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The Role of Coffee in Pain Management

Not only is coffee one of the most sought after, popular and enjoyable drinks on the planet, studies show that it has a significant role to play in pain management too. The role of caffeine in pain management has been receiving more attention in recent years and is currently a subject of interest and ongoing research in the medical profession.

Once the effects of coffee on pain have been fully understood it can be harnessed in even more ways to help people with a range of conditions both treat and manage their pain symptoms. Not only that, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that coffee may play an important role in reducing the risks of a range of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.

The Role of Coffee in Pain Perception

Coffee can help modulate and reduce pain due to its action on the adenosine receptors in our brain which play a role in pain perception. Certain chemicals in coffee will bind to and block the adenosine receptors which can have a pain-relieving affect. Coffee also stimulates the release of dopamine and beta-endorphins which are neurotransmitters that act as a natural pain killer in the body.

Caffeine and Pain-Relief Medicines

You may have noticed when buying analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief that some of the preparations are mixed with caffeine. This is because caffeine has been shown to increase the level of pain relief in those with acute pain. A standard dose of one of these pain killers combined with the equivalent of a mug of coffee [1] showed an increase in the amount of people with a good level of pain relief by 5% to 10% [2], in comparison to those who just took pain relief alone.

Caffeine Can Reduce Muscle Pain

A reduction of muscle pain is brought about principally by the effect caffeine has on reducing pain perception. This makes caffeine a good choice for people who work out and exercise regularly as it can help with exercise recovery by reducing muscle soreness. Research has shown that caffeine can reduce post exercise muscle pain by as much as 50%[3]

Caffeine can also help reduce inflammation in the body which can lead to pain. It is thought that this is due to chemicals in the coffee blocking pathways involved in the production of inflammatory molecules [4]. High levels of inflammation in the body has been liked to a wide range of life-threatening illness, so the more that can be done to reduce inflammation in the body the better.

The Impact of Caffeine Tolerance

The habitual consumption of coffee will cause your body to build up a tolerance to caffeine so its pain-relieving effects will not be as apparent, therefore, to benefit from the pain-relieving effect of caffeine you would need to drink more than your body is used to.

Given that people build up a tolerance to caffeine, be aware that if you usually drink caffeine every day and then you stop suddenly, this can actually both cause and worsen muscle pain and headache. With this in mind, it is important to modulate your caffeine intake to help ensure that your body doesn’t build up too much of a reliance on it so you can benefit from its pain relieving qualities.


Resource Links:

[1] Is Fair Trade Coffee Good or Bad?

[2] Caffeine as an analgesic adjuvant for acute pain in adults

[3] Caffeine Cuts Post-workout Pain By Nearly 50 Percent, Study Finds

[4] Caffeine may be able to block inflammation, new research says

A Journey of Resilience

Nothing in life can ever prepare you for the news of a life changing illness of any type. This was the case in 2006 when I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS for short. A rare neuro-autoimmune disease that causes constant chronic pain and can also affect the immune system, skin, muscle, joints, and bones it is known as the most painful chronic pain condition there is. The other name of which people refer to CRPS is “the suicide disease”, for which no explanation is really needed.

I live in Regina, Saskatchewan. If you don’t know where that is that’s in Canada. As a happily married father of two very special girls, family life was everything and more leading up to diagnosis. I held a position in senior management with a large company and my wife had decided to leave nursing to pursue her desire of being a stay at home mom. Life was good! Then our world was suddenly flipped upside down as a simple surgery to remove a cyst in my left wrist went really wrong.  Immediately after the surgery I started experiencing a burning in the arm. Not to mention the severe pain and swelling that was going on. Something was very wrong and the pain getting more unbearable by the day.

This would set off almost an almost two year journey into trying to figure out what was causing such horrific pain. I also began to display numerous other symptoms associated with CRPS. Symptoms like sensitivity to touch and temperature, waxiness of the skin, hair loss, and disfigurement to name a few.  Eventually, I would visit upwards of twenty physicians being tested for every disease you could think of. Yet no physician was able to make any form of a diagnosis. Without answers trying to treat this disease was difficult. Eventually, I was unable to use my hand at all, and the pain left me unable to function on most days. So I would be forced to go on permanent disability.

After virtually exhausting all the resources within Saskatchewan I would have to seek help outside the province. With paperwork already filed with the Mayo Clinic and preparations being made to go, we received a phone call from a friend who is a physician and knew of a specialist who specialized in chronic pain. We flew out to Vancouver, B.C. where the specialist was able to make the diagnosis of CRPS and tell me there was no cure, and that there was very little he could do to treat me.  As I walked out of his office I remember being hit by a wave of emotions!  Suddenly everything was becoming so real. Things like fear and anger were trying to take over my mind. I didn’t know what to feel or where to turn next.

