Gaining the Upper Hand on Chronic Pain, No Pills or Props Needed

Chronic pain is distracting, sometimes debilitating and frequently incurable. Sufferers often use pills, orthotic cushions, heating pads and other tools to MDs-future-dell-medical-school-studentsendure it, and many bear their agony in silence to keep colleagues and others from knowing. In his New York Times essay “The Secret Life of Pain,” David C. Roberts, a former academic physicist and diplomat, describes how the Mayo Clinic’s pain rehabilitation center taught him how to lessen pain's intensity and that he had control over it in his everyday life. Roberts learned that, unlike acute pain, the brain provides positive feedback to dramatizing chronic pain, and “the more you feed it, the stronger the [feedback].” Taking control of the pain meant he had to stop dwelling on it and instead embrace techniques like conscious breathing and meditation — which Roberts had previously considered “new age hooey.” Much to his surprise, his relationship to the pain gradually changed and, “after several months, I noticed that these sensations rose and fell; the constancy of the aggression had been a fantasy.”

A Summer Camp Combines Good-for-You Food and Lots of Fun

waterparkResearchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have undertaken an unusual project this month: running a camp for 20 kids and their parents at a water park resort in Orlando, Fla. The youngsters all have the kidney disease FSGS — focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. They suffer severe pain and the possibility of kidney failure, and traditional treatments don’t work. As Bob Tedeschi reports in Stat, the researchers asked themselves a simple question: “In an age when seemingly every ailment is treated with a pill, could a change in diet essentially force this disease into remission and, possibly, save these children’s lives?” Every meal served at the camp is organic and free of gluten, dairy, salt and processed sugar. Kids are enticed to eat these healthful meals with perks like “a romp at the water park, movies in a huge in-home theater, a private performance from former Ringling Bros. acrobats, and trips to Disney [World].” The young people undergo tests, and samples are shipped overnight to the lab in Boston. Lots of medical folks are eagerly awaiting the results of this one-month trial — let’s hope they will be encouraging for patients, families and health care professionals, as well as patients with different kinds of illnesses.

Fast Food Minus the Antibiotics

Hospitals around the country have been working with their physicians to end the overuse of antibiotics to treat patients, and many now also offer healthful food options in their cafeterias, including antibiotic-free meats. Happily, more and more in the food service industry are joining the campaign to fight the cows-meat-antibioticsproliferation of so-called superbugs by buying meat from suppliers that do not use antibiotics for animal food production. A Washington Post editorial applauds the trend, noting that the parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons recently announced “that by next year, it would seek to eliminate from its chicken supply the use of antibiotics important to human medicine, as defined by the World Health Organization.” McDonald's, Wendy’s, KFC and other chains have instituted similar policies. According to the editorial, “some 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are given to animals, and that is a major factor driving antibiotic resistance.” The prospect of out-of-control superbugs is a growing concern among health care professionals and it’s a relief that others outside the field are getting involved in the fight.