650,000 people receive chemotherapy in the United States each year. Doctors prescribe this powerful drug to help kill cancer cells but also use it to treat a variety of other serious illnesses.
While the medication can help put cancer into remission, it is notorious for a variety of serious side effects. Some of the most brutal include vomiting, feeling incredibly ill and the total loss of hair.
Some people also experience neuropathy from chemo. As chemotherapy kills cells, it can also kill the cells in your nervous system. This can result in painful nerve damage.
Nerve damage, scientifically speaking, occurs when chemotherapy kills the cells that produce myelin. Myelin helps protect nerve conducting fibers, and without it, they can have serious damage.
Depending on the chemo drug, people can develop neuropathy immediately after receiving their first dose up to years after they have stopped receiving chemo.
Symptoms are wide-ranging, but often include pain, burning, numbness, and weakness in the limbs.
Read on for 5 top tips on preventing and managing neuropathy while taking chemotherapy drugs.
For some people, this a no-go, since they’re already taking medication for chemo and to manage its side effects. However, medicine can work well for managing neuropathy once it’s started.
Medications like Lyrica, which acts as a nerve blocker, or amitriptyline, which inhibits your awareness of pain, can also help you deal with and mitigate the side effects.
These medications are typically not prescribed until you present neuropathy from your chemotherapy. They do not prevent neuropathy from occurring, but they can help you live with it once you do have it.
While this can’t completely eliminate or prevent neuropathy, exercise is a great way to get your blood flowing and muscles moving.
Taking chemotherapy can make daily exercise difficult, but if you can, try to get some exercise if your doctor says it’s okay. 30 minutes to one hour of movement three times a week can drastically decrease your chances of developing neuropathy.
If you can’t exercise regularly due to your chemo regime, speak to your doctor or a nurse about what you can do to move your body. You may not be able to do full-on cardio, but you may be able to do smaller movements that keep your body balanced and in motion.
Eating a balanced diet can help with a variety of things, including preventing neuropathy from chemotherapy. A diet rich in B12 is especially important for ensuring that your nerve cells don’t break down too quickly.
B12 deficiencies can lead to all kinds of issues, but most notably it can cause nerve problems. On its own, you can develop neuropathy from not having enough B12. If you already have neuropathy, it can make it incredibly difficult to ward off or help treat neuropathy acquired from chemo.
Vitamin B12 is mostly acquired through animal-based products. Eggs, fish, meat, and poultry naturally have B12 in them. Some foods are fortified with B12 to ensure that you get the right amount each day.
Your body cannot make this vitamin on its own, like many others, so you must get it from an outside source.
Getting regular massages can help prevent or decrease your chances of developing neuropathy following chemo. This is because it can strengthen your blood flow and help keep your body from further damaging nerve cells.
This, however, is not foolproof, and a massage alone may not be enough to keep you from developing neuropathy.
If you have developed neuropathy, or are trying to prevent it, a Swedish massage can help mitigate pain. It can also help you prevent further damage from occurring.
When having a massage to help prevent and treat neuropathy, it is important to use a massage therapist who knows something about the condition.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that helps treat pain with a series of minimally invasive needles. It can be used in conjunction with massage therapy.
Some studies show that acupuncture can actually help restore nerve damage, whilst others simply say that it helps relieve pain. Results may vary from person to person.
Studies on animals have shown that acupuncture can help restore movement to rats and other animals who have suffered from the loss of limb movement or full paralysis.
Again, before you have any kind of acupuncture, you should choose someone who has experience with neuropathy. Choosing someone who has never treated it may not help your symptoms.
Additionally, you should always choose an acupuncturist or massage therapist who is fully qualified before proceeding with treatment options.
Both SCS and DRGS are methods of neurostimulation that help treat ongoing pain resulting from chemotherapy or other issues.
Spinal cord stimulation has existed for over 50 years as a treatment for chronic pain and is the oldest type of this kind of therapy. There are several different ways your doctor or pain management therapist can use it to treat neuropathy.
SCS can involve both surgically implantable devices that offer pulse generators and nerve stimulation in various parts of the body.
Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation stimulates nerves along the dorsal root ganglia. The nerves regulate pain structures in the body and stimulating them can help decrease pain in areas of the body that are the most painful.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to prevent neuropathy after you’ve had chemo. Those who already suffer from neuropathy will likely develop it further after chemo and may have to use stronger medication or more invasive treatments to cope with it.