As if this wasn’t enough, after an injury to my ankle CRPS spread into my left ankle and leg. This would eventually mean that I would need to use a cane to walk at all. To say the journey up until this point was frustrating is an understatement! Not wanting to focus on the negative however I remained optimistic in my pursuit to find the help I needed. Through a series of tests that I would have in order to try and manage the pain in my leg, I would finally find a specialist who could help with a treatment plan.

It had been almost two years up until this point but I finally felt as if there was a little bit of hope that something could be done to help me manage this disease. I had finally been referred to a neurologist who works with a small team of professionals who worked with CRPS patients. This is the part of my story that I get so frustrated with because we had gone full circle only to end up right back here in Regina. Had other physicians or specialists been more aware of CRPS then quick diagnosis could have happened.

It was refreshing finally having a team of healthcare professionals who truly understood what I was living with. The goal was to try and help me gain back a quality of life I had lost and maybe more. So over the course of the next several months I would form my treatment plan which was to be a combination of medications and surgically implanted neuro-stimulators.  After ten major surgeries and extensive physiotherapy I started walking short distances. I also started working with a psychologist to try and help with aspects of my mental health that I was struggling with. These were both positive steps and gave me the motivation I needed to keep moving forward.

As I started coming to terms with everything I was going through with this disease I began to see that I didn’t have to let it hold me hostage. Sure, things might be good one day and bad the next but I could chose to be positive and move forward to the best of my abilities. I had to ask myself a really hard question. Was I going to let CRPS define who I am or what I can do with my life? There was still so much about my life that was so good! I was just having trouble seeing that through all the emotions. Once I figured all of that out, it made moving forward so much easier. It was at this point that I decided to start using my story to help others and to advocate and raise awareness.

There are so few resources available to those of us struggling to find diagnosis, treatment, or even support programs with a rare disease like CRPS. So in the middle of the night I wrote a letter to our Premiere outlining my story, similar to the one here asking him to declare Nov 2 CRPS Awareness Day in the Province of Saskatchewan. The goal of this was just to do my little part here in my part of the world. Before long this was in place and I now have a yearly event taking place. Right here in my city we have had Feb 28 declared Rare Disease Day, and I have started a Peer2Peer support group through the Rare Disease Foundation. I speak at, and attend conferences across Canada and the U.S. in order to try and raise awareness and create change. Those efforts are making a difference because here in Saskatchewan with the efforts of CRPS Awareness Day we have managed to see changes in the teaching curriculum for second year med students.

Trying to fit thirteen years into what I’m writing today isn’t easy because it would take a book to try and explain all the different ways that chronic illness affects an individual’s life. My story that I’ve outlined here for you today, really only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what my family and I have had to endure. However, I’m choosing to see only positive and the things that bring me hope in my particular journey. Things like the levels of awareness that have been raised within my community and province. Or the personal friendships and support from different communities that I have gained along the way. I can’t say what will happen down the road but there are a lot of things that are in our control. What choices will you make?

Non-Medical Remedies For Managing Cancer Pain

Treating cancer often involves treating multiple symptoms, both physical and emotional. The symptom of pain, however, has been highlighted as one of the most critical due to the effect it can have on recovery and overall mental well-being. Pain is seen in approximately 25% of newly diagnosed patients, 33% of those having active treatment and up to 75% of those with advanced disease according to The American Pain Society. The World Health Organization have also identified cancer pain to be a global health concern, and also mention that a large percentage of patients are not adequately treated for pain.

While the normal regimes of medication treatments are usually prescribed by a variety of healthcare professionals, some elements of the pain or personal circumstances can be overlooked. In some cases the clinical approach doesn’t always work, leading many patients to look for alternative or holistic approaches to managing their pain.

Acupuncture, Reflexology and Art Therapy

Known as a physical therapy, medical acupuncture is an evidence-based medicine. It involves inserting sterile needles into certain points in the body which then stimulates the nerve to release natural chemicals which in turn give you a feeling of well being. Acupuncture, used alongside established drug therapy, has been shown to be most effective.

Reflexology is a type of massage that focuses on applying pressure to the hands and feet. There is no scientific evidence to support its use, but many people have reported positive outcomes in managing their pain. The belief is that having your feet and hands massaged in a specific way stimulates certain organs in the body which allows for the natural release of the body’s healing process and energy pathways – similar to the way acupuncture works.

Art therapy is a type of mental therapy that helps channel your focus away from the pain itself. “Art therapy does not replace the need for pain medication, but it can be used as an effective complement and reduce perceptions of pain experiences,” says Kelsey A. Skerpan, an art therapist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Furthermore, a study done in early 2018 and published inThe Arts in Psychotherapy looked at approximately 200 people who had been hospitalized for pain and found that just 50 minutes of art therapy significantly increased moods and lowered levels of pain.

