Tag Archives: physiotherapy Chelsea

19Dec/11

Back Pain and the BackCare Charity

Back pain is an enormous problem that impacts upon individuals and society. Most people will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime and a proportion will suffer continuing and recurring problems. Those who do continue to experience pain require effective treatment and strategies so that the impact and the distress that it can cause are diminished. Our understanding of pain science has moved forward significantly, meaning that there are contemporary therapies that target changes that we know occur in the brain and other body systems. For example, the graded motor imagery programme and cognitive techniques that impact upon pain threshold and movement.

The early management of a back pain as with other acute pains, will often determine the outcome. Full understanding of what has happened, why it hurts, what is normal about the pain response, how to cope effectively and the use of appropriate medication are all important at this point–see your GP or consultant for advice on medication.

Treat the brain, treat the pain

In persisting or complex cases, the assessment and treatment must be based upon the biopsychosocial model, considering the pain mechanism, influencing factors, beliefs & expectations, prior experiences of pain, the social impact (e.g./ work, family, sports) and fears in relation to movement and activity to name but a few. Pain is an output from the brain 100% of the time in response to an actual or perceived threat. Pain is always a normal response to the information that the brain receives from the spinal cord. In chronic conditions however, the way in which the nervous system changes means that danger signals can continue to be sent to the brain even when there is no actual threat. The brain must still respond by protecting the body by making the area hurt. The brain becomes very good at this, the analogy often used being an orchestra that learns to play one tune only. The pain tune–see Painful Yarns. To change the experience of pain in these cases requires a contemporary approach that is both ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’. Bottom up refers to therapy that targets tissue health and movement, and top down pertains to training the brain and beliefs that are limiting recovery–see here for more details.

The BackCare Charity

BackCare is a national charity that aims to reduce the impact of back pain on society by providing information, support, promoting good practice and funding research. BackCare acts as a hub between patients, (healthcare) professionals, employers, policy makers, researchers and all others with an interest in back pain.

BackCare supply a number of resources including information packs, articles and a newsletter. A list of practitioners is available so that you can find a local therapist.

The BackCare App – Listed in The Sunday Times App List

If you are a back pain sufferer or you have a professional interest, you can join BackCare here

09Dec/11

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has grown in popularity over recent years, and for good reason. Those who regularly practice mindful meditation and mindfulness on a day-to-day basis will tell you about their clarity of thought, their sense of ease and their good physical health. The practice is recommended by NICE for depression as well as the frequent teaching of mindfulness as a way to deal with pain.

At the clinic, I encourage mindful practice to help the individual be released from the pull of negative and unhelpful thinking about pain. We all have thoughts. This is the action of the mind and is a normal process. Automatic thoughts pop into our head and trigger emotional and physical responses–think about a waxy, yellow lemon resting upon a plate; you take a knife and cut into the rind, releasing the citrus odour as you divide the lemon in two, the pieces rolling away from the blade; you further cut the two halves into quarter segments, each time triggering a small burst of juice into the air around; imagine taking one segment and gently placing it into the front of your mouth; what are you experiencing? Thoughts change our physiology because our brains respond to thinking or imagining, just as if we are present. This is why it can hurt when we watch someone else move their body in a way that would be painful for us.

Automatic thoughts are just that. How we respond next we can decide. By being observant of our thoughts we can avoid following an automatic thought with another thought and another that lead to persisting physiological responses and emotions that are unpleasant and unhelpful. In particular those thougths that often recur and create unease and anxiety. They are simply thoughts. They are not us and they are not reality. They are just thoughts. But, they can be powerful unless we can find a way to be observant, non-judgmental, aware and present. That ‘way’ can be mindfulness.

Here are some great people talking about mindfulness and meditation

 

There has been and continues to be a great deal of work looking at mindfulness and how it may work. The Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) undertakes research and provides training.
‘The OMC Team does ground-breaking clinical and neuroscience research on mindfulness. It assesses the efficacy of different forms of mindfulness practice for different types of problem, and is building up a peer-reviewed body of knowledge about what forms of mindfulness intervention best suits which type of person.’
A list of the OMC publications is available here

For further information on our use of mindfulness for pain, please email [email protected]

21Oct/11

Using neuroscience to understand and treat pain

Neuroscience to treat pain and injury

I love neuroscience. It makes my job much easier despite being a hugely complex subject. Neuroscience research has cast light over some of the vast workings of our brains and helped to explain how we experience ourselves and the richness of life. An enormous topic, in this blog I am briefly going to outline the way in which I use contemporary neuroscience to understand pain and how we can use this knowledge to treat pain more effectively. This is not about the management of pain, it is the treatment of pain. Management of pain is old news.

