Age & Neuropathic Pain/Nerve Injury

If you’re between 30 and 65 years old, you may be among the 10 percent of U.S. adults who struggle with neuropathic pain. If you’re older, it could be even worse, affecting mobility, lifestyle, and your overall health. Neuropathic pain, often caused by nerve injury, regularly affects older adults.

What Is Neuropathic Pain?

You may experience neuropathic pain if your nervous system is injured or not functioning correctly. The pain can emanate from any of the numerous levels of your nervous system, like the peripheral nerves, brain, or spinal cord. The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system, while the peripheral nerves fan throughout the remainder of your body to places like arms, legs, organs, fingers, and toes.

Pain And Older Adults

Neuropathic pain can happen at any age but worsens the older you get and is especially problematic for adults 65 and older. It has many potential causes but is present in about 30 percent of those who struggle with diabetes. Many activities become more difficult or cumbersome as you age because of neuropathic pain.

Activity limitations due to neuropathic pain

  • Activity and Exercise. Restricting movement because of pain is a natural tendency, but when it is persistent, it becomes counterproductive and can trigger more pain. In the case of older adults, that often means less physical activity to lower the risk of falling and getting hurt – a sedentary lifestyle that may lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other medical problem.
  • Neuropathic pain is often chronic, and one study showed that 42 percent of “middle-aged and older adults” experienced sleep problems as a result. Persistent sleep deprivation presents other issues, too, like daytime sleepiness and the inability to stay active due to weariness.
  • Mood issues – depression, sadness, irritability, self-isolation – are another byproduct of neuropathic pain and nerve injury. According to Kern A. Olson, Ph.D., many older adults with chronic pain struggle with these challenges, and they often go untreated because older adults tend to “understate” their symptoms.

Symptoms related to neuropathic pain can be treated, often with therapy, self-help, medicine, or ketamine.

Age & Neuropathic Pain/Nerve Injury

According to the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, “Many common neuropathic pain syndromes are more prevalent in the older population, and older adults also carry greater sensitivity to certain side effects. The health care professional should have a thorough familiarity with all medications available to treat this difficult group of disorders.”

Causes of neuropathic pain

  • You may have neuropathic pain due to alcoholism.
  • Diabetes may trigger neuropathic pain symptoms.
  • Facial nerve problems are known to cause neuropathic pain.
  • HIV infection or AIDS can trigger neuropathic pain.
  • Specific central nervous system illnesses can result in neuropathic pain, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
  • Complex regional pain syndrome, affecting nearly 200,000 people each year, can trigger neuropathic pain.
  • Shingles and their after-pain called postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Neuropathic pain is a struggle for someone using certain chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, paclitaxel, vincristine, etc.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Amputation.
  • Spinal nerve inflammation or compression.
  • A traumatic event or surgery with resultant nerve damage.
  • Nerve compression or tumors.

Symptoms of neuropathic pain

  • Steady beginning of numbness, prickling, or tingling in lower extremities may spiral upward and reach your legs and arms.
  • Sharp, prodding, throbbing, or burning sensation.
  • Heightened sensitivity to touch.
  • Pain during activities that shouldn’t trigger pain.
  • Poor coordination and falling.
  • Muscle frailty.
  • Feeling the weight of gloves or socks when you’re not wearing either.
  • Immobility if motor nerves are impacted.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says that “Neuropathic pain occurs in about 1 in every ten adults over age 30.”

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your healthcare provider will review your own and your family’s medical history and perform a physical exam to root out the cause of your pain. If your doctor ascertains or suspects it’s caused by nerve injury, they will acknowledge that you’re experiencing typical neuropathic pain symptoms. Your healthcare provider will then attempt to find the underlying source of the neuropathic pain and trace the symptoms. There may be tests and diagnostic procedures, like blood work, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, and others.

Upon diagnosing neuropathic pain, your doctor may recommend therapy, generic or prescription pain relievers, or medicine like ketamine.

Final Thoughts

Neuropathic pain can happen to anyone experiencing nerve injury due to illness, injury, or another condition. While it can affect anyone regardless of age, it tends to be more pronounced and noticeable in older Americans. If you suffer from such pain, talk to your doctor about available treatment options.

What Do I Do When I Have a Panic Attack?

Having a panic attack while not having an underlying panic disorder isn’t uncommon. Suppose you haven’t prepared as well as you should’ve for a work presentation or test at school. In that case, you may panic and have a quick heartbeat, shortness of breath, or trouble thinking – but these all eventually resolve themselves with little or no intervention from you. When these reactions happen all the time, almost every day, over trivial matters, and begin affecting your quality of life, you may be experiencing more serious anxiety attacks.

Steps That Can Help to Control Panic Attacks

In the heat of the moment, it may not be possible to deal with an anxiety or panic attack with medicine or other therapy. Sometimes, you just must go it alone. Panic attacks are normal responses in certain situations that resolve themselves, but anxiety attacks are more serious and require care. Thankfully, you can try a few things when you experience this kind of situation.

