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Check Up: Pain Management December 2010

Pain Management, December 2010, Volume 3, Issue 8

A collection of news updates and top stories focused on one specific condition. A quick paragraph to catch up on the news from the past month.

Pain-free Piano Playing

Researchers may have discovered the key to playing piano without aches and pain. Research from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City suggests that

highly skilled pianists who use their back and neck muscles more frequently seem to have less pain than those who do not. The study analyzes the playing habits of pianists who had been playing for at least 10 years. Of this group, 11 experienced varying degrees of pianorelated discomfort and 21 were pain-free. An article in Science News magazine reports that “the players who were pain-free relied heavily on the strong trapezius muscles that snake from the lower neck...” Conversely, players who experienced pain used smaller muscles in their forearms more. “Not using the strapping back muscles shifts the work to the smaller, more delicate muscles in the fi ngers and arms,” said study coauthor Preeti Raghavan of New York University School of Medicine.


Pain Patches Sold Illegally, Kill Teens

The war on prescription drugs may be slowly escalating, and the recent case of two

teens overdosing from obtaining illegal pain patches and mixing them with alcohol

and other drugs is just one reason why. As reported by the WVEC.com, Nabil Issa

Butros, 29, was found guilty of selling Fentanyl pain patches to Macie Pridgen, 19,

who then shared it with Barry Sullivan, 18. Butros was sentenced “to fi ve years with

four suspended to be followed by fi ve years good behavior and supervised probation.”


Addiction-free Pain Reliever has Other Problems

In a previous issue of MDNG: Pain Management, we highlighted a number of new

drugs being developed to treat pain that were not chemically addictive. Ziconotide

was among them and was developed based on cone shell venom to treat chronic

pain. The drug works pretty well to treat pain, but according to a new report by

researchers from Rhur University in Bochum, there’s one pretty large caveat:

it may increase suicidal ideation. According to a press release, “The research

scientists thus advise careful diagnosis and monitoring of the psychic condition

of patients treated with ziconotide.” They have published their fi ndings in the

Medical Journal Pain.


It’s not all in the Mind, but the Mind Can Help

Could Eastern practices like meditation and mindfulness benefi t pain, depression,

and other conditions? According to a CNN article, the idea is certainly something

worth thinking about. “Mindfulness is becoming more integrated into psychological

therapy in the United States,” the article reads. “Therapists have found uses for it

for everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to eating disorders to anxiety.

And its effectiveness for stress reduction and other benefi ts have been supported in

scientifi c studies.” It goes on to highlight examples where mindfulness is currently

being used with success. These sites include a VA hospital in Seattle for posttraumatic

stress disorder and the Cleveland Clinic for eating disorders.


Help Wanted!

In an effort to keep a close watch on the practices of pain clinics in Florida, officials are seeking the help of physicians to investigate and examine patient records for any suspicious prescription drug activity. The Florida health department’s new program is willing to pay doctors $100 an hour “to go into clinics and help review patient records.”



Down by the Bay, Where the Watermelons Grow

Have you ever seen a bear chasing a bison with badly burned hair?

Follow the link and you can check that one off your life’s to-do list.


Who Wants to See a 300-year-old Watch Found in the Sea?

Here you go.


Health Care Reform

Are Insurers Hiding Health Data from Employers?

Concession: this is a white paper; by default it can’t be neutral reporting. That still

doesn’t mean that an organization with an agenda can’t have something poignant to

say. But enough preamble…we’ll let you be the judge. The Healthcare Performance

Management Institute, which promotes “technology and management principles

that deliver better and more cost-effective healthcare benefi ts for employers

who cover their employees,” is saying that existing payment structures create

a perverse incentive for insurers and benefi ts consultants to hide “data that

business could use to identify ways to reduce their health costs.” According to

George Pantos, Executive Director of the HPM Institute, “Insurers and brokers

have little incentive to help their clients reduce spending on health benefi ts. After

all, most brokers and consultants are paid on commission—so the higher the cost

of the policy they sell, the more money they make.”


Charity Reform

Are Your Donations Being Put to Work?

This site operates on a simple and benefi cial principle: “advance a more effi cient

and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the fi nancial health of over

5,500 of America’s largest charities.” If you want to know whether your donation

is going to pay someone’s salary or actually be put toward the organization’s stated

mission, this is where you should turn.


Bonus: The 20 Worst Charities in America (http://hcp.lv/bvBqzp).

Airline Industry Reform

Are Your Donations Being Put to Work?

This site operates on a simple and benefi cial principle: “advance a more effi cient

and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the fi nancial health of over

5,500 of America’s largest charities.” If you want to know whether your donation

is going to pay someone’s salary or actually be put toward the organization’s stated

mission, this is where you should turn.


Redesigning the Boarding Pass

Last month it was the dollar bill (http://hcp.lv/9WoGeU). This month it’s the

boarding pass. And why not? We’ve already shown you that buying a ticket

online can be a much more enjoyable experience, so why stop there? Until we

saw the alternate designs, we never realized exactly how counter-intuitively

boarding passes are laid out. It’s a jumbled mess of small print and arbitrarily

placed information. The various redesigns are both effi cient and eye-pleasing.


Laugh, Cry, Think

In honor of the late Jim Valvano

Record Number of Americans Tested for HIV

Despite the fact that a total of “82.9 million adults ages 18 to 64 said they had been tested for HIV for the fi rst time [in 2009]—11.4 million more than the total in 2006”—more

than 200,000 Americans are infected and don’t know it. Could it be that Americans have grown complacent since the massive AIDS awareness and prevention campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s? Maybe. It could also be that testing was not readily available to those 200,000 HIV individuals, or that they are part of an at-risk demographic reluctant to be

tested in the fi rst place. “More needs to be done to make HIV testing a routine part of health care,” says Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program. This includes removing the stigma surrounding HIV. “Because of

the confi dentiality associated with HIV, it’s not considered the same as any sexually transmitted disease,” comments Michael Kolber, MD, director of the comprehensive

AIDS program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Like cancer, being

HIV is not necessarily a death sentence, but is more likely to be one if people fear becoming social outcasts because of it.


Happy Belated Halloween

Skeleton Steak

We probably should have included this in the October issue in order to help you get

into the Halloween spirit, but we only just found this while looking for bad music on

YouTube. Still, you can put this song in storage and break it out next year if you’re

getting sick of hearing “Monster Mash” for 48 hours straight. Bonus: The song

was actually written for Japanese students trying to learn English, and if you visit

GenkiJapanNet’s YouTube page, you can fi nd plenty of videos for English speakers

trying to learn Japanese. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is quite catchy.



Gay Rights Circa 1973

Meet the Lavender Panthers, “a stiff-wristed team of gay vigilantes” who roamed

the streets looking to protect other homosexuals from gang beatings, led by an

Episcopalian reverend who was himself beaten up outside the Helping Hands Gay

Community Service Center that he ran. They didn’t carry guns, but they put pool

cues to good use. A fascinating article from Time magazine that shows how far our

society has come and how far we’ve yet to go.