Blog - St. Louis Pain Management Center | Best Pain Management Doctor

About Vitamin D

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is not truly a vitamin.

Compounds are called vitamins only if they cannot be synthesized , and must be obtained from the diet.  Vitamin D, however, is produced in sufficient quantity in the presence of sunlight and cholesterol and should not be considered a vitamin.

In addition, cholesterol is the precursor for most hormones, and Vitamin D should really be viewed as a light dependent fat-soluble hormone.

Historically we have thought that Vitamin D was involved in the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorous from the intestine, and were concerned primarily about its involvement as an osteoporosis risk factor.  However, the reality is that Vitamin D is involved in a variety of metabolism functions, not just bone health.


  • Abnormal low levels of Vitamin D are associated with increased risk of death and disability from cardiovascular disease and cancer.


  • Vitamin D is also involved in general metabolism and reducing obesity through effects on testosterone, thyroid hormones, and insulin.


  • Vitamin D is also involved in neurologic autoimmune dysfunctions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.


Why is my Vitamin D level low?

There are a variety of  reasons why Vitamin D levels are found to be low in an otherwise healthy person:

Inadequate Vitamin D intake, which could be a function of poor diet or a diet contaminated with other fat-soluble agents, such as organochlorine pesticides, which prevent adequate absorption.

Inadequate sunlight exposure, due in part to industrialization and conversion to an indoor lifestyle and also to medical recommendation to reduce sunlight exposure and in fact even use sunlight blocking agents.  Sunscreen blocks sunlight and an SPF (sun protection factor) of 8 blocks 95% of the sun, so there needs to be a careful balance between over- and under- sun exposure.

Drinking milk is not a good source of Vitamin D, as an 8 oz glass of fortified milk contains merely 100 IU in comparison to 15 minutes of sun exposure which generates 20,000 IU of Vitamin D.


How do I replace my Vitamin D?

We typically replace Vitamin D only if the measured levels are found to be low; and this is usually associated with other endocrine abnormalities which can be addressed simultaneously.  Vitamin D replacement therapy is done by oral supplement, typically using a once a week preparation.  Retesting of the level should be done after three to six months of consistent replacement.  Replacing Vitamin D should only be done after a blood test confirms that the levels are low, because too much Vitamin D can also cause serious complications.


Where to buy Vitamin D?

Vitamin D3 is typically prescribed, but is also available over the counter.  I typically recommend purchasing it inexpensively through Amazon, since a two year supply of Vitamin D3 (50,000 units) taken once a week is cheaper than copay for a one month supply from the traditional pharmacy.


Addiction and pain management

Get your life back! We specialize in Suboxone therapy for opiate addiction patient’s who also have chronic pain. The Padda Institute is an outpatient facility where we ease patients through the recovery process from addiction. We specialize in the confidential treatment of patients in both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Our experienced staff will develop a results based individualized treatment plan for you based on your addiction history and your specific needs.

Opiate Addiction and chronic pain are not uncommon

[learn_more caption=”Opiate Addiction and chronic pain are not uncommon”] Opiate addiction as well as chronic pain can impact so many aspects of a persons quality of life and sense of well being. We offer thorough evaluation and customized treatment plans to help patients achieve and maintain their best functional recovery from addiction, chronic pain or both. • Nearly 36% of people experience disabling pain in any given year. • In addition, 57% of people ages 65 and older experience pain that has lasted more than 12 months. • Reportedly 32% of chronic pain patients have addictive disorder, and nearly 60% of people addicted to opiates have chronic pain. These statistics, and my personal medical practice observation suggest that there is a tremendous overlap in patient’s who have chronic pain and also have addiction to medication. [/learn_more]


Specialized treatment is needed for patient’s with both addiction and chronic pain

Chronic pain and addiction are not static conditions. Both fluctuate in intensity over time and under different circumstances and

require ongoing management. Treatment for one condition can support or conflict with treatment for the other; a medication that may be appropriately prescribed for a particular chronic pain condition may be inappropriate given the patient’s substance use history. Other commonalities include the following:

  • Both are neurobiological conditions with evidence of disordered central brain function.
  • Both are mediated by genetics and environment.
  • Both may have significant behavioral components.
  • Both may have serious harmful consequences if untreated.
  • Both often require multifaceted treatment

