I read an article recently in The Daily Mail Good Health about how antidepressants may reduce chronic lower back pain.

In the journal Pain Medicine, a study led by Fukushima Medical University in Japan, 150 patients were given the antidepressant duloxetine once a day for a year. Their pain levels dropped significantly from the second week onwards. One theory, they say, is that antidepressants raise levels of the brain chemical serotonin in the spinal cord, which reduces the pain.

Serotonin is a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. The NHS point out how they think serotonin works. It’s thought that SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain). It’s thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep.

After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nerve cells (known as “reuptake”). SSRIs work by blocking (“inhibiting”) reuptake, meaning more serotonin is available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells.

It would be too simplistic to say that depression and related mental health conditions are caused by low serotonin levels, but a rise in serotonin levels can improve symptoms and make people more responsive to other types of treatment, such as CBT.

I have taken a number of different types of antidepressants for my back pain and they have swapped me around every now and then to try a different one. At the moment I am taking Nortriptyline which I have found the best of all to help me get a more comfortable sleep. The only problem with all these types of medications is that you can soon find them hard to come off if you have taken them for a while, but if they work then that’s all that matters.




Can long term use of opioids cause respiratory problems and is it time for a change?

The straight answer is ‘yes’, according to Desert Home Treatment who say that ‘ The long-term effects of opioids on the bowels are significant, but it is the damage they do to the respiratory system that is behind most of the overdoses and fatalities that are related to opioid use. As opioids depress the central nervous system, they directly interfere with the body’s breathing mechanisms.’

Science Daily pointed out that ‘ Opioids are highly effective at killing pain, but they can also kill people by depressing their breathing and at the same time sedating them so that it can be impossible for them to wake up from oxygen deprivation,” says Richard Horner, a professor in the departments of Medicine and Physiology.’

Most pain killers opioids or otherwise can cause side effects but they tend to improve shortly after starting the treatment or following an intended dose increase. The most common side effect being constipation and itching but a respiratory problem is feared by many. They say it is mostly a concern in acute pain management where patients have not developed tolerance.

So should we be right to be sceptical about taking opioids for long term pain when they keep appearing in the news as sceptical ? Drug Abuse has written a great article on a ‘Need for Change’ with a list of 10 opiate alternatives. They include –

Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)


Serotonin and Norephinephrine

Reuptake Inhibitors




Physical Therapy Massage, Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care


It’s certainly something to ponder about.



The Energy Therapy Centre

EFT Therapy is a method based on the discovery that emotional trauma contributes greatly to disease. It’s a ground-breaking tool for releasing emotional blocks and healing for phobias, trauma, pain and more.

Studies have shown that EFT can help to reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once that is removed, then the body can often rebalance itself, which then has a knock-on effect to accelerate healing.

Eastern health practices have been based on the fact that the energies that circulate throughout our bodies are vital to our health. Interrupting these energies can result in pain and disease. This has been their concept for over 5000 years. Therefore, it is no surprise that repairing any disruption in your energy channels can lead to symptom and pain relief.

Wikipedia describes it as a ‘form of alternative psychotherapy that purports to manipulate the body’s energy field by tapping on acupuncture points’. Some call EFT ‘a new acupuncture without the needles’ and ‘energy psychology’. Success rates for EFT are not 100% but it certainly has a high success rate for some.

The Energy Therapy Centre in London explains the concept of EFT –

Often referred to as “Psychological acupressure”, the technique works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort. These blockages in our energy system, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. Resulting symptoms are either emotional and/ or physical and include lack of confidence and self-esteem, feeling stuck anxious or depressed, or the emergence of compulsive and addictive behaviours. It is also now finally widely accepted that emotional disharmony is a key factor in physical symptoms and dis-ease and for this reason, these techniques are being extensively used on physical issues, including chronic illness with often astounding results. As such these techniques are being accepted more and more in medical and psychiatric circles as well as in the range of psychotherapies and healing disciplines.

An EFT treatment involves the use of fingertips rather than needles to tap on the endpoints of energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin. The treatment is non-invasive and works on the ethos of making a change as simple and as pain-free as possible.

EFT is a common sense approach that draws its power from Eastern discoveries that have been around for over 5,000 years. In fact, Albert Einstein also told us back in the 1920’s that everything (including our bodies) is composed of energy. These ideas have been largely ignored by Western Healing Practices and as they are unveiled in our current times, a human process is reopening itself to the forgotten truth that everything is Energy and the potential that this offers us.

In the short time since it’s inception by Gary Craig in the 1990’s, EFT has provided thousands of people with relief from all manner of problems and conditions, often in startlingly quick time and after long and painful periods of searching for a cure. The diversity of successful treatments have ranged from trauma and abuse, phobias, self-sabotaging behaviour patterns, to deep-set emotional conditions of anxiety and depression, addictions, physical illness, to name but a few.

EFT is drawing attention from the broad spectrum of healing professionals; from the scientists to the spiritualists and everyone in between. It is at the heart of the rejoining of the old and new paradigms.

EFT restores awareness and trust in the natural healing abilities of our mind and body, providing ground-breaking opportunities to achieving physical and emotional well-being in a faster time frame.

Because the techniques are so simple, they can be used effectively as a self-help tool, which empowers people to actively contribute to their own healing and development process. This facilitates a much faster relief process, previously believed impossible by healthcare professionals who advocated lengthy (& often painful) hours in psychotherapeutic or medical care, often with limited results. These techniques do not discredit the medical and psychotherapeutic professions, but rather serve to contribute to a holistic healing process.

It works by working on its discovery statement that:

Our negative emotions are caused by a disruption in the body’s energy system

EFT works to clear such disruptions and eliminate the resulting emotional response or intensity to restore emotional harmony and offer relief from physical discomfort.

