In The News: November 2011
Tai Chi Found to Ease Fibromyalgia Pain
Tai chi—an alternative therapy whose effectiveness in relieving pain has often been questioned—may be a useful treatment for the treatment of fibromyalgia. In a study conducted by Tufts Medical Center in Boston and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 66 patients with the disease did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness, and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises. Fibromyalgia is a complex condition, affecting nearly five million Americans, and its cause and treatment have long been debated. Although recent studies have suggested that tai chi, with its slow exercises, breathing, and meditation, could benefit patients with other chronic conditions, including arthritis, not all reports have been conclusive. In this study, patients received twice-weekly tai chi classes and a DVD to practice with 20 minutes daily. After 12 weeks, they not only showed marked improvement, but one-third stopped taking pain medication. The study’s authors concluded that given the complexity of fibromyalgia, tai chi has multiple components—physical, psychological, social, and spiritual—that can be brought to bear in treating the disease.
Many Joint-Replacement Patients Experience Weight Loss After Surgery
Patients often exhibit significant weight loss and a decrease in body mass index (BMI) following a knee or hip replacement. A study published in Orthopaedics studied 196 patients, median age 68, who had undergone knee or hip arthroplasty at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital from 2005 to 2007. Of the group, 19.9 percent demonstrated a significant decrease in weight (the loss of 5 percent or more of body weight) and BMI. The decrease in BMI was found to be greater in knee-replacement patients (21.5 percent) than hip-replacement patients (16.9 percent). Overweight patients, said the study’s authors, often argue that their arthritis limits their mobility and ability to exercise and are often hopeful that losing weight will be easier postoperatively. Researchers said that studies of joint-replacement patients that also incorporate nutritional guidance and long-term fitness goals may show even more encouraging results.
A Little Adversity May Help Back Pain
For people who live with chronic back pain, experiencing a little adversity can be protective and beneficial. In a study reported in the journal Pain, researchers at the University of Buffalo and University of California analyzed 396 adults with chronic back pain (CBP). They found that those with some lifetime adversity experienced less physical impairment and spent less time in doctor’s offices than those who had experienced no adversity or a high level of adversity. The subjects completed a survey of lifetime exposure to 37 adverse events, including illness or injury, sexual and non-sexual violence, bereavement, social and relationship stress, and disaster. Researchers said the key to the benefit is the experience of "some" prior adverse events vs. many or none at all, speculating that relationships between adversity and CBP outcomes may reflect the possibility that resilience is occurring. "Adversity," they concluded, "may promote the development of psychological resources that help an individual tolerate adversity. The experience of prior, low levels of adversity may cause sufferers to reappraise the symptoms of CBP as minor annoyances that do not substantially interfere with life."
Osteoporosis Drugs Do Not Increase Esophageal Cancer Risk
Although some reports have suggested a link between the use of oral bisphosphonates (drugs used to prevent bone loss) and esophageal cancer, a study of more than 80,000 patients in the U.K. found that the use of such drugs was not linked with cases of esophageal cancer. In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, British researchers investigated the association by extracting data from a bisphosphonate-user group and control group comprising 83, 652 subjects. Follow-up was 4.5 years. Researchers not only found no difference in esophageal cancer risk between the two groups, but there was no difference in risk by duration of bisphosphonate intake. They concluded that bisphosphonates should not be withheld, on the basis of possible cancer risk, from patients with a genuine clinical indication for their use.