In The News: July 2011
Brain Imaging Shows How Meditation Reduces Pain
Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain. That’s the conclusion of researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, who claim that just a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce pain. Their study found meditation produced nearly a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. It also produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs. For the study, 15 healthy volunteers who had never meditated attended four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as focused attention—a form of mindfulness where patients are taught to attend to their breath while releasing distracting thoughts. A pain-inducing heat device was placed on the participants’ legs for a five-minute period. Scans taken after meditation training showed that all participants’ pain ratings were reduced, with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent. Researchers said one reason that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain is that it did not work at just one place in the brain, but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing. They added that meditation has significant potential for clinical use because so little training is required to produce such dramatic pain-relieving effects.
Cell Phone Exposure May Contribute to Bone Weakening
Electromagnetic radiation from cellular phones may adversely affect bone strength, according to a study conducted by researchers in Argentina. Men who routinely wear their cell phone on their belt on their right side were found to have reduced bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) in their right hip. After measuring BMC and BMD at the left and right hip for one year in two groups of men—24 who did not use cell phones and 24 who carried their cell phone in a belt pouch on their right side—those who wore cell phones had a relative reduction in BMC in the right femoral neck (near the top of the thigh bone) as well as reduced BMD and BMC at the right trochanter (outside top of the thigh bone, close to where the phone would be worn on the belt). Although the study was limited in size, researchers claim their findings show long-term exposure to cell phone radiation can adversely affect bone strength and the rate of osteoporosis among cell-phone wearers.
Vaccinations Do Not Increase RA Risk
Vaccinations, according to a recent study, are not associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Despite the long-held assumption that adult vaccinations may be an inciting agent for RA, in research presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Rheumatology no increased risk of RA following immunization was observed. Swedish investigators compared 1,998 participants with RA who were vaccinated within the five years prior to contracting RA to 2,252 participants with RA who were not. They not only found no link between vaccinations and the development of RA, but they also found no association between any specific vaccine (influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, encephalitis, hepatitis, polio, or pneumococcus) and the risk of developing RA.
Ultrasound Joint Injections Found Less Painful, More Effective
Researchers at the University of New Mexico have found that ultrasound needle guidance improves the performance and outcome of knee injections in people with osteoarthritis. To determine if ultrasound guidance affects the success of injections of medicine into, or removal of fluid from, arthritis joints, 94 patients with knee arthritis were selected for injection either by palpation-guidance (touch) or by ultrasound guidance, which allowed researchers to observe the needle entering the joint and confirm administration of lidocaine and corticosteroid as it occurred. Researchers found the ultrasound-guided method resulted in a 107 percent increase in the number of patients who responded to the treatment, a 47 percent reduction in pain during the procedure, a 41.7 percent reduction in pain two weeks after the injection, and a 35.5 percent increase in the length of time the participants experienced pain relief after the injection.