Eating well and exercising when you can help in prevention, though it definitely cannot cure you completely, nor relieve all of the painful effects of neuropathy.
For more information on neuropathy after chemo and general pain management, visit our blog. There, you will find a wealth of information and tips and tricks for chronic pain sufferers.
The idea of growing replacement parts to treat human illnesses may seem like a movie concept. Yet, it’s not as far off as it seems. This is what scientists hope to achieve with regenerative techniques. Regenerative medicine may be in its infancy, but it’s already a burgeoning industry.
If you are a candidate for this treatment, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative therapy attempts to tackle illness at the most basic level. Instead of treating symptoms, the procedures try repairing damaged cells, genes, and organs.
When invaded by disease or injury, an automatic healing response occurs in our bodies. Regenerative methods aim to harness this healing power and find ways to speed it up.
This new technology isn’t restricted to the medical profession. It brings experts together from all the following fields:
Together, these individuals hope to find regenerative medical solutions for otherwise untreatable maladies.
Types of Regenerative Treatments
Some methods of regenerative therapy are well established. These include skin grafts, blood transfusions, and bone marrow transplants. There are many others that have not yet seen the light of day.
Currently, specialists are able to offer patients the following options:
1. Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
Millions of people have already experienced the benefits of tissue engineering. Yet, science has only scratched the surface of the possibilities in this field.
Tissue engineering places biologically-compatible scaffolds at strategic points in the body. The scaffold attracts cells. Together with exercise, this therapy can result in new functional engineered tissue.
2. Stem Cell Therapies
The average human body contains millions of stem cells. These cells are the building blocks that your body uses to repair damaged tissue. Studies prove that they can help to reconstruct tissue in diseased or damaged sites.
It’s possible to harvest these cells from cord blood, skeletal muscle, dental pulp, blood, bone marrow, and fat.
3. Artificial Organs and Medical Devices
The first heart transplant took place in 1967. Since then, it has become commonplace to replace a failed organ with one from a human donor.
Often, this method involves a waiting period while a donor organ becomes available. Medical devices and artificial organs can help to keep the patient going in the interim.
An example of this is the ventricular assist device. This is essentially an artificial heart that can help pump for a failing heart as an individual waits for a transplant to become available.
How Can It Help You?
Each of the above is effective in treating a variety of conditions. In terms of pain management, studies have proved that stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) can provide relief from inflammation. It can also help you to avoid surgery in the following instances:
Knee and Hip Arthritis
Degenerative Disc Disease
Case Example: Regenerative Options for Golf or Tennis Elbow
Sports injuries like tennis and golf elbow are types of epicondylitis. This means that the tendons attached to the elbow have become inflamed or developed small tears.
Platelet-rich plasma injections have proved effective in treating this condition. The injections contain growth factors harvested from the patient’s own blood. The doctor injects these directly into the damaged tissue.
This treatment has shown positive long-term results for treating epicondylitis. It takes around three months to see results.
By adding stem cells into the equation, results come more quickly. Patients can experience relief within three to four weeks.
This is how it works:
The doctor abstracts stem cells from the patient’s blood, bone marrow, and fat tissue. They then combine the stem cells with human growth hormones and other growth factors. Doctor inject this cocktail into the site of the inflammation using ultrasound for guidance.
This procedure only takes a few hours, and a single treatment usually does the trick.
Risks and Benefits
All medical treatments have risks and side effects associated with them. Removing cells from the body and re-introducing them always carries a risk of infection or rejection. Howerver, in general the benefits outweight the risks. They’re quick, effective and far less risky than going under the knife.
Costs of Regenerative Treatments
Unfortunately, health insurance does not cover regenerative therapies at present. Cellular regeneration treatment is expensive, but in the long term, it’s less costly than ongoing pain treatment.
If you’ve tried everything else and don’t want to undergo surgery, it could be the best option for you.
Get the Treatment You Need
Apart from the ground-breaking field of regenerative medicine, there are many other non-surgical pain treatments available today. These include trigger point injections, spinal cord stimulation, nerve root blocks, and more. Choosing one depends on your needs.
Browse our website to see which ones may suit you, or book a consultation and we can go through the options together.
