients also experience more frequent and intense lumbar pain. Researchers concluded that Parkinsons progression can lead to degeneration of the lumbar spine, and this leads to low back pain for about 88% of this population.
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Since A Back Injury In 1985 John Has Experienced Multiple Types Of Pain Some Of Which Have Been Triggered By His Parkinson’s He Was Diagnosed With The Condition In 2016
Ive been experiencing varying degrees of pain since injuring my back, which caused me to have lower-back pain, which continues to this day. Since then, I have also developed pain in other parts of my body due to Parkinsons, including my hands, ribs, upper back and shoulder.
The pain in my ribs is deep, aching and constant, and I get internal tremors in this area. However, the pains in my legs are sharp, intermittent and become very rigid, especially in my calves.
When I walk, the pain can get so bad that I end up having to stop and rest. On really bad days, I use a wheelchair. When Im in a lot of pain, it affects my Parkinsons symptoms even more, and also my spatial awareness, that I tend to lose my balance and fall or freeze.
I was referred to a pain specialist…who enrolled me on an 8-week pain management course led by a Parkinson’s-trained physiotherapist. Now I do an hour of gentle movements and stretching every morning.
I cant stand for long enough to wash and have a shave, or to wash the dishes, so I use a perching stool. I can no longer carry out my hobby of canoeing to the same degree. While I use to be able to do it all day, I’m now lucky if I can do it for an hour.
I was referred to a pain specialist, who prescribed me medication, and advised on workable changes to my lifestyle and diet. They also enrolled me on an 8-week pain management course led by a Parkinson’s-trained physiotherapist. Now I do an hour of gentle movements and stretching every morning.