Understanding pain is the first step towards changing the painful experience. Knowing how the brain and nervous system operate allows us to create therapies that target the biological mechanisms that underpin pain. Appreciation of the plastic ability of the nervous system from top to bottom–brain to periphery–provides us with the opportunity to ‘re-wire’, and therefore to alter the function of the system and make things feel better. Knowing the role of the other body systems when the brain is defending us, is equally important. The synergy of inputs from the immune system, endocrine system and autonomic nervous system provides the brain with infomration about our internal physiology that it must scrutinse and act upon in the most appropriate way. We call this action the brain’s ‘output’ which is the responses that it co-ordinates to promote health and survival.

Treat the brain and to reduce pain

Excellent data from contemporary research tells us that understanding pain increases the pain threshold (harder to trigger pain), reduces anxiety in relation to pain and enhances our ability to cope and deal with the pain. We know that movement can also improve after an education session. This is because the perceived threat is reduced by learning and understanding what is going on inside, and knowing what can be done. The vast majority of patients who come to the clinic do not know why their pain has persisted, what pain really is, how it is influenced and what they can do about it themselves. For me this is the start point. Explaining the neuroscience of pain. Facts that we know people can absorb, understand and apply to themselves in such a way that the brain changes and provides a different experience.

It is the brain that gives us our experience of ourselves and the world around us. This includes the sensory and emotional experience of pain. The brain receives information from the body via the peripheral nervous system that suggests there is a threat to the tissues (input). In response, the brain must decide whether this threat is genuine based upon what is happening at the time, the emotional state, past experience, the belief system, gender, genetics, health status, culture and other factors. In the case that the brain perceives a threat, the output will be pain. The Mature Organism Model developed by Louis Gifford describes this beautifully (see below).

Pain is a motivator. It grabs our attention in the area of the body that the brain feels is threatened based upon the danger signals it is receiving from the tissues via the spinal cord. The brain actually ascribes the location of the pain via the map of the body that exist in the sensory cortex. On feeling the pain, we take action. This is the reason for pain. It motivates us to move, seek help or rest. Pain is an incredible device that we have for survival and learning, necessary to navigate life and completely normal. The brain constructs the pain experience and associated symptoms in such a way that we have to take note and do something about it immediately.

When we injure tissue there is a local release of inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals excite local nerves in the tissues called nociceptors. Normally, nociceptors are quiet but when they are stimulated by inflammation, these nerves send danger signals to the spinal cord where they meet secondary neurons. The early bombardment of signals into the spinal cord causes the secondary neurons to become excited. These cells then send danger signals up to the brain where the information is scrutinised. On the basis of this scrutiny, if the brain perceives a threat, pain will be allocated in the area of the body that is deemed to be in danger. The area of pain is allocated via the representation of the body in the brain (see previous blog here) in the sensory cortex, first mapped by Wilder Penfield and published in 1951. Therefore we know that actually there is no ‘muscle pain’ or ‘knee pain’ but rather pain as a brain experience, and not in the mind I hasten to add, that is detected in a body part or region according to the brain’s perception of threat. These are the body maps that the brain uses to know where information is coming from and to control movement.

This information is part of the neuroscience knowledge that can be used to help people understand their pain and to create therapies that treat pain. Future blogs will look at how we can change and nourish the nervous system to promote healthy tissues at one end of the spectrum with the brain end being targeted by deeper education and Graded Motor Imagery (GMI) for example–click here. The brain and the tissues are not separate, they affect each other in many ways, as do other body systems such as the immune and endocrine systems. Looking at healthy movement and functioning in a truly holistic and biopsychosocial manner with neuroscience underpinnings, provides us with an exciting route forwards in dealing with pain problems.
09Oct/11

Mastery (2): practice, practice and then….practice

Mastery is defined in the Oxford dictionary as:

  • comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity
  • control or superiority over someone or something

The concept of mastery is often applied to a musical instrument, golf, martial arts or a language. The word is rarely used in conjunction with the rehabilitation of an injury or a painful condition. It occurred to me that there are vast similarities between the principles and experience of training for a sport or a skill and the participation in a rehabilitation programme. The difference will be the end goals and the specific reason for the training. In the case of mastering a sport, it is about performance enhancement with greater skill and efficiency to achieve fewer shots or more accuracy for example. In rehabilitation the goal are pain relief, normal mobility, control of movement, restoration of strength, power and a return to daily activities (work, home, exercise).

