May Topics At Arizona Pain, A Review

We are reviewing May Topics at Arizona Pain. May was a month full of diverse and interesting topics here on Arizona Pain. We covered some of the more difficult-to-define conditions, as well as the new research that has the potential to redefine them. We tried to combat some cultural and gender norms and even touched on some legislation and how it affects chronic pain patients especially and their access to healthcare.

Knowing the law on Arizona Pain – Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one of the single most impactful pieces of legislation and is the largest change to happen to the U.S. healthcare system since Medicare/Medicaid. Knowing the law and your rights is important, but can be lifesaving in the case of chronic pain sufferers.

Here is a quick need-to-know summary from our Arizona Pain post for the ACA:

  • Health insurance now has no lifetime or annual limits on healthcare, additional protections and care for seniors, no out-of-pocket costs for preventative services, and many others benefits.
  • No discrimination on gender or health status. Insurance companies can no longer tailor price packages using identifiers such as age and gender. Patients can no longer be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions.
  • The ACA creates a competitive health insurance market place that gives the average person the ability to compare plans and receive assistance on payments.
  • It drastically reduces the national deficit by curtailing wasteful government spending and reducing fraud and abuse.

If you are interested in what the ACA does specifically for pain management, sections 4305, 409J, and 759 all specifically address what the future in pain care will look like.

Gender differences in pain

In our recent Arizona Pain article, “Women In Pain – What You Need To Know” we comment and expand on an article by Dr. Padma Gulur exposing certain gender biases in the medical community. Pain in women is far more likely to be attributed to emotional stress by doctors instead of an actual physical ailment. One study shows that 90% of female patients feel discriminated against in the U.S. healthcare system, which leads to many of them keeping quiet and not seeking medical care.

There are ways to practice self-advocacy to combat this gender bias, even though it might be difficult at first:

  • Be proactive by being educated on your condition
  • Make sure you use your doctor’s time wisely by prepping ahead of time and being knowledgeable about your medical history
  • Develop strong communication skills
  • Don’t be a passive patient and never be afraid to ask questions

Things to know about lupus

Lupus is a complex chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of your body. It causes the body to produce antibodies that attack the healthy cells in your body, causing tissue damage and inflammation.

In the recent Arizona Pain post, “What Is Lupus?” we discuss the current symptoms, types, causes, and treatments of lupus. This disorder is mostly found in women between the ages of 15 and 40 and is more frequently found in African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

No two cases of lupus are exactly the same, but the most common symptoms to be aware of are:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks
  • Swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints
  • Unexplainable fever
  • Skin lesions due to sun exposure

There is no cure for lupus, but there are many ways you can make your life easier in the struggle of living a happy and full life with lupus. Some of these tips and tricks include:

  • Do research and teach others
  • Exercise and eat healthy
  • Track your flare-ups and record symptoms
  • Practice good sleep hygiene
  • Avoid the sun (and sometimes artificial light)
  • Practice self-care
  • Acknowledge yourself

Fibromyalgia – From past to future

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that is complex and very difficult to diagnose. It is characterized by widespread pain lasting for at least three months. Fibro is also associated with many other signs and symptoms such as stiffness or aching in tender points, joint pain without inflammation, debilitating fatigue, headaches, and, in women, an increase in pain during menstrual periods and sexual intercourse.

Fibromyalgia was not always seen as a real pain condition and it has encountered a lot of resistance throughout the years. For 20 years, fibro was diagnosed by identifying pain in both sides of the body as well as above and below the waist. It also required a pain response in 11 of the 18 identified tender points on the human body.

In 2010, the American College of Rheumatology published a different set of criteria for fibromyalgia that is still used today:

  • A patient must score a certain number on the widespread pain index (WPI) and the symptom severity scale (SS)
  • Symptoms must be persistent for at least three months
  • There is no other disorder that could explain the pain

In the past few years, a lot of research has been done that shows the validity of fibro as well as breakthroughs in treating this condition.

  1. Hyberbaric chamber: A two=month experiment showed that exposure to higher than normal oxygen levels can greatly improve fibro symptoms.
  2. Tailored acupuncture: Researchers reported a massive decrease in fibromyalgia related pain levels for those who received an individualized acupuncture treatment.
  3. Mindfulness meditation: Another study showed that meditation altered brain patterns and was better at combating pain than the placebo effect. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy says:

“This study is the first to show that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct and produces pain relief above and beyond the analgesic effects seen with either placebo cream or sham meditation.”

Chronic pain can be an experience that requires you to learn medical, law, negotiation, and research skills. What do you think is the most important thing you learned this month on Arizona Pain?

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