Given that there are more than 30 million Americans dealing with a back issue at any given time, it’s common that people feel back pain. Slight muscle soreness can come from even a healthy overexertion at the gym however if you’re suffering from a vertebral compression fracture, your pain could mean serioustrouble.
If you’re wondering whether you’re dealing with a compression fracture, here are some of the basic facts you need to know.
A compression fracture is a common type of spinal issue that causes pain. When you’re experiencing a compression fracture, it might be a mystery as to what caused it in the first place.
This fracture, which stems from the compression of bone in your spine, can lead to pain and discomfort. Once you get it diagnosed, you can begin to start the healing process. Before it’s diagnosed, however, it’s hard to pinpoint.
It’s a particularly common issue for postmenopausal women who are most likely to suffer from osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones. Additionally, if youhave a family history of osteoporosis, you need to be especially careful of this type of issue.
Talk to the other people in your family and see if they’ve experienced similar issues. If they’ve had to deal with a vertebral fracture in the past, you should get an exam as soon as you feel related discomfort.
People suffering from an osteoporotic fracture can be helped with physical therapy, medication, bracing, or a simple outpatient procedure known as a kyphoplasty.
Vertebral compression is deeply uncomfortable but thankfully there are many ways to treat the problem.
There are many issues that can cause these fractures to happen or put your vertebrae at risk of fracture.
People who are experiencing any type of osteoporosis or cancer can experience a weakened spine. Cancer, especially metastases,can weaken your bones and vertebrae and just one weakened vertebra can cause undue pressure on the rest of your spine.
Once one vertebra has weakened, your spine may not have the bone material it needs to support your entire spine. Simple daily activities can cause your spinal column serious issues and chronic pain. A compression fracture will only worsen over time once it occurs.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative issue that causes your bones to weaken. Your bones can become brittle and fragile even if you’re taking supplements and increasing your calcium intake. While a healthy diet can help you to avoid some of the common issues related to spinal compression, you might not be able to avoid them entirely.
A vertebral compression fracture can happen just about any point along the length of your spine. They usually happen most commonly in your thoracic region also known as as your rib cage. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae. Fractures can also be found in the low back or lumbar region of the spine in some patients. There are 5 lumbar vertebrae.
Compression fractures create a wedge shape in your vertebral body. In this case, the front of your spinal column will collapse while the rest of the bone structure will remain the same.
Fractures can happen in more than one vertebrae and can even be found in multiple locations.
There are a variety of symptoms when you have a fracture. If it’s mild enough, it could be slight discomfort. You could have multiple fractures and only feel uncomfortable while a single fracture in the right spot could leave you on the floor.
When you feel a severe back pain that usually feels better after a night’s sleep, that means there’s some compression taking a toll on your spine. The area where you have the fracture might even have some tenderness when you touch it.
Sometimes, these collapsed vertebrae can compress your nerves. This could potentially happen in more than one place. This will lead to a sort of radiating pain that runs along the length of the nerve and lead as far as your legs. This nerve pain could be unbearable.
If you’re twisting and bending and feel pain, you could have a fracture. If you’re shrinking, have a hunched position, or can’t move as freely, these could be signs that you have a spinal fracture.
Thankfully there are a number of potential treatments for your fracture. When it’s mild and you’re an otherwise healthy person, you could see your situation improve with bracing and rest.
Pain medication is another way of treating the discomfort however pain medication comes with many side effects including but not limited to constipation, sedation, nausea, vomiting, and addiction
Even heat and cold therapy can help. Having a family member or partner help you is good for this treatment. Spending 15 minutes with heat then 15 minutes with cool packs on your back for a few hours could end up helping immensely.
A very good interventional option to treat compression fractures is kyphoplasty. In this outpatient procedure, the patient is sedated while cement is placed in the fracture bone to heal it via a tiny straw like instrument. This often accomplishes 2 goals – stops the pain and restores normal spine anatomy and architecture. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to perform and patient’s go home the same day feeling much better. This procedure is covered by most insurances including Medicare.
Some people fear back pain will be the end of their recreational sports hobby, their enjoyment of life, or their ability to travel long distances. Vertebral compression fractures are no such thing. A fracture can heal and be as good as new in just a few weeks with the right treatment.
If you have diabetes, you should know about the types of spinal issues that can be associated with the ailment.
We’ve all heard of it. Marijuana. Pot. Weed.
