Traditional and Battlefield Acupuncture Provide Post-Op Pain Relief and Reduced Need for Opioids

PainRelief.com Interview with:

  • Brinda Krish, D.O., lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center.
  • Padmavathi Patel, M.D., principal investigator of the study and Medical Director, Northstar Anesthesia at John D. Dingell Veteran Hospital.

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Dr. Padmavathi Patel: Pain is a major contributor to health care costs and a common cause of long-term disability (about  $61.2 billion/year) in lost productivity due to pain.

acupuncture

76.2 million Americans (one in four) have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours (2013).

Numerous literature such as:

1. “Use of prescription opioids in the treatment of pain has increased notably over recent decades.”

2. “Rates of death from prescribed opioids increased four fold between 2000 and 2014.”

3. “16,651 opioid related deaths in 2010.”

4. “The problem of opioid overuse and dependence is seen in the military as well as in civilian.”

-Opioid-related side effects could lead to a delay in recovery.
-Pain control is more challenging for military population.
-More extensive injuries and greater pain severity is seen in survivors of combat- related blast injuries compared to those of non-blast civilians and also they require larger opioid doses.
-Pain is a very common patient complaint, both in veteran and non-veteran populations.
-Among the 5.7 million unique patients seen annually with in the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), more than half of these patients experience chronic pain.

In 2017, The DVA and the United States Department of Defense (DoD) published an updated guidelines on opioid therapy for chronic pain that strongly recommends against initiation of long-term opioid use and recommends alternatives, including non-pharmacologic therapy, such as Acupuncture, which has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of painful conditions.

Acupuncture techniques have been in existence for centuries, with roots tied to Eastern Asia. Traditional acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles at specific trigger points around the body to relieve pain. Battlefield acupuncture (BFA), developed by a U.S. Air Force doctor uses needles that are inserted at various trigger points in the ear. In 2013, $5.4 million was awarded to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to teach BFA to healthcare providers in both the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs and assess it.  In light of the opioid epidemic, there is a strong need to decrease perioperative opioid use. Opioid use due to postoperative pain along with perioperative anxiety has been linked to increased length of hospital stay, increased morbidity and mortality, and ultimately higher healthcare costs.

Battlefield acupuncture was introduced into Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the last few years and in VHA, clinicians of various disciplines (MDs, DOs, PAs, nurse-practitioners), can currently obtain clinical privilege to provide it.

I received the Battlefield acupuncture training at John D. Dingell VA medical Center, Detroit and I was surprised with the outcomes of chronic pain patients. As an anesthesiologist I know pain after the surgery is common, often severe and largely unnecessary. I discussed these concerns with the surgeons and created the protocol to use BFA for general surgical patients and traditional acupuncture for hip replacement patients as an adjuvant to the standard protocol for acute post-surgical pain control.

Effective relief of postoperative pain is vital. Such pain probably prolongs hospital stay, as it can affect all the organ systems with side effects. Post op pain remains grossly under treated, with up to 70% of patients reporting moderate to severe pain following surgery.

Multimodal pain control not only can result in earlier discharge from hospital, but it may also reduce the onset of chronic pain syndromes.

2 studies performed TA (n=21), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=21).  BFA (n=28), Controls given sham acupuncture (n=36). Measured variables included post-operative opioid requirements, postoperative pain, the incidence of PONV, and patient satisfaction scores

Key conclusions use of Battlefield acupuncture and Traditional acupuncture reduced post-operative opioid requirements, post-operative pain scores (pain intensity) and increased patient satisfaction scores.  BFA also reduced PONV in patients.  

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Can Provide Pain Relief from Episodic Migraine

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Neda Gould, PhD
Assistant Professor
Director, Mindfulness Program at Johns Hopkins
Associate Director, Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Migraines can be severe and debilitating and many of the current pharmacological treatments have side effects. We were interested in studying the effect of a non-pharmacological intervention (mindfulness meditation) on migraines using various outcomes including brain imaging.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that has been shown to improve chronic pain. However, the benefits of this program have been modest in migraine patients. We sought to determine if a longer period of mindfulness training and home practice would yield better outcomes in migraine patients.

The traditional MBSR course consists of 8 weekly sessions and a retreat. We enhanced this course to include the 8 weekly sessions and retreat followed by 4 additional biweekly sessions (MBSR +).

We randomized 98 adults with episodic migraine to the MBSR+ group (50 participants) or to a stress management for headache group (SMH, 48 participants). The SMH group included didactic content on stress and other triggers in headaches. Both groups followed a similar format and timing.

All participants completed questionnaires an also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at changes in brain structure and function.

Pain Relief Specialist Discusses Benefits and Barriers to Telehealth for Pain Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Sharon M Weinstein, MD, FAAHPM
Neurology; Pain Medicine; Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Professor of Anesthesiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: I’ve been practicing pain medicine and palliative care for over 30 years. In the past several months since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I have learned a lot implementing telemedicine in different practice settings.

From the clinician’s perspective, the experience implementing telemedicine varies widely depending on tangible support provided. For example, having dedicated staff to instruct patients in the mechanics of telemedicine and having staff to “room” patients has been critical to my success. Having the health care system prepared with EHR infrastructures has also been essential to smooth operations.

New Model Helps Clinicians Predict Which Patients Require Highest Doses of Opioids for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
DrMieke Soens, MD
Anesthesiology Specialist 
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Opioid use worldwide has doubled in the last two decades and several countries, including the US, are struggling with a real opioid epidemic. Higher opioid doses after surgery are associated with prolonged opioid use and misuse. For example, in a study of more than 30,000 patients undergoing minor surgery such as appendectomy or gallbladder surgery, the risk to become a chronic opioid user was around 6% compared to 0.4% in the non-surgical population.