  • Don’t forget the importance of staying active. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer, so follow a set routine daily if possible. Staying active can improve moods and overall health, plus give you energy which may help avoid panic attacks before they begin.
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs can exacerbate existing panic disorders. They can trigger anxiety and make it worse; if you’ve developed a dependence on either, see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Stay away from nicotine use and caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques are a great way to manage panic, anxiety, and conditions that could lead to such attacks. Try meditation and yoga to ease anxiety.
  • Most adults need seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every 24 hours, so if you haven’t made sleep a priority – why not? Sleep is especially critical if you’re pre-disposed to stress and anxiety because sleep is the best way to settle and rejuvenate a restless body and mind.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits and talk to a nutritionist to create daily meal plans if needed. Add vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish to your diet, staying away from sugar, caffeine, and processed foods.
  • Educate yourself about what’s happening, and don’t be afraid to talk with your healthcare provider for more information. By knowing as much about your disorder as possible, you can make informed treatment decisions. Also, it’s an excellent idea to marshal support from family and friends if needed.
  • If anxiety and panic lead to more serious and frequent anxiety attacks and you’re undergoing professional care, stick to any treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider. There’ll be days when things are going well, and you think you can skip a counseling session or don’t need to take prescribed medicine, but that’s a recipe for disaster. 
  • Do you know what’s triggering anxiety and panic? Learning about situations or actions which lead to stress or boost your anxiety levels can help you manage their consequences. If your healthcare provider has given you strategies to deal with these situations, use them often.
  • It may be good to start journaling with pen and paper, on your computer, or even online. Documenting your personal life, warts and all, can give you and your mental health provider insight into causes and effects and deal with them accordingly.

Finally, don’t self-isolate. Humans need the company of other humans to survive and thrive, and a social safety net of people who can help – family, friends, co-workers, or other support groups – should never be taken for granted. This means you need to socialize and possibly step out of your comfort zone.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Successfully diagnosing a panic or anxiety attack requires examination by a medical professional or mental health specialist with experience in mental illnesses. You can expect to undergo a physical examination, and psychiatric assessment often conducted separately. A medical exam may include certain tests and procedures to see if there’s an underlying cause for your symptoms and, if so, figure out the best treatment option. A psychiatric exam has the same goal but looks at your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as potential triggers and how your personal and family history of mental illness may influence the current situation.

Treatment will likely include some combination of psychotherapy and medicine, including ketamine to treat anxiety or other symptoms.

Misconceptions About OCD

WHAT IS OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) includes two main components: obsessions and compulsions.

  • Obsessions are unwelcome images, urges, thoughts, worries or questions that repetitively appear in your mind. They can result in feelings of anxiousness, even if some people refer to it as mental discomfort instead of anxiety. Most people feel anxious, but not to the point their emotions and behavior are out of control.
  • Compulsions are repetitive activities the sufferer uses to minimize anxiety triggered by the obsession. It could be an action like continually ensuring a window is closed, repeating a specific mantra in your head, or seeing how your body feels.

RISK FACTORS

OCD is a common disorder that affects adults, adolescents, and children all over the world. Most people are diagnosed by about age 19, typically with an earlier age of onset in boys than in girls, but onset after age 35 does happen.” We haven’t settled on a cause of OCD, but years of research and working with sufferers have uncovered clues about its origins, including genetics, brain structure and functioning, and environment beginning in childhood.

4 MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT OCD

According to Ralph Ryback M.D., OCD “is a mental illness that is experienced by as many as 1 in 100 Americans each year, with roughly 50 percent of these cases classified as severe.” Many people with OCD are misunderstood, grappling with stigmatization which can negatively affect life at work, home, and in relationships. Here are common misconceptions about obsessive-compulsive disorder to be aware of:

  1. People with OCD love keeping things organized and neat. When someone jokingly says they’re “OCD because I vacuum the carpeting every day,” it’s the equivalent of saying “I’m a major anorexic” because I avoid sweets after meals. The truth is OCD is a severe mental illness characterized by high levels of emotional distress and anxiety. OCD sufferers might have cleanliness habits, but they don’t “love” them.
  2. OCD is focused on handwashing, cleaning, and living life as a “germaphobe.” False. The condition shows inversely in different people. Only a fraction of people with OCD, in fact, are fearful of germs or have compulsions linked to keeping themselves and the world around them clean.
  3. Signs of OCD are obvious. As unbelievable as it seems, you likely encounter people with obsessive-compulsive disorder but don’t even realize it. That’s because people suffering from OCD are frequently able to conceal or suppress their symptoms when in public, particularly if they’re getting proper treatment, such as ketamine therapy.
  4. People who say they’re OCD are weaklings who should just calm down. For someone without this illness, the symptoms kick off absurd or comical refrains like “just stop cleaning,” when in reality OCD is a chronic illness whose sufferers have brain regions that literally malfunction.

HOW IS OCD DIAGNOSED?