What you might not know that many states have legalized it for medical purposes as well as recreational use. Twenty-nine out of the fifty states, to be exact.
There are a lot of newly discovered health benefits that are pushing lawmakers to legalize the plant at a federal level. However, there are also a lot of people who like restrictions right where they are.
Keep reading to find out how medical marijuana is affecting the health industry and why these new developments are getting so much pushback.
Cannabis, the scientific term for marijuana, is made up of more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most active cannabinoids and are both extracted to make different medications.
THC creates the “high” effect in those who take the drug, and this can be achieved in many different ways. However, the CBD in marijuana has many medicinal effects which has led to the adoption of medicinal marijuana programs around the country.
Marijuana can be taken in many different forms. The most common are smoking (via a pipe or a vaporizer) or eating it. The edible option include both baked goods, gummies, as well as concentrated oils.
In most states where medical marijuana is legal, you need a medical I.D. card in order to purchase the plant at a local dispensary. The process in NJ is very straight forward. Our board-certified pain management doctors will determine if you meet the criteria for the program. If you do, they will place you in the state registry at which point your application for a medicinal marijuana card is initiated. From that point it can take about 4-6 weeks to receive the card and be able to use medicinal marijuana. In NJ, there are many indications for the program including chronic pain from musculoskeletal or visceral origins. This includes arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathy among many other conditions.
Different strains of marijuana have different effects on both the brain and the body. An enthusiast off the street will use terms like sativa, indica, and hybrid to make themselves sound like an expert. Sativas are believed to make the user more hyperactive, while indica strains are believed to promote relaxation.
While these symptoms do differ according to specific strains, science shows that they have little connection to whether a plant is a sativa or an indica.
In reality, the two chemicals mentioned earlier create the popular side effects of marijuana.
THC, which causes the user to feel “high”, is the chemical that affects the brain and so many patients prefer to use products without THC in it.
There are some benefit to using THC. The “munchies” that come with THC have even proven to help those with eaten disorders or who generally have trouble gaining weight. This is also very helpful in patients who are nauseous from chemotherapy. Nutrition is important for the immune system to fight the cancer and if a patient is not eating well, studies have shown significant increase in morbidity and mortality.
CBD, which can be used without feeling the stereotypically “high”, affects inflammation, seizures, as well as pain. Using CBD oil for medical use jumped in front of the public eye when it was discovered to have a positive effect on epilepsy in children. Recently, the FDA approved a medication derived purely from CBD for the use on specific epileptic conditions in children.
These two compounds THC and CBD, can be mixed in various proportion in each marijuana strain to obtain the desired effects.
A study performed by the National Institution on Drug Abuse found that legalizing marijuana was directly related to a reduction in reports of opioid overdoses.
On top of that, a second study also revealed that an increased number of legally protected dispensaries has affected the trend as well. They found a notable decrease in opioid prescriptions, misuse, and rehabilitation admissions.
There are always risks that come with new drugs and medical discoveries. Medical marijuana, in particular, has earned tremendous backlash. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuses to approve marijuana for medical use. They claim there isn’t enough research to substantiate the supposed health benefits.
The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with others like heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. While these drugs are notoriously harmful and addictive, Schedule II drugs are not nearly as alarming. Schedule II drugs include Ritalin, oxycodone, and most prescription drugs.
For many, marijuana is considered a “gateway” drug that can lead to more severe addictions down the line. For this reason, even some states that have legalized medical marijuana have limited the level of THC.
In 2014, Iowa even passed the Medical Cannabidiol Act, which keeps the THC level in medications at just 3%.
Despite all of this, the FDA has approved three man-made cannabinoid medications called dronabinol, nabinole, and most recently Epidiolex. These medications are used to treat chemotherapy induced nausea and seizures.
Many people are still skeptical about legalizing ANY drug for medical use. That being said, marijuana still seems to be well on its way toward becoming legal in most of the United States. Nine states have even legalized it for recreational use.
No matter your symptoms, medical marijuana could be a possible alternative to harsh medications. Of course, before giving it the old college try, you should speak to your doctor to find out how THC and CBD could affect your health.
New medical breakthroughs are being made every day. At Garden State Medical Center, we do everything we can to make sure you live your life pain-free. Click here to find one of our eight New Jersey locations, and set up an appointment today.
Leave a comment below and tell us what you think about the health benefits of medical marijuana.