Pain and addiction are related

[learn_more caption=”Pain and Addiction are related”] Pain Both pain and responses to pain are shaped by culture, temperament, psychological state, memory, cognition, beliefs and expectations, co-occurring health conditions, gender, age, and other biopsychosocial factors. Because pain is both a sensory and an emotional experience, it is by nature subjective. Addiction A person may use substances initially for several reasons, such as to experience the euphoric effects, to relieve stress, to overcome anxiety or depression (or both), or to blunt the pain. With repeated exposure, however, substance use in some people can become uncontrollable. Changes to the brain occur in a process that is mediated by both genetic and environmental factors, which result in an overvaluation of the substance, a devaluation of other things, andimpaired control of substance-related behavior. Evidence indicates that addiction is a chronic disease. The primary rewarding effects of addictive substances occur in the cortico-mesolimbic dopamine systems, where several structures link to control the basic emotions and connect them to memories, which drive behavior. These systems produce sensations of pleasure in response to actions that support survival (e.g., eating, sex) and sensations of fear in response to potential dangers. In a cascading effect, these sensations trigger the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems, stimulating bodily responses. The prefrontal cortex also plays a role in the formation of addictions, modifying pleasure and pain signals based on other considerations. Thus, the brain’s reward and stress systems reinforce life-sustaining behaviors. Development of addiction in pain patients: In some people, a cycle develops in which pain or distress elicits severe preoccupation with the substance that previously provided relief. This cycle—seeking pain relief, experiencing relief, and then having pain recur—can be very difficult to break, even in the person without an addiction, and the development of addiction markedly exacerbates the difficulty. The propensity to develop this cycle is influenced by genetic and environmental factors; some people will experience greater degrees of analgesia than others, and some will have more severe or prolonged abstinence symptoms. Genetic variability in susceptibility to these experiences may explain some cases of iatrogenic addiction. [/learn_more]


About our program for addiction and chronic pain

Suboxone therapy is a type of maintainance treatment for opiate addiction. Maintenance treatment is a method of minimizing opiate withdrawals and relapse episodes by using medications.  Suboxone was approved in 2000 for the maintenance treatment of opiate addiction. Suboxone effects the same area of the brain as other opiates. Suboxone also blocks the effects of any opiates that might be used. This eliminates cravings and diminishes the chance that the Suboxone will be abused. For opiate addicts, Suboxone has become an affordable, convenient, and safer alternative to Methadone. While regular monthly visits to the clinic are still required, the patient no longer has to visit the clinic every day.


Stated simply, Suboxone is designed to do two things:

1. minimize cravings

2. lessen the high felt when using an abused substance


We also advocate participation in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) which we believe can provide a strong support network for people in recovery.



We understand the process of recovery from addiction can be a long and painful one. By developing an individualized plan of care for each patient, we help aid the patient into sobriety. As clinicians’ we make the process as easy as possible by providing both medical support to minimize withdrawals and its symptoms  and psychological support that can increase the likelihood of treatment success.  We have three distinct phases of treatment:


Phase 1: Outpatient Detox and Titration

This involves an 8-12 hour stay at our facility for the first day. You will be given your first dose of Suboxone and monitored to determine the medication’s effectiveness. One or two follow-up visits will be scheduled over the next week to monitor your progress. (During this visit, a urine drug screen will be obtained.)


Phase 2: Maintenance Phase:

Following detox, you will progress to a monthly maintenance phase. This continues for the duration of the Suboxone treatment.


Phase 3: Weaning

A slow weaning phase is attempted after an appropriate period of time and if significant support is available as well as patient motivation.  After several months, patients will be gradually tapered off of Suboxone by lowering daily dose until patients no longer require Suboxone. At this time counseling is still strongly recommended to watch for any signs of relapse.


Detox can be the beginning of a new life for you… a life free from the chemicals that are causing such destruction and devastation in your life.

“Do It Yourself” detox from substances like Alcohol, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, etc., can lead to life-threatening complications such as seizures, brain injuries, and death. The severity varies depending upon the person, the substance abused, the amount abused, and the frequency of abuse.  Detox should be medically supervised.






Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

The hallmark of CRPS is pain and mobility problems out of proportion to those expected from the initial injury.

“Of all the chronic neuropathic pain syndromes, none has perplexed patient, clinician, and scientist more than the complex regional pain syndromes (CRPS), heretofore known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and causalgia.”

  • Galer BS CRPS In Loeser J (ed) Bonica’s Management of Pain 3rd Ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2001 p 388



Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is the new term for what we used to call RSD or causalgia. Symptoms can develop into CRPS from a major nerve injury (CRPS Type II) or from minimal or no trauma (CRPS Type I).


Healthy nerve structure

Variety of methods by which nerves can suffer partial damage leading to CRPS.




Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is the new term for what we used to call RSD or causalgia.  Symptoms can develop into CRPS from a major nerve injury (CRPS Type II) or from minimal or no trauma (CRPS Type I).


Stage 1

The first stage typically lasts about 3 months and starts with severe, burning localized pain, hyperesthesia, localized edema, stiffness and vasospasm (warm, red and dry at first, then changes to cyanotic, cold and sweaty).

Stage 2

The second stage (which lasts 3-6 months), pain becomes more severe and diffuse.  Edema spreads, hair becomes scant, and nails become brittle, cracked and grooved.  Osteoporosis appears and spreads while muscles waste.

Stage 3

The third stage Pain may spread to the entire limb in stage 3, with marked muscle atrophy, extreme joint weakness and limited mobility.  Bone deossification becomes diffuse.  Contractures are often seen, with near mummification of the extremities.




RSD involves both pain and skin changes.



Pain from CRPS:

The hallmark of CRPS is pain and mