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Pain - The take-aways       Archive

Future drug 

When a drug trial inspires phrases like  ‘a brilliant response’  and ‘major improvements’ , the world sits up and takes notice. The drug in question is called rituximab, and a trial of 122 patients demonstrated the brilliant response in 23 per cent, while 50 per cent showed major improvement.

The drug works by suppressing antibody production in the immune system, preventing the inflammatory reaction that results in pain and swelling. Best results come when the drug is combined with another treatment , methotrexate. While some scientists speak of it as a potential cure for rheumatoid arthritis, the Arthritis Research Campaign is more cautious, using words like ‘remission’ and ‘encouraging results’. 


Rituximab is used as an anti-cancer drug which has some uncomfortable side effects, and it may take a couple of years for researchers to repeat the trials and get the dose right for arthritis, so don’t expect to be handed any miracle cures at the surgery for some time.

Present drug

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) caused all sorts of stomach problems, including ulcers and stomach bleeding. So drug companies came up with a new breed of anti-inflammatories, the COX-2 (cyclo-oyygenase) drugs, which were designed to be kinder to the stomach. Now, these too are seen to be causing ulcer bleeding according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. For more information about NSAIDS and the treatments for arthritis, see The WDDTY Arthritis Handbook, available from the website:

New treatment

Reports of a trial with the drug Gabapentin, suggest it reduces pain and improves quality of life when used for a wide range of chronic pain syndromes. Under its trade name Neurontin, the drug is used for epilepsy, but the study, carried out in 35 hospital outpatient pain clinics in the UK and Ireland, showed that it improved symptoms of burning pain and high sensitivity. It can, however, cause drowsiness and dizziness. Available on prescription only.

Tried and tested alternatives

1.      Cod liver oil. A rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids (of which more in our feature on DHA), cod liver oil can reduce pain and increase mobility in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and can also slow or even reverse destruction of cartilage according to Professor Bruce Caterson of the University of Cardiff, so can be helpful for osteoarthritis. Take it as a daily supplement.

2.      Glucosamine and Chondroitin. These are naturally occurring substances in the body, important for the growth of cartilage. Taken as a daily supplement (1500 mg of glucosamine), trials have shown that they reduce pain and stiffness, especially for osteoarthritis.

3.      Selenium, vitamin E, beta-carotene. Reported in the British Journal of Nutrition as benefiting people with rheumatoid arthritis.

4.      Green-lipped mussel. Again a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. A three-month trial in Scotland showed that it gave relief to those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, easing stiffness and tendeness. Green-lipped mussel is available in the form of capsules.

5.      Bromelain. This one is an enzyme complex derived from pineapple stems, said to work as an anti-inflammatory. One study using Lichtwer Pharma’s Bromelain, achieved good results in helping to relieve pain and swelling according to Dr Rafe Bundy, department of Nutrition, University of Reading.  

6.      Mud compresses. No one knows quite how or why they work, but several studies, the latest from Ben Gurion University in Israel, confirm their effectiveness. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, improve symptoms alone or part of a set of therapies offered at many spas. Not any old mud can help. Studies comparing mineral-rich mud compresses with the common-or-garden type show that only the former are effective.

Exercise  (check with your doctor or physio before attempting the following)

1.       Good for knees. Regular exercise can result in long-term pain relief for people with osteoarthritis. Researchers at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, have come up with this finding after putting patients suffering from knee pain on an exercise schedule for 1 hour every other day and then recording their pain levels. They found that there was a significant increase in pain immediately following exercise, but on the next day pain levels were significantly lower than normal. Other studies in Sydney and Toronto support the evidence that exercise has a  long-term beneficial effect on pain from hip and knee osteoporosis, despite the immediate negative effect.

2.       Stretch the right way. Don’t do a full neck roll. Lower head forward, roll side to side but never back. Stretch neck by clasping hands behind head and gently pull down, then take right hand over left ear and gently stretch to right, take hand to back of head and stretch diagonally. Change to opposite side.

3.       Go to classes. Best stretch exercises are yoga and Pilates. Some centres offer remedial classes in yoga.


Magnetic magic

Pain patches use magnetic fields to relieve pain. They are basically plasters applied to acupuncture points. Makers of Acumed claim that they relieve all kinds of physical pain from arthritis to migraine. See their website

Pulsed electromagnetic fields are the newest, high-tech way to attack pain. The MSL MicroAce Programme is based on low voltage pulsed electrical stimulation that mimics natural electrical currents in damaged tissue to stimulate repair and regeneration.  Scientists at Nottingham University Medical School are using the MicroAce Programme to test effectiveness, and  studies from the US show significant reduction in knee pain using the same principle. There are no side effects beyond some local tingling. 

MSL, makers of MicroAce, say it is of benefit in 80 to 85 per cent of cases. They can provide many testimonials to show the effectiveness of the MicroAce Programme for arthritis, back pain, sciatica and other chronic pain conditions.

They are offering a special free 8-week home trial and free video to visitors to Cost is 139 plus vat if you decide to buy after the 8-week trial. 

PS on TENs. This pulsed electronic programme achieves pain relief by blocking transmission of pain along nerve fibres. It works quite differently from machines like  the MicroAce Programme. TENs machines have a beneficial effect in 20 to 30 per cent of cases and  provide pain relief during use, but have no healing affect. 


laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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