This is done by focusing on the specific problem whilst tapping with fingers on the endpoints of energy meridians. The combination of sending kinetic energy to our energy system, whilst uncovering and focusing on root causes, facilitates a “straightening out” of the energy system thereby eliminating the “short circuit” to the body’s learnt response or negative emotion.

The EFT points in a helpful chart.




Wego Health Awards...

WEGO Health is a mission-driven company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills and insights of Patient Leaders.

They are the world’s largest network of over 100k Patient Leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics. Their network collaborates with pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, agencies, consultancies, startups and all types of organizations across healthcare.

WEGO Health offers enterprise and on-demand solutions that allow organizations to leverage the patient experience and expertise in the design, development and promotion of their products and services.

Nominate the exceptional patient advocates, influencers and experts who make a difference in the lives of patients and caregivers. They say it is an honour just to be nominated, but they think the honour is all in the nominating itself!

After being nominated, connect with others in their Patient Leader Network:

  • Nominate another Patient Leader
  • Share your nomination with your network and urge them to nominate
  • During the endorsements period, endorse the Patient Leaders you’d like to see recognized

Join them and help celebrate the inspiring and impactful nominees. Feel good while honoring these Patient Leaders and then join in on the festivities.

I feel honoured to be nominated for Best in Blog Show and Best in Show Twitter. If you know someone who deserves any of the awards at WEGO Health then pop down to their website and nominate someone and make their day.


Can herbal remedies for pain work as well as traditional medication? Every day you will read something online or in a paper or magazine about different side-effects, addictions and problems with certain medications but they all seem to be ones that people have to take long term.

In a previous post, I wrote about how I am seeing what I called a medicine man (a professor of medicine) as I have been on the same medication for a long time and as I can no longer have facet joint injections my pain has been much worse.

They say that normally side effects from a medication will happen in the first month of you taking them and vary from one person to another. In fact, the NHS writes that ‘All medicines can cause side effects, particularly if you don’t use them as advised. This includes prescription medicines, medicines you can buy over the counter, and herbal remedies and supplements.

Side effects can range from mild, such as drowsiness or feeling sick (nausea), to severe, such as life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. The risk of getting side effects varies from person to person.

You should check the leaflet that is provided with your medication to see if certain side effects could make it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery’

So, unless it is something life-threatening it appears that whatever medication you take be it herbal or traditional the chances are it will have some form of side effect.  If these side effects are something that you can live with and the medication is helping you then the chances are you will carry on taking it. Of course you can then end up taking more medication to help with your side effects. However, if you are in constant pain from any illness then whatever the side effects you will still take it to relieve your pain.

Another problem is the addiction to these drugs which seem to pop up on the media when it affects celebrities rather than jo public. Web MD point out that ‘It also plagues many people out of the spotlight who grapple with painkiller addiction behind closed doors.

But although widespread, addiction to prescription painkillers is also widely misunderstood — and those misunderstandings can be dangerous and frightening for patients dealing with pain.

Where is the line between appropriate use and addiction to prescription pain medicines? And how can patients stay on the right side of that line, without suffering needlessly?

For answers, WebMD spoke with two pain medicine doctors, an expert from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and a psychiatrist who treats addictions.’

Read here their seven myths they identified about addiction to prescription pain medication.

The NHS list of seven of the most addictive pain killers –

  1. Paracetamol
  2. Ibuprofen
  3. Aspirin
  4. Codeine
  5. Soluble painkillers
  6. Amitriptyline and gabapentin
  7. Morphine

A article in Good Housekeeping lists four reasons when painkillers really are your friend –

1. Some people say they want to see how the pain is, or don’t want to be knocked out, or to get addicted. Painkillers won’t deal with the fundamental problem, but lessening pain will allow you to get on with life. Taken safely and sensibly, there’s no reason to suffer stoically.

2. Take the lowest dose of the mildest painkiller, usually ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol. Read the instructions: if the standard adult dose is two tablets, and you just take one, it’s not going to do much good.

3. You probably know which painkillers suit you. But if you need an anti-inflammatory – for joint pain, sporting injuries – aspirin and ibuprofen work best.

4. Rather than stepping up the dosage or a stronger painkiller, it may be a good idea to combine a normal dose of two. Speak to your pharmacist for advice. An example is paracetamol plus ibuprofen.

But remember…

Painkiller addiction tends to occur with codeine type painkillers. eg codeine, cocodamol, tramadol, solpadeine, as well as the gabapentin type drugs (GABA). GPs see a huge number of people with medication overuse headache, which is caused by painkillers. Signs of addiction might include: you’re at the doctor well before your prescription runs out, you take painkillers routinely rather than waiting for pain, you feel unwell if you don’t take them, you feel panicky if you don’t have a supply, you take them privately or secretly. If you’re worried, see your GP. It’s very important to be weaned off painkillers properly.

The NHS has a list of ten ways to reduce pain without medication –

  1. Get some gentle exercise
  2. Breathe right to ease pain
  3. Read books and leaflets on pain
  4. Counselling can help with pain
  5. Distract yourself
  6. Share your story about pain
  7. The sleep cure for pain
  8. Take a course
  9. Keep in touch with friends and family
  10. Relax to beat pain

At the end of the day we will all try different ways to manage and cope with long term/chronic pain, it’s getting the right balance which is the most important either using conservative methods, herbal or traditional medication. I personally have tried a number of herbal medications that have been in the news recently but they made no difference to me and yet worked wonders for a friend with a hip problem.

Whatever you try you should first see your GP and go through all the options available and don’t give up after a couple of doses just because of the side effects, give the treatment time to work and you never know you might find a concoction of medications/treatments will work great for you.