End-stage rehabilitation

Undoubtedly the body has incredible mechanisms that heal injured tissue. Unfortunately there are many people who despite the healing process do continue to suffer painful symptoms. We see many cases of enduring and problematic pain at the clinic and set about the problem with a contemporary approach. This involves a range of treatment techniques and strategies including active rehabilitation or training. This training requires instruction, understanding, dedication, awareness, consistency, intention and practice. Just like learning a golf shot or the piano.

Setting up the principles of training (I will refer to the rehabilitation now as training) creates the right context and mindset. This includes pain/condition specific education so that the programme makes sense, the aims of the exercises, when to do them, how often and how to progress or moderate the intensity. In laying out the way forwards, the concept of mastery is introduced. What is it that needs mastery?

Mastering the mind

When we are in pain we change the way that we move. The longer the condition has been existing, the more the body and brain will have adapted alongside your thoughts and beliefs about the problem. The meaning that you give to the pain can also change with time and this is important. If the ‘meaning’ of the problem is significant, negative in nature and threatening to you as an organism (evolution speaking), the brain is more likely to protect you. This protection includes pain and altered movement, therefore perpetuating the cycle. This subject is for another day, important though it is, but dealing with negative thought patterns and unhelpful beliefs is fundamental, and requires restructuring. Returning to altered movement, this needs to be re-trained to reduce the guarding and protection. Of course this is one aspect of a treatment programme, but it is a great example to use when thinking about how you are going to master normal movement.

Mastering normal movement as mastering a language takes instruction, practice and dedication as mentioned. Often along the road we meet challenges and resistance both physically and mentally. One of those challenges is the plateau when it appears that nothing is happening or changing. The performance still seems to be the same, the outcomes like before. It is during this time that there is change occurring but it has not yet clearly manifest. Understanding that the plateau is an important part of the process and using the time as a chance to learn and an opportunity to create change. The nervous system is very plastic and adaptable according to the stimuli that it receives. In rehabilitation, the repeated stimulus of the right movements, in the right setting and mind set create such an opportunity.

To be good at any skill we must fully engage and spend the time with ourselves practice for the sake of practicing. Applying similar principles to rehabilitation in re-training normal movement, thoughts about movement and exercise and the functional skills of your chosen activity, provides a framework and a well trodden philosophical pathway to success. You will have your chosen goals that you will seek to achieve and on reaching them you will have further targets to attain. This is the journey.

26Sep/11

Dysmenorrhoea & Pain

You may wonder why I am writing about dysmenorrhoea. It is because in a number of cases that I see, there is co-existing dysmenorrhea and other functional pain syndromes. These include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine, chronic low back pain, pelvic pain, bladder pain and fibromyalgia. Traditionally all of these problems are managed by different specialists with their particular end-organ in mind—e.g./ IBS = gastroenterologist; migraine = neurologist; fibromyalgia = rheumatologist. The science however, tells us that these seemingly unrelated conditions can be underpinned by a common factor, central sensitisation. This is not a blog about dysmenorrhoea per se, but considers the problem in the light of recent scientific findings and how it co-exists with other conditions.

Central sensitisation is a state of the central nervous system (CNS)—the spinal cord and the brain. This state develops when the CNS is bombarded with danger signals from the tissues and organs.  It means that when information from the body tissues, organs and systems reaches the spinal cord, it is modified before heading up to the brain. The brain scrutinises this information and responds appropriately by telling the body to respond. If there is sensitisation, these responses are protective and that includes pain. Pain is part of a protective mechanism along with changes in movement, activity in the endocrine system, the autonomic nervous system and the immune system. Pain itself is a motivator. It motivates action because it is unpleasant, and provides an opportunity to learn—e.g./ do not touch because it is hot. This is very useful with a new injury but less helpful when the injury has healed or there is no sign of persisting pathology.

