2010 August 12 Thursday
Acetaminophen Cuts Emotional Pain Too?

But does Tylenol cut emotional pain better or worse than Advil?

A University of Florida researcher says acetaminophen, an ingredient in the popular over-the-counter pain reliever, may relieve social pain from hurt feelings. The findings suggest for the first time that emotional and physical pain are interrelated, said Gregory Webster, a UF psychologist who co-authored the study with a team of researchers.

If you think you are about to get dumped then time for a pain killer drug. Of course the thoughtful dumper will offer a pill to the dumpee. There must be 50 drugs to leave your lover.

“We think that social pain piggybacks onto physical pain and the two systems sort of bleed into each other, so that just as you feel emotional distress from physical pain, the social pain of having a romance breakup or getting a horrible grade can translate into feeling sick to your stomach or getting a bad headache,” he said.

In the study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science and available online, people who took acetaminophen daily for three weeks reported less emotional suffering over time and showed less activity in regions of the brain previously shown to respond to social rejection than those who took the placebo, Webster said.

This result makes me think that pain killer drugs have a big future even after rejuvenation therapies reduce physical aches that come with an aging body. Painless rejuvenated joints and connective tissue won't mean the end of pain. Young bodies will still suffer from cruel romantic fate.

By Randall Parker    2010 August 12 09:55 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2009 August 23 Sunday
Pain Gene Variant Increases Social Rejection Pain

If someone rejects you and you feel pain rather than blame them you should blame your mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1).

UCLA psychologists have determined for the first time that a gene linked with physical pain sensitivity is associated with social pain sensitivity as well.
 
Their study indicates that variation in the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), often associated with physical pain, is related to how much social pain a person feels in response to social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection and experience more brain evidence of distress in response to rejection than those with the more common form.
 
The research was published Aug. 14 in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will appear in the print version in the coming weeks.
 
The findings give weight to the common notion that rejection "hurts" by showing that a gene regulating the body's most potent painkillers — mu-opioids — is involved in socially painful experiences too, said study co-author Naomi Eisenberger, UCLA assistant professor of psychology and director of UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory.

Crushes and love gone bad can leave you hurt and rejected. Suppose you got the painful version of OPRM1. Swear off relationship entanglements and socializing to avoid running the risk of social pain? Or risk suffering in a quest for happiness and bliss in the perfect relationship?

Suppose you are a player Better to surreptitiously get a saliva or tissue sample from a new flame to genetically test. Then you can find out if they will take it poorly if you do not intend a permanent relationship.

In the study, researchers collected saliva samples from 122 participants to assess which form of the OPRM1 gene they had and then measured sensitivity to rejection in two ways. First, participants completed a survey that measured their self-reported sensitivity to rejection. They were asked, for example, how much they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I am very sensitive to any signs that a person might not want to talk to me."
 
Next, a subset of this group, 31 participants, was studied using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at UCLA's Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center during a virtual ball-tossing game in which participants were ultimately socially excluded. Subjects were told that they would be connected over the Internet with two other players who were also in fMRI scanners and that they would all be playing the interactive ball-tossing game. In reality, however, participants were playing with a preset computer program, not other people. Initially, participants were included in the activity but were then excluded when the two other "players" stopped throwing the ball to them.
 
"What we found is that individuals with the rare form of the OPRM1 gene, who were shown in previous work to be more sensitive to physical pain, also reported higher levels of rejection sensitivity and showed greater activity in social pain–related regions of the brain — the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula — in response to being excluded," Eisenberger said.

I'm thinking that male pick-up artists will some day use genetic samples taken from their targets to figure out how best to play each woman. Will she be overly sensitive to being teased? Or will merciless teasing go over well? It is all in the genes.

By Randall Parker    2009 August 23 02:00 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2009 March 22 Sunday
Low Vitamin D People Take More Pain Medications

People who have chronic pain use more pain killers if they have low blood vitamin D.

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic research shows a correlation between inadequate vitamin D levels and the amount of narcotic medication taken by patients who have chronic pain. This correlation is an important finding as researchers discover new ways to treat chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States. These patients often end up taking narcotic-type pain medication such as morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone.

This study found that patients who required narcotic pain medication, and who also had inadequate levels of vitamin D, were taking much higher doses of pain medication — nearly twice as much — as those who had adequate levels. Similarly, these patients self-reported worse physical functioning and worse overall health perception. In addition, a correlation was noted between increasing body mass index (a measure of obesity) and decreasing levels of vitamin D. Study results were published in a recent edition of Pain Medicine.

"This is an important finding as we continue to investigate the causes of chronic pain," says Michael Turner, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study. "Vitamin D is known to promote both bone and muscle strength. Conversely, deficiency is an under-recognized source of diffuse pain and impaired neuromuscular functioning. By recognizing it, physicians can significantly improve their patients' pain, function and quality of life."