The Benefits of Exercise

Depending on the stage of cancer you’re at and the treatment you’re having, exercise may be an option to help with chronic pain. Exercise regimes can be specifically tailored depending on your personal circumstances. Studies have shown that aerobic exercises like running, walking, cycling and swimming can have a positive influence on the way individuals react to their pain, resulting in effective pain management in the long-term.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleeping is the body’s natural way to rejuvenate and heal. If you’re living with chronic pain due to your cancer, a good night’s sleep may be difficult to achieve. Some medicines used in the treatment of cancer can also affect your sleep. To help get a better night’s sleep, try and be active during the day, avoid caffeine and carbonated drinks at night or sleep on a special mattress that curves to the shape of your body.

Pain can be difficult to manage if you have cancer. Speak openly and honestly about your symptoms with your doctor or nurse. If you’re planning on trying any therapies or alternative ways of managing your pain, always check with your healthcare team first.

Pain Management of Chronic Pain Conditions

Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Lisa Davis-Budzinski

If you found your way to this article, that means you or someone you know and love has a chronic pain condition and are searching knowledge for treatments.

I have been managing a chronic pain condition known as Central Pain Syndrome, due to having a stroke, since 2002. I am also managing an autoimmune condition known as Grave’s Disease that wreaks havoc on the endocrine system and dealt me cancer of the thyroid. Plus a few other blood & spinal fluid related autoimmune issues.

I wanted to write this article to give you some direction and knowledge that you can take along the way with you as you put together a treatment plan that will help you manage a better quality of life.

First, we are all different and a blanket medication is not going to work for everyone. Example: penicillin helped a lot of people but not people like myself who is dangerously allergic to it. We know this because we all have different DNA codes. (See my DNA article HERE.) So that would stand to reason that we all need a more precision type of pain management treatment. We can also take into effect that men and women have different reactions to pain sensory levels. See this article for more information: Brain differences between male and female on pain.

Now we have to take all of that into account when trying to find what will work for you.

Once you find the doctor who can help you with your type of condition; Endocrinologist for Diabetes, Neurologist for MS, Parkinson’s and other nerve conditions etc., the doctor will tell you about treatments. There are many types and below is an outline:

In addition to medications, you want your pain management treatment to be well rounded:

  •  Try acupuncture, chiropractors, etc.
  • Get hormone labs done; hormones affect pain levels
  • Meditation, aromatherapy
  • Heating pads, cold packs
  • TENS unit
  • Spinal stimulator

Diversionary tactics help to raise dopamine/serotonin levels:

  • Doing something to make you laugh or makes you happy
  • A fun activity that can raise adrenaline levels
  • Keep it lighthearted to counter stress and depression
  • Cognitive-Behaviorial Therapy: CBT

Find your Teams:

  • Healthcare Team
  • Support communities

Find your pain triggers:

  • What triggers your pain
  • Write them down so you can actually “see” what they are
  • Sound, heat, cold, walking to far, over-doing anything, staying somewhere to long, sitting up to long while visiting

Seek natural treatments as well:

  • Holistic
  • Oils
  • Herbal treatments from Eastern medicine

As you can see, there are many treatments available to us than ever before. But we must know of the dangers before trying treatments and medications or putting them together as a whole. Before taking any medications it’s imperative to weigh the benefits vs the side effects. There is a huge book called the PDR that all physicians have. It stands for Physician’s Desk Reference for medications. This book is extremely expensive. It contains information just like the printouts you see from your pharmacy. What the medication was made to do, the color and shape for identification purposes, its molecular state, adverse reactions and side effects. You can ask the pharmacy to print this information for you and you can look up medications on sites like: https://www.drugs.com/pdr/ . This is something that you can talk to you doctor and family about. I’ve tried medications that the side effects were worse than any benefit it provided. It’s not worth continuing with that type of reaction. Since medications are synthetic, there is always a danger of it damaging the liver and kidneys because of the process our bodies need to take to break it down. Your doctor can also keep a watch on your organs while you take the medication with lab work.

Another danger of natural and/or synthetic medications are the interactions caused by mixing the wrong ones together.

Find out from your doctor or pharmacists, or online: http://www.webmd.com/interaction-checker/ , to make sure it will not be a lethal mix.

In this new scientific technological era, healthcare is changing more quickly than ever before. Keep apprised of new medications, new medical technology and methods. The internet helps us to be in the know of what is out or coming out to help with different diseases and conditions.

Though it has taken me a decade and more of trying different medications, trials and errors to find my right combo of teams and treatment; it doesn’t have to take you as long by learning from those of us that have gone before you. You can find help this type of help for answers and up to date information in forums, online groups and sites, like this one, and Twitter chats.

Please know you are not alone and there is help and there is a way to live a better quality of life than suffering in pain.


Citations and Resources:

https://dnamelody.com/2017/02/14/our-dna-heritage-and-our-health/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316207.php

https://www.drugs.com/pdr/

http://www.webmd.com/interaction-checker/

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2000-02102-015