Medical Blog

December 16, 2009


Filed under: Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers — admin @ 12:07 pm

Using magnetic sources to influence the body’s state of health is, of course, not a new idea, but what is new is that today’s ever more sensitive electronic instruments can now track down and confirm the various effects. From this modern research into an ages-old therapy has emerged confirmation that some types of pain can be reduced by the application of magnets.

Just how magnetic therapy works is still a matter of some controversy and needs much further study. The most likely explanation is the one put forward by physicist and psychologist Dr Buryl Payne, a scientist who is the inventor of the first biofeedback instruments and former professor at Boston University and Goddard College, and who has made a lifelong study of magnetic therapy. He says that two specific factors now known to be involved in magnetic therapy are:

The promotion of increased blood flow with resultant increased oxygen-carrying capacity, both of which can help combat pain by assisting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

The induction of changes in the migration of calcium ions which can help move calcium away from painful, arthritic joints, thereby reducing the accompanying symptomatic pain.

The use of magnetic therapy to control pain is usually applied through placing simple magnets directly upon the area of pain. They can either be used for brief periods or else taped into place for ongoing treatment. Information about self-therapy can be obtained from manuals or from a qualified practitioner. Alternatively, devices that emit much stronger magnetic fields, usually in a ‘pulsed’ form, are used by qualified therapists.

Apart from aiding in pain reduction, magnetic therapy has also been used to good effect to reinforce and improve spinal alignment, assisting the vertebrae of the spine to align properly, both vertically and laterally. Major successes have been obtained in patients suffering from sciatica.


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Filed under: Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers — admin @ 12:04 pm

Once you’ve made an appointment to see your doctor, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes beforehand jotting some down quick notes about how your symptoms developed, so as to have the answer to any questions you may asked readily at hand. For example, try to recall when you first noticed any symptoms. Was the onset sudden or gradual? Did the pain go after a while, then keep coming back? Can you remember any particular incident that may have triggered its start? Are there some activities that you know will bring on the pain? What about things that make it worse or better? Also try to be clear in your mind about the exact site or sites of the pain, the path it may follow, and whether what you experience is best described as an aching, burning, searing, or tingling sensation. Naturally, if you also have back pain of any kind, then make similar notes about that as well.

During your consultation, your doctor – after having heard your account of your symptoms – will examine you. Just how thorough that first examination will be depends greatly upon whether the diagnosis in your case is a fairly obvious one. In most instances of simple sciatica, the doctor will quickly form a pretty accurate impression of what the cause of the trouble is, and, unless the symptoms are very severe, probably recommend that the first approach to be tried is a few days of rest, together with analgesics to control the pain. It is a standard principle of medicine that when several different treatments are possible, the first thing to try is the least invasive one. There are several good reasons for this:

If the simple approach does the trick, all’s well and good, and the patient will have been spared the risk of possible side-effects that more energetic approaches frequently entail; and

As explained in greater detail farther below, many instances of sciatica and back pain are essentially self-limiting; and

Even tests and investigations can carry their own risks of side-effects.


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Filed under: Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers — admin @ 12:04 pm

That the human spine can cope so well most of the time with all the demands that are placed upon it is truly a marvel, especially when you consider that its basic design leaves much to be desired. Reduced to its essentials, the spinal column consists of a bunch of building-blocks placed on top of each other and held together by various ligaments and muscles that collectively act somewhat like the guy-ropes that keep a tent up. To make matters worse, not only are the building-blocks not piled neatly and directly one upon the other, they in fact are arranged in curves and bulges, making the whole structure all that more unstable. Additionally, of course, the whole thing has to be able to perform and withstand a whole range of bending, twisting and stretching movements, the muscular guy-ropes keeping it all working smoothly through exerting various carefully balanced forces. As anatomists are wont to remark in appreciation, the spine is, “Truly great engineering …”

Great engineering it may be, but the spine is also poorly designed in that it really is a makeshift arrangement that originally wasn’t meant to do the job it has to do in humans. While the theory of evolution is still hotly debated by some, it is nowadays generally accepted that man’s earliest predecessors walked on four legs instead of two. When a two-legged stance evolved gradually, this was accompanied by major changes in the spine. While these alterations were good enough to enable us to stand and walk in an upright position, the spine’s essential design remained much the same with the net result that it has a number of built-in potential flaws, many of which are responsible for the prevalence of back problems.