Many of our colleagues have previously identified predictors associated with more severe pain and opioid use after surgery, however, to assess those predictors, they had to use lengthy questionnaires. This approach is very time-consuming and impractical for use in daily clinical practice. The machine learning models that we have developed can work quickly and in real-time prior to surgery to mine data from patient’s electronic medical records and without the need for cumbersome questionnaires, in order to selectively identify those patients who will need high doses of opioids after surgery.

This can help reduce postoperative opioid use, by allowing the care team to maximize non-opioid analgesic strategies in these patients. Examples of non-opioid strategies include nerve blocks and epidurals and different types of non-opioid medications. We know that these alternatives can be very costly and sometimes risky. Therefore, being able to target the right treatment to the right patient is important to not only to reduce opioid use, but also to ensure that patients receive the treatment that is right for them.

Opioid Epidemic for Pain Relief Has Waned But is Not Over

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Mario Moric M.S.
Department of Anesthesiology
Rush University Medical
Center Department of Anesthesiology

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

  • Prescription Pain Medicine (PPM) abuse has become a national problem and is now consider an epidemic. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication; enough for every American adult to have a bottle of opioids. 
  • With the recent public information campaign about the epidemic and the possible addictive nature of opioid prescription pain medications, the abuse rates have declined.  We examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) public data derived from a national survey. 
  • We have raw data (actual reported rates of PPM abuse, see attached image) and weighted data (corrected for the sampling design).  Looking at the raw data you can see that abuse rates for lifetime use (highest line), past year use (middle red line) and past month use (bottom green line) are all more or less stable until 1998 after which we saw huge increase. From 1998 to 2004 the lifetime use increased 186%, the past year use increased 193% and the past month use increased 183%.  Then the decrease, from 2009 to 2018 the lifetime use decreased 72%, the past year use decreased 90% and the past month use decreased 185%.
  • Using the weighted data, the past year use decreases 26% and was statistically significant, indicating a real world decrease in prescription pain medication abuse.
Prescription Pain Medicine

COVID-19 Protein Provides Pain Relief, Opening Up Targets for Future Pain Treatments

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Rajesh Khanna, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology, Anesthesiology and Neuroscience
University of Arizona 
Tucson, AZ 85724

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: SARS-COV-2 infection can be spread by asymptomatic, presymptomatic, and symptomatic carriers. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals may account for half of the spread, which may be why the virus has been so difficult to contain. The data from our study shows that the Spike protein, the major surface antigen of SARS-CoV-2, is analgesic. Therefore, an explanation for the unabated spread may be that asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals do not experience the pain and discomfort that act as early warning signs of infection.

Cognition in Adults Who Use Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dr. Sharon R. Sznitman PhD and
Dr. Galit Weinstein, PhD
School of Public Health,
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Due to increased media attention related to the topic of medical cannabis and increasing public demand for the treatment, physicians often find themselves in situations where patients and caregivers request medical cannabis treatment. When this demand is from older patients, there is a dearth of studies of effectiveness and risk-benefit ratio as almost no studies have examined the potential therapeutic effects and potential risks of the treatment in this specific group. One of the main implications of cannabis use that researchers have grappled with is its long-term effect on cognitive function. It is well established that cannabis use has detrimental effects on the developing brain when consumed in early life, but detrimental effects of early-life cannabis use may not translate to use in older ages. Use of cannabis in old ages may have adverse effects on cognition but some evidence also exists showing beneficial effects.

Mt. Sinai Study Identifies Lifestyle Changes That Provide Some Knee Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Daniel A Charen MD
Leni and Peter May Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: There is a well-established link between obesity and knee osteoarthritis, and recent research has implicated diabetes as a potential cause of cartilage degeneration. This study uses the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database to examine the association between knee pain and various metabolic factors.

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Are Invasive Procedures Effective for Chronic Pain Relief? A Systematic Review

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Wayne B. Jonas, MD
Executive Director
Samueli Integrative Health Programs, H&S Ventures,
Alexandria, VA

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The search for non-drug approaches to chronic pain is a major recommendation in many recent guidelines for both pain management and reduction in the use of opioids. Surgical and invasive procedures are non-drug approaches often used for pain conditions like back pain and arthritis, so good evidence is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of these procedures. Properly done randomized, placebo-controlled trials are the best way (the gold standard) to get that evidence, so we did a thorough evaluation of such research, using standard systematic review and meta-analysis methods.

Orthopedic Surgeon Discusses iovera Cold Therapy For Pain Relief from Knee Osteoarthritis

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dr. Sean McMillan DO
Chief of Orthopedics and Director of Orthopedic Sports Medicine
Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County, Burlington, NJ
Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Rowan University –
School of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. McMillan discusses the iovera° system which is used to provide pain relief from knee osteoarthritis, using extreme cold therapy.


PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this procedure?

Response: I see many patients dealing with osteoarthritis (OA) pain, many of whom need total knee replacements. In fact, OA is the most common joint disorder in the United States and one of the primary reasons people seek knee replacement surgery. iovera° is a non-opioid, nonpharmacologic treatment that can alleviate knee pain by delivering extreme cold therapy (cryoanalgesia) to a targeted nerve. The iovera° treatment uses the body’s natural response to cold to treat nerves and immediately reduce pain for patients dealing with OA and/or surgical pain from knee replacement procedures. One treatment with the iovera° system can provide pain relief for up to 90 days.

Unaddressed knee pain can have many consequences such as increased discomfort, reduced mobility, and irreversible damage. This non-opioid treatment helps to stave off pain both prior to surgery and for postsurgical pain when surgery becomes necessary, making for a smoother recovery process with limited opioid use.