Understanding that central sensitisation plays a part in these conditions creates an opportunity to target the underlying mechanisms. This can be with medication that acts upon the CNS and with contemporary non-medical approaches that focus upon the spinal cord and brain such as imagery, sensorimotor training, mindfulness and relaxation. In this way, dysmenorrhoea can be treated in a similar fashion to a chronic pain condition although traditionally it is not considered to be such a problem. The recent work by Vincent et al. (2011) observed activity in the brains of women with dysmenorrhoea and found it to be similar to women with chronic pain, highlighting the importance of early and appropriate management.

The aforementioned study joins an increasing amount of research looking at the commonality of functional pain syndromes. We must therefore, be vigilant when we are assessing pain states and consider that the presenting problem maybe just part of the bigger picture. Recognising that central processing of signals from the body is altered in a number of conditions that appear to be diverse allows us to offer better care and hence improve quality of life.

* If you are suffering with undiagnosed pain, you should consult with your GP or a health professional.

20Sep/11

Problematic Sports Injuries

Sustaining an injury is a common problem for athletes. Unfortunately, a number of these injuries become enduring and the player struggles to regain fitness and cannot return to play. There are known reasons why this can happen, including the effectiveness of the early management, accurate diagnosis of the problem and how the player initially responds to the injury. All of these factors are important and often accounted for within the medical team’s preparation and planning. It is within the screening process that the medical team can gather such player information. This usually includes the usual fitness parameters, a history of previous problems and how they were managed and past medical history. Beyond these considerations I am interested in certain behavioural and physiological characteristics of the player that will give me an insight into how they will respond to pain and injury.

The problem has usually been persisting for some time when the player comes to the clinic. Beliefs, expectations and concerns will already be flying around his or her head. These emotions can be stoked by failed treatments and a lack of a diagnosis. Certain fundamental adaptations will have occurred as a result of the injury, such as changes in control of movement, altered perception of the affected area, pain felt with innocuous activities and other physiological goings-on that are not consciously observable. These vital functions involve the immune system, endocrine system and autonomic nervous system, all of which have a wide range of effects across body systems and play a significant role in healing, recovery and protection.

Protection is a key point. When you are in pain the body is protecting itself. You may also be aware of spasm or tightness and these are also part of a survival strategy that is orchestrated by the brain. When we are injured or have a problem we usually focus on the pain–and so we should. Pain is a motivator for us to take action to promote recovery. It grabs our attention to the area at risk so that we can attend to the injury. This is an amazing device that means we can learn and adapt. However, when this device adapts and creates sensitivity that is prolonged, it becomes difficult to progress and return to play.

The device is really a network of nerves that communicates information about the health of the tissues to the brain via the spinal cord. These nerves also play a role in maintaining tissue health by releasing certain factors into the tissues. On receiving information from the tissues via the spinal cord, the brain then scrutinises this data and responds appropriately. On perceiving there to be a threat to the tissues, the brain creates pain via a widespread network of neurons becoming active. It is this widespread network of neurons with a range of roles that is the reason for the many influences upon the pain including past experience, emotional state, fear, anxiety, vision, sound, genetics, gender and significance of the perceived danger to name but a few.

Returning to the enduring sports injury, these processes are underpinning the persisting sensitivity that is evoked with normal activities and amplified when pushed harder, altered motor control and perception, sensorimotor mismatch and continued tightness. These are common reasons for non-progression and require addressing with a modern rehabilitation programme that addresses the tissues, the aforementioned body systems and the brain with specific techniques and strategies that are based on the latest neurosciences.

If you would like any further information please do contact us here or call 07518 445493. Click here for our programme details.

14Sep/11

Neuropathic pain Update

I have looked at recent papers that focus on neuropathic pain, one of the common pain types seen in CRPS. I’m afraid that some of the research is ‘sciency’ but of course it has to be, so do not worry of you don’t fully understand the methods or the physiology. At the end of the more complex abstracts I have put a summary.

Science. 2011 Sep 9;333(6048):1462-6.

HCN2 ion channels play a central role in inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

Emery EC, Young GT, Berrocoso EM, Chen L, McNaughton PA.

Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1PD, UK.