While the overall good health of the spine is vital to anyone, the part of it of particular concern for people suffering from sciatica is the lower back, the reason for this being that this is where the lumbar spinal nerves join with the sacral nerves from the spinal cord to form the sciatic nerves.


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Filed under: Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers — admin @ 12:03 pm

As already noted briefly, sciatica can be experienced in a number of ways. Most typically it manifests itself as one or more of the following sensations, with some sufferers having more than one kind of sciatic pain or discomfort:

A pain that sufferers describe as ‘aching’, ’stinging’, or even ‘burning’, this either following a specific course, such as along

the back of the leg, or restricted to one specific area, such as the upper part of the thigh.

A cramping pain, as though the muscles in the affected leg are contracting involuntarily. ‘Cramping’ sciatica is also often marked by spasms.

Less specific – and also usually less severe – pains, including feelings of numbness, or experiencing ‘pins and needles’, these once again being experienced either over a fairly large area or concentrated within a much smaller one.

Because it’s only too easy to mistake some of the pains or feelings of discomfort that arise from ‘mild’ sciatica for something else – for example, pins and needles or cramp may happen because you’ve been sitting too long in the same position, especially if your legs were crossed – it often takes some time before a sufferer comes to the conclusion that his symptoms are due to something specific and are more than merely the kind of odd sensations most of us experience now and then, dismissing them from our mind once they disappear seemingly of their own accord.

For many, however, the onset of sciatica is only too obvious as its pain is so intense that it is virtually crippling during its worst moments. A bad attack of sciatica can be so disabling that even the smallest movement, such as getting in or out of a chair, or even sneezing or coughing, brings on agonising distress. Acute sciatica can usually, but not always, be linked to some recent incident or event that provoked it.

The specific underlying causes of sciatica are examined in the next chapter in which we also look at the ‘greater picture’ of back pain in general.


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Filed under: Pain Relief-Muscle Relaxers — admin @ 12:03 pm

Just how difficulties in the back cause sciatic pain – this being a typical example of what is called ‘referred pain’ (medical name: synalgia), that is a pain that occurs in a part of the body other than where it might have been expected – will be explained in full in the next chapter. In the meantime, let us briefly note that referred pain is quite a common phenomenon: for example, we all know that some heart disorders can cause pain in the left arm and fingers. Equally, an abscess below the diaphragm may lead to referred pain in the shoulders. The confusion created by referred pain stems from the fact that the sensory nerves from different parts of the body share common pathways when they reach the spinal cord. To treat any referred pain successfully, its origin must be located first, because that’s where the treatment will have to be effective to bring about permanent relief.

It follows from this that the treatment of sciatica must ultimately be addressed to its source, and this is invariably in the spine, and not where the pain may manifest itself. Having said that, some local treatments applied to the site of the pain – such as heat or gentle massage – can be extremely useful in reducing its severity, but these approaches will only reduce the pain temporarily, not cure it or improve its root cause. Nevertheless, palliatives – the name given to treatments that relieve or soothe the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure – can be of great help. Pain-killing medicines, such as aspirin or paracetamol, are essentially palliatives, their effect limited either to making the pain disappear or at least lessening it, so that it becomes more bearable. Such simple remedies can, however, have an extremely important role to play in the management of sciatica, especially when the symptoms are fairly mild and/or occur but rarely and the main purpose of treatment is to stop them from interfering with the tasks of daily life.


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