Many people assume they can diagnose their own illness, especially if they have certain feelings, an injury, or an obvious illness, but OCD can only be diagnosed by a trained professional. A doctor or therapist will look for three signs:

  • The person has obsessions.
  • Compulsive behaviors are present.
  • The obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming and interfere with important activities the sufferer values, such as working, hobbies, going to school, or spending time with loved ones.

TROUBLES WITH DIAGNOSIS?

Diagnosing OCD isn’t like recognizing an ear infection and getting a prescription for amoxicillin. It’s more complicated than that. OCD symptoms are sometimes indistinguishable from signs associated with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or other mental health illnesses. Complications arise if it’s paired with another diagnosed mental illness.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

The most common treatment options for OCD include psychological counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. Once you’ve been diagnosed, your healthcare provider may recommend other treatments, including self-help and ketamine therapy. Ketamine is the medicine most frequently used in pre-and post-operative environments. Still, research since the 1960s has proven its efficacy not only for anesthesia but also to treat symptoms of OCD, depression, and other mental illnesses.

FINAL THOUGHTS

OCD is a serious illness affecting many people, about 1 in 100, or more than 300,000 in the United States. If you’re one of them, it’s nothing to be ashamed of or hide from. Once you’ve recognized the symptoms, you’ve taken the first steps to regain control of your life.

Can Mental Health Issues Cause Back Pain?

You’re constantly stressed out, sad, don’t want to spend time with loved ones, and have developed bad eating and lifestyle habits. As a result, you’ve become a homebody and ignored your physical fitness. Now, your back has started hurting, and you wonder: Is there a connection?

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a leading reason people seek medical care or miss work. It can even cause issues for school-age children.

Back pain intensity ranges from a dull, continuous ache to an unexpected, sharp, or shooting discomfort. It can happen suddenly due to an accident or by lifting a heavy object, or back pain can appear over time as people age. Lack of exercise followed by a strenuous workout can trigger pain.

What Causes Back Pain?

There can be many reasons, including:

  • Muscle or ligament strain caused by continual heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement.
  • Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks work as cushions between the bones in your spine but cause pain if they bulge, rupture, and press on a nerve.
  • Osteoarthritis can trigger lower back pain. This can happen due to narrowing the area around your spinal cord, otherwise known as a disorder called spinal stenosis.
  • Osteoporosis also causes back pain.

How to Prevent Back Pain

  • Exercise regularly. Consistent low-impact aerobics, including activities that don’t strain or shock your back, can build strength and endurance and allow your muscles to work better. Good options include walking and swimming.
  • Try building muscle strength and flexibility around your core, allowing muscles to work in unison like a natural girdle for your back.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight as added pounds put extra strain on your back muscles.
  • Stop using nicotine products, which can lead to worse problems.

What are the Risks?

  • The first instance of low back pain typically happens when someone’s between 30- and 50-years-old and the pain becomes more common with advancing age.
  • Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit.
  • Being overweight or quickly packing on the pounds can add stress to the back and cause lower back pain.
  • Genetics.
  • Physically intensive work.
  • Mental health.
  • Poor lifestyle like unhealthy eating habits or nicotine use.

Can Mental Health Issues Cause Back Pain?

Lower back pain is the number two reason for disability in America. More than 80 percent of people will have back pain at some time in their lives. The most common triggers are disc injuries, lifting something heavy, sciatica, or other non-specific back injuries. But mental health issues also can lead to back pain.

If your mobility is limited, this can trigger psychological distress, which can, in turn, make the pain worse. Your coping strategies and personal health views can influence distress levels and the progression of the pain. For instance, someone who’s anxiety-prone expects the worst, and suffers from catastrophic thinking, may experience worse back pain than another person who feels differently. Why? Because psychological vulnerabilities can alter your brain and amplify the pain.

Pre-existing psychological attitudes sometimes coexist with abnormalities in how brain chemistry is controlled, especially regarding dopamine, and “normal” brain functions related to anxiety, emotional control, and attention, can also be disturbed. This results in a vicious circle as your pain becomes all-encompassing.

But there’s more to worsening pain than just pre-existing attitudes. The pain acts by rewiring biological circuits in your brain. When pain first occurs, it affects the pain-sensitivity brain circuits. “But when pain lasts, the related brain activity switches away from the “pain” circuits to circuits that process emotions. That’s why emotions like anxiety often take center stage in chronic back pain. And it’s why emotional control becomes that much more difficult.”

Ketamine is known to strengthen connections between brain regions necessary for the production and control of dopamine, which could explain how it can alleviate depression.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suffer from back pain, mental health issues, or both, it’s essential to understand what’s triggering the discomfort and seek ways to minimize it. The first step is diagnosis. Your healthcare provider may recommend certain tests to diagnose back pain, while a mental health specialist is best equipped to help you work through issues leading to depression or another condition. A mental health evaluation will compare your symptoms to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders before the final diagnosis.

Back pain can be treated with medicine, pain relievers, or physical therapy. Depression or other mental illnesses often respond to psychotherapy, antidepressants, or ketamine therapy.

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