Ever wonder why your significant other about falls down in pain when they slightly stub their toe and you can dig out a splinter with a dull kitchen knife and just shake it off? No? Turns out they (or you) might not just be a wuss. This article does explains there is “rapidly expanding evidence that dozens of genes and variants go into determining our pain sensitivity and how well analgesics – like opioids – reduce our pain and even our risk for developing chronic pain.” So, next time someone says “go rub some dirt on it” you can tell them you have a variation in your SCN9A gene. For everything you ever wanted to know about pain, go here. Speaking of pain, there wasn’t much at the All Drug Olympics.
If you stub your toe or have a headache, you might take acetaminophen to dull the pain. In fact, a recent study even showed acetaminophen can help manage acute pain as effectively as opioids. So it’s clear that acetaminophen has got physical pain down pat. But you may be surprised to learn that it can dull emotional pain as well. Yes, as in if your feelings hurt, you can take some Tylenol to feel better. It seems to work by blunting your emotional capacity, but this could be a double-edged sword (well, a blunt double-edged sword at least.) You may feel less pain, but you could also be less emotionally sensitive to your SO complaining about getting sacked or something boring like that.
The rise of the opioid crisis has also coincided with a rise in trying to treat chronic pain without opioids. An interesting newcomer to this field is VR. Yes, that VR. There have already been studies showing that VR devices can be used to distract patients from acute pain and anxiety, but can they be used for chronic pain as well? The idea is that VR could be used to enhance current alternative pain management strategies, like meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. For instance, instead of being told to go home and meditate, you could be prescribed a headset and guided through breathing exercises on a virtual beach. Hook us up with some non-virtual drinks and we’re down.
Just five days of exposure was all it took to show that morphine treatment in rats caused chronic pain that lasted for months. The morphine triggered a cascade of pain signals from immune cells in the spinal cord, which normally are meant to clear out infection-causing microorganisms. This cascade of signals increases the activity of nerve cells, which in turn leads to a long-lasting chronic pain. If the study holds true for humans, it could be a major step in explaining the outbreak of prescription painkiller addiction in recent years. Those who have taken opioids such as morphine, oxycodone and methadone may have actually been doing more harm than good as these drugs may simply numb an issue that they concurrently make worse.