News November 2005 Issue

In the News: 11/05

Painkillers Kill More Than Pain

Patients on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) now have more to worry about. A recent study conducted in Spain and reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that nearly one-third of all hospitalizations and deaths related to gastrointestinal bleeding could be attributed to the use of NSAID painkillers. Researchers claim that nearly a third of the incidents may have been due to low-dose aspirin.

The study, carried out at 26 hospitals, evaluated patients hospitalized for peptic-ulcer disease or complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation who had used painkilling drugs during the month prior to hospitalization. Some 8,010 patients experienced serious gastrointestinal bleeding and, of these, 5.7 percent died. The study further reported that the proportion of complications and deaths attributed to NSAID or aspirin use was 36.3 percent. Also noted: 90 percent of the patients who died were over the age of 60.

After comparing data from 197 additional hospitals on aspirin and NSAID use in Spain’s general population, researchers found that the death rate resulting from NSAID or aspirin-related stomach complications was 21-25 cases per million inhabitants, or about 15 deaths for every 100,000 users of aspirin or NSAIDs.

Researchers concluded that more needs to be done to heighten public awareness of the problems associated with NSAID use, and that new alternatives need especially to be found to treat pain in the elderly.

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The Verdict Is In—Exercise Matters

As someone who suffers from arthritis, you’re less likely to develop physical limitations if you exercise regularly. Researchers at Northwestern University conducted a two-year study of 5,715 elderly adults with osteoarthritis and found those who were consistently active were less likely to develop problems that interfere with day-to-day living. Those who did not get regular, vigorous exercise had twice the risk of functional decline, such as problems with walking, preparing meals, bathing, and dressing. Like most in the study group, older people with arthritis often have other medical problems. But the study, which appeared in a recent issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, suggests that staying active can also help improve your overall physical health, boost your energy level, and simply make you feel better. Vigorous exercise can include playing a sport or doing heavy housework, but regular activity, such as gardening or walking, can be brought into your daily routine.

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New Physical Therapy Technique For Chronic Back Pain

It sounds grandiose—Souchard’s Global Postural Re-Education Method—but as a new form of physical therapy for treating people with severe back pain due to disc disease, its results have been impressive.

The method involves the strengthening of muscles next to the spine that have become weak and shortened through stress or overuse, and it relieves symptoms by correcting the patient’s posture and decompressing the spinal canal.

The study involved 102 people who had severe pain due to spinal disc protrusions, spinal canal stenosis, or other disc disease. All had undergone different treatments previously, including standard physical therapy, rest, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory medications, and epidural injections.

The treatment consisted of two physical therapy sessions in the first week, then one session a week for five months. Of the 102 people involved in the study, 92 experienced significant improvement in pain and were able to fully return to daily activities. For 85 percent of the patients, improvement was seen after just three weeks of treatment, and after a period of almost two years, pain had not returned.

Results of the study, presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, were greeted with universal enthusiasm. Other treatments for chronic back pain have been of limited or no benefit, and the method is easy for physical therapists to incorporate into their existing practice. For patients, it promises to be an effective treatment without the risks of surgery or the side effects of chronic medication.