The rate of action potential firing in nociceptors is a major determinant of the intensity of pain. Possible modulators of action potential firing include the HCN ion channels, which generate an inward current, I(h), after hyperpolarization of the membrane. We found that genetic deletion of HCN2 removed the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-sensitive component of I(h) and abolished action potential firing caused by an elevation of cAMP in nociceptors. Mice in which HCN2 was specifically deleted in nociceptors expressing Na(V)1.8 had normal pain thresholds, but inflammation did not cause hyperalgesia to heat stimuli. After a nerve lesion, these mice showed no neuropathic pain in response to thermal or mechanical stimuli. Neuropathic pain is therefore initiated by HCN2-driven action potential firing in Na(V)1.8-expressing nociceptors.

The excitability of a nerve is determined by the activity of receptors that allow ions to flow in and out. The flow of ions alters the threshold of excitability meaning that it is much easier for the nerve to be stimulated and fire a signal. It is the firing of danger signals to the brain via the spinal cord that can lead to pain. When I say that it ‘can’ lead to pain, this is because sometimes the brain receives these danger signals but does not respond by producing pain. The brain must judge the signals to be a sign of danger for pain to be experienced. Neuropathic pain often includes spontaneous pain that is caused by ectopic firing of signals.

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Pain Med. 2011 Sep 7. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01227.x. [Epub ahead of print]

The Influence of Chinook Winds and Other Weather Patterns upon Neuropathic Pain.

Ngan S, Toth C.

Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Objective.   Although Chinook winds are often viewed positively during a cold prairie winter, patients suffering with neuropathic pain (NeP) anecdotally report exacerbations of NeP during Chinooks and during other weather changes. Our objective was to identify if Chinook winds lead to acute exacerbations in pain severity in a NeP patient population. Design.  Prospective diary-based assessments of patients with at least moderate NeP over 6-month periods during different seasons of the year were performed. Concurrent weather conditions were tracked hourly, with Chinook winds defined using accepted meteorological definition. We also examined other aspects of weather including precipitation, temperature, and humidity. Days with acute exacerbations were defined when a daily visual analog score pain score was ≥2 points above their average NeP score over the entire 6-month period. Results.  Chinooks were not associated with individual acute exacerbations in NeP. Instead, Chinook days were found to be protective against acute exacerbations in NeP (odds ratio 0.52 [0.33-0.71]). Post hoc study associated Chinooks with NeP relief (odds ratio 1.83 [1.17-2.49]). We could not identify relationship between precipitation or humidity with acute NeP exacerbation. However, days with cold temperature ≤ -14°C were associated with greater risk of NeP exacerbation. Conclusion.  Weather-mediated changes occur for patients with NeP, manifesting as relief from Chinook winds while cold temperature conditions can provoke exacerbations in NeP.

Cold commonly affects neuropathic pain–worsening the symptomsincluding ambient temperature or a cold stimulus applied (e.g. alcohol wipe, cold draft, ice)

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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jul 8;(3):CD007076.

Pregabalin for acute and chronic pain in adults.

Moore RA, Straube S, Wiffen PJ, Derry S, McQuay HJ.

Pain Research and Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, University of Oxford, West Wing (Level 6), John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK, OX3 9DU.

BACKGROUND:

Antiepileptic drugs have been used in pain management since the 1960s. Pregabalin is a recently developed antiepileptic drug also used in management of chronic neuropathic pain conditions.

OBJECTIVES:

To assess analgesic efficacy and associated adverse events of pregabalin in acute and chronic pain.

SEARCH STRATEGY:

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CENTRAL to May 2009 for randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Additional studies were identified from the reference lists of retrieved papers and on-line clinical trial databases.

SELECTION CRITERIA:

Randomised, double blind trials reporting on the analgesic effect of pregabalin, with subjective pain assessment by the patient as either the primary or a secondary outcome.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS:

Two independent review authors extracted data and assessed trial quality. Numbers-needed-to-treat-to-benefit (NNTs) were calculated, where possible, from dichotomous data for effectiveness, adverse events and study withdrawals.