One can explain these results in ways unrelated to a benefit from vitamin D. It could be that people who are more in pain are less ambulatory and so they get outside less and get less exposure to sunlight (which causes vitamin D synthesis in the skin).

But the correlations between low vitamin D and health are impressive.

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (Dec. 8, 2003) -- People with persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain should be screened regularly for vitamin D deficiency, the leading study in tomorrow's Mayo Clinic Proceedings reports. Research conducted at the University of Minnesota found that 93 percent of all subjects with non-specific musculoskeletal pain were vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients I take as a supplement.

By Randall Parker    2009 March 22 02:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2008 November 03 Monday
Fibromyalgia Pain Might Have Brain Origin

The amount of blood flowing in two areas of the brain differs in people who feel musculoskeletal pain characteristic of fibromyalgia. So even though the sufferers of this disorder feel pain in their muscles and bones the actual pain might be originating in the brain.

Reston, Va.—Using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), researchers in France were able to detect functional abnormalities in certain regions in the brains of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, reinforcing the idea that symptoms of the disorder are related to a dysfunction in those parts of the brain where pain is processed.

"Fibromyalgia is frequently considered an 'invisible syndrome' since musculoskeletal imaging is negative," said Eric Guedj, M.D., and lead author of the study. "Past imaging studies of patients with the syndrome, however, have shown above-normal cerebral blood flow (brain perfusion) in some areas of the brain and below-normal in other areas. After performing whole-brain scans on the participants, we used a statistical analysis to study the relationship between functional activity in even the smallest area of the brain and various parameters related to pain, disability and anxiety/depression."

In the study, which was reported in the November issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 20 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 10 healthy women as a control group responded to questionnaires to determine levels of pain, disability, anxiety and depression. SPECT was then performed, and positive and negative correlations were determined.

The researchers confirmed that patients with the syndrome exhibited brain perfusion abnormalities in comparison to the healthy subjects. Further, these abnormalities were found to be directly correlated with the severity of the disease. An increase in perfusion (hyperperfusion) was found in that region of the brain known to discriminate pain intensity, and a decrease (hypoperfusion) was found within those areas thought to be involved in emotional responses to pain.

In the past, some researchers have thought that the pain reported by fibromyalgia patients was the result of depression rather than symptoms of a disorder. "Interestingly, we found that these functional abnormalities were independent of anxiety and depression status," Guedj said.

According to Guedj, disability is frequently used in controlled clinical trials to evaluate response to treatment. Because molecular imaging techniques such as SPECT can help predict a patient's response to a specific treatment and evaluate brain-processing recovery during follow-up, it could prove useful when integrated into future pharmacological controlled trials.

"Fibromyalgia may be related to a global dysfunction of cerebral pain-processing," Guedj added. "This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a 'real disease/disorder.'"

I wonder whether niacin flushing or drugs that dilate capillaries might lessen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Does the hyperperfusion cause pain just as much as the hypoperfusion? Or is the altered blood flow a result of the same underlying cause of the pain?

By Randall Parker    2008 November 03 10:42 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2005 October 26 Wednesday
Women Have More Facial Nerve Receptors Than Men

A larger number of facial nerves may provide one explanation for why women feel more pain.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – For centuries, it has been generally believed women are the more sensitive gender. A new study says that, when it comes to pain, women are in fact more sensitive. According to a report published in October's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), women have more nerve receptors, which cause them to feel pain more intensely than men.

"This study has serious implications about how we treat women after surgery as well as women who experience chronic pain," said Bradon Wilhelmi, MD, ASPS member and author of the study. "Because women have more nerve receptors, they may experience pain more powerfully than men, requiring different surgical techniques, treatments or medicine dosages to help manage their pain and make them feel comfortable."

According to the study, women averaged 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin while men only averaged 17 nerve fibers. Despite psychosocial expectations for men to be tougher than women when feeling pain, these findings illustrate that women's lower pain tolerance and threshold are physical.

But does the higher concentration of nerve fibers in the face of women reflect a similar difference between men and women in other parts of their bodies? I suspect not.

Also, I've come across lots of studies that contradict each other on the question of whether men or women have lower pain thresholds or feel more pain. Thinking about this study a thought occurs: Maybe men have lower pain thresholds for some parts of the body while women do for other parts. Or perhaps maybe men and women have different ratios of pain sensitivity for acute versus chronic pain.

Most plastic surgeries are done on women.

"Eighty-seven percent of the 9.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed last year were on women," said Dr. Wilhelmi. "The ability to minimize pain often affects a patient's perception of their results. We hope this data will give new perspective on how to better treat post-operative pain in women."

A lot of people are feeling pain.

Currently, 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from acute pain, says Dr. Wilhelmi, while 25 to 30 percent suffer from chronic pain.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 26 10:06 AM   Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
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