MAIN RESULTS:

There was no clear evidence of beneficial effects of pregabalin in established acute postoperative pain. No studies evaluated pregabalin in chronic nociceptive pain, like arthritis.Pregabalin at doses of 300 mg, 450 mg, and 600 mg daily was effective in patients with postherpetic neuralgia, painful diabetic neuropathy, central neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia (19 studies, 7003 participants). Pregabalin at 150 mg daily was generally ineffective. Efficacy was demonstrated for dichotomous outcomes equating to moderate or substantial pain relief, alongside lower rates for lack of efficacy discontinuations with increasing dose. The best (lowest) NNT for each condition for at least 50% pain relief over baseline (substantial benefit) for 600 mg pregabalin daily compared with placebo were 3.9 (95% confidence interval 3.1 to 5.1) for postherpetic neuralgia, 5.0 (4.0 to 6.6) for painful diabetic neuropathy, 5.6 (3.5 to 14) for central neuropathic pain, and 11 (7.1 to 21) for fibromyalgia.With 600 mg pregabalin daily somnolence typically occurred in 15% to 25% and dizziness occurred in 27% to 46%. Treatment was discontinued due to adverse events in 18 to 28%. The proportion of participants reporting at least one adverse event was not affected by dose, nor was the number with a serious adverse event, which was not more than with placebo.Higher rates of substantial benefit were found in postherpetic neuralgia and painful diabetic neuropathy than in central neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia. For moderate and substantial benefit on any outcome NNTs for the former were generally six and below for 300 mg and 600 mg daily; for fibromyalgia NNTs were much higher, and generally seven and above.

AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS:

Pregabalin has proven efficacy in neuropathic pain conditions and fibromyalgia. A minority of patients will have substantial benefit with pregabalin, and more will have moderate benefit. Many will have no or trivial benefit, or will discontinue because of adverse events. Individualisation of treatment is needed to maximise pain relief and minimise adverse events. There is no evidence to support the use of pregabalin in acute pain scenarios.

This is a Cochrane Review meaning that a number of research papers are analysed before concluding whether a treatment is effective or not.

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Pain. 2011 Aug 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Genotype-selective phenotypic switch in primary afferent neurons contributes to neuropathic pain.

Nitzan-Luques A, Devor M, Tal M.

Department of Medical Neurobiology, Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.

Pain is normally mediated by nociceptive Aδ and C fibers, while Aβ fibers signal touch. However, after nerve injury, Aβ fibers may signal pain–this means that touch now hurts. Using a genetic model, we tested the hypothesis that phenotypic switching in neurotransmitters expressed by Aβ afferents might account for heritable differences in neuropathic pain behavior. The study examined selection-line rats in which one line, high autotomy (HA)rats chewing themselves as  a pain behaviour–, shows higher levels of spontaneous pain in the neuroma neuropathy model, and of tactile allodynia in the spinal nerve ligation (SNL) model, than the companion low autotomy (LA) line. Changes in calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and Substance Ppeptides released by cells that cause excitability– expression were evaluated immunohistochemically in L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia 7days after SNL surgery. Expression of CGRP was decreased in axotomized small- and medium-diameter neurons in both rat lines. However, in HA but not in LA rats, there was a tenfold increase in CGRP immunoreactivity (CGRP-IR) in large-diameter neurons. Corresponding changes in CGRP-IR in axon terminals in the nucleus gracilis were also seen. Finally, there were indications of enhanced CGRP neurotransmission in deep laminae of the dorsal horn. Substance P immunoreactivity was also upregulated in large-diameter neurons, but this change was similar in the 2 lines. Our findings suggest that phenotypic switching contributes to the heritable difference in pain behavior in HA vs LA rats. Specifically, we propose that in HA rats, but less so in LA rats, injured, spontaneously active Aβ afferents both directly drive CGRP-sensitive central nervous system pain-signaling neurons and also trigger and maintain central sensitization, hence generating spontaneous pain and tactile allodynia.

Spontaneous pain and pain from light touch is due to genetic changes in the nerve cells of Aß afferent (sensory) nerves.

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A classic paper

Neurology. 2008 Apr 29;70(18):1630-5. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

Neuropathic pain: redefinition and a grading system for clinical and research purposes.

Treede RD, Jensen TS, Campbell JN, Cruccu G, Dostrovsky JO, Griffin JW, Hansson P, Hughes R, Nurmikko T, Serra J.

Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.

Pain usually results from activation of nociceptive afferents by actually or potentially tissue-damaging stimuli. Pain may also arise by activity generated within the nervous system without adequate stimulation of its peripheral sensory endings. For this type of pain, the International Association for the Study of Pain introduced the term neuropathic pain, defined as “pain initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system.” While this definition has been useful in distinguishing some characteristics of neuropathic and nociceptive types of pain, it lacks defined boundaries. Since the sensitivity of the nociceptive system is modulated by its adequate activation (e.g., by central sensitization), it has been difficult to distinguish neuropathic dysfunction from physiologic neuroplasticity. We present a more precise definition developed by a group of experts from the neurologic and pain community: pain arising as a direct consequence of a lesion or disease affecting the somatosensory system. This revised definition fits into the nosology of neurologic disorders. The reference to the somatosensory system was derived from a wide range of neuropathic pain conditions ranging from painful neuropathy to central poststroke pain. Because of the lack of a specific diagnostic tool for neuropathic pain, a grading system of definite, probable, and possible neuropathic pain is proposed. The grade possible can only be regarded as a working hypothesis, which does not exclude but does not diagnose neuropathic pain. The grades probable and definite require confirmatory evidence from a neurologic examination. This grading system is proposed for clinical and research purposes.

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Application

In my view there are many cases of neuropathic pain (NP) that are not identified, mainly because the examiner is not looking for this pain type. This paper considers whether NP exists in anterior knee pain–it does in my experience. I see a large number of people with back complaints and is it not uncommon to find NP hiding in there, often obscured by a more mechanical or inflammatory pain mechanism. Using clinical tests and a measure or two, we can convert suspicion to reality and then consider how this pain type needs to be managed. There are different implications when NP is present including the prognosis. It takes longer to settle down and flare-ups are common. Flare-ups need effective management including self-care strategies to move through these difficultly times effectively. RS

Clin J Pain. 2008 Jun;24(5):384-94.

Is pain in patellofemoral pain syndrome neuropathic?

Jensen R, Kvale A, Baerheim A.

Section for Physiotherapy Science, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Kalfarveien, Bergen, Norway. [email protected]

There is no consensus among experts regarding the etiology or management of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Observations indicating dysfunction of the peripheral nervous system around the patellae have been reported. To what extent these sensory abnormalities cause pain has so far not been investigated. The aim of this study was to assess whether a subgroup of patients with unilateral PFPS have neuropathic pain related to the painful knee.

METHOD:

A total of 91 patients with unilateral PFPS, between 18 and 40 years of age, and a comparable group of 23 healthy participants aged 18 to 44 years were included. Level of knee function, pain intensity, and qualities were assessed. Somatosensory assessments were carried out by bedside neurologic tests and quantitative sensory testing, assessing thermal, tactile, and vibration thresholds.

RESULTS:

Ample signs of sensory aberrations with considerable heterogeneity and overlap regarding the degree and type of dysfunction of the nervous system were found in the painful area of the PFPS patients. No clear subgroup of patients with neuropathic pain or clustering of features related to neuropathic pain was identified.

DISCUSSION:

This study hypothesizes that the observed sensory aberrations may cause neuropathic pain in patients with PFPS. There is no validated method for subgrouping patients with possible neuropathic pain and in this study considerable heterogeneity and overlap regarding signs and symptoms of neuropathic pain made subgrouping even more difficult. A mechanism-based understanding of the pain is, however, essential for the selection of adequate treatment strategies in painful musculoskeletal disorders.


12Sep/11

Physiotherapy Clinic in Chelsea

Situated just off Sloane Square in Chelsea at 2, Lower Sloane Street, the physiotherapy clinic is in a convenient location close to the tube (Sloane Square) and bus stops. The Specialist Pain Physio Clinics are dedicated to treating pain and injury with modern strategies and therapies based upon the latest neuroscience to promote normal movement and healthy participation in an active lifestyle.

T 07518 445493

Physiotherapy in Chelsea for pain

Visit the profile on The Chelsea Consulting Room website that provides a brief outline of the clinic. The main Specialist Pain Physio website has details about the modern approach to the treatment of pain and chronic pain, the other clinic locations and links to useful sites.

Knowledge and healthy movement for normal self

Specialist Physiotherapy in Chelsea

Local residents, people from all parts of London, across the country and overseas visitors have come to the clinic for treatment of chronic conditions and pain.

Come and visit our blog for regular articles and information.

We see a range of complaints including back pain, neck pain, RSI, recurring and persisting sports injuries, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), tendinopathies (e.g./ Achilles, patella, shoulder, elbow & wrist), functional pain syndromes (e.g./ IBS, dysmenorrhoea, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain), conditions that have failed to respond to treatment and medically unexplained symptoms.

T 07518 445493

21Jul/11

Treatment Update

Come and see the updated treatment programme page. We are regularly updating the site so do check back. This is when there is new knowledge or research that adds to our understanding of pain and how we can best treat on-going problems.

19Apr/11
Hands of God & Adam

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), is undoubtedly a nasty condition in many cases. It can be hugely disruptive in the desire to lead a normal and fulfilling life due the experience of sheer pain and the difficulty in doing day to day activities.

I hear a huge range of stories of how the problem began and how it has been treated. Sometimes there is a significant injury, but often it is the type of event that one would associate with recovery such as an ankle sprain, a knocked elbow or a fracture. Unfortunately in a number of cases this simply does not happen. The injury is sustained, the area usually hurts as you would expect but then it continues to hurt and gets worse. There are associated signs and symptoms such as colour change, temperature change, altered sensation (pins and needles, numbness), an altered sense of position, a feeling of ‘largeness’, ‘thickened’ skin, huge sensitivity to light touch (allodynia), changes in skin, hair and nails. Fortunately we understand much more about the underlying mechanisms and can explain what and why this is happening, giving the problem a meaning which is so important in a condition that is troubling and causing great suffering.

CRPS in the foot and leg causes great difficulty in walking and standing in many cases. If the tissues are stiffened and the control of movement is poor, the ability to walk normally can be severely limited. Add the pain to this scenario and it becomes incredibly disabling at times as the sufferer simply cannot undertake normal activities. In CRPS in the upper limb it is writing, computer use, dressing, holding tools and self-care that are challenged.

Similar to any painful state, determining the pain mechanism(s) is important in deciding where to focus the treatment. Often there can be co-existing mechanisms such as inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain underpinned by different processes and manifesting in different ways. Neuropathic pain is often sharp, lancing, shooting and accompanied by a loss of sensation in the same area that can be confounding until you understand how it works. Inflammatory pain can be provoked by movement and touch with the mechanism being excited sensory nerves (nociceptors) as a result of the release of inflammatory molecules. Nerves themselves can release such chemicals into the tissues (neurogenic inflammation) and thereby keep the process going. There are many other aspects to the pain and the drivers and influences.

As well as elucidating the pain mechanisms, identifying the influences is also very important. This can include stress, fatigue, emotional state, past experience, culture, beliefs in addition to lifestyle factors and general health. Personally I look for risk factors for chronicity with all new assessments so that these can be fealty with swiftly. When a condition has been in existence for a longer period, adapting this to understand behaviours, choices and other factors that could be prolonging the problem is important.

Modern treatment of pain including CRPS should be within a biopsychosocial framework. That means looking at the biological mechanisms, psychology and social factors that are all part of the pain experience and mould the individual perception. In many cases the sufferer needs input from physiotherapy, pain medicine and psychology. Initially educating the patient to develop understanding, reduce fear of the pain and movement and enable effective coping and self-care is key. Desensitising the body with a range of techniques that blend the physical with the cognitive through the application of various stimuli is useful. This could be a paint brush or cotton wool for example. Tactile discrimination and two point discrimination are normal sensory functions that can be altered and according to recent studies are likely to need training. The graded motor imagery programme is part of the treatment, targeting brain changes that can occur. The three stages are laterality, imagined movement and mirror therapy. This is a newer intervention and is demonstrating good results in CRPS and with other nasty pains. The self-care aspects are fundamental. Teaching the patient to manage their activities and to develop consistency through their day is key. Sometimes activities are overdone and there is a trade off. For example standing at a party, but you really want to go and afterwards you know it will hurt but accept that this will be the case. Good flare-up management skills can play a huge role during these times. A further group of interventions I call perceptual exercises. Due to the plastic changes in the sensory and motor cortices, the sense of self, body and movement can feel different in many ways. Working with this through the use of imagery, mindfulness, awareness and other strategies can really help to get back in touch with the body alongside the other techniques. Finally, motor control exercise to normalise movement is very important but to be done at the right time in the right way.

The context of the treatment can affect the success of the strategy. Timing, environment, understanding and belief must all be considered when designing a programme. Newer ideas and research about neuroimmune responses to exercise, movement and thoughts suggest that we need to be mindful of these factors. This is the modern way of looking at the individual, their pain and circumstances to offer practical and effective strategies in improving outcomes and quality of life.

Subsequent blogs will look at the other symptoms, why and how they manifest and the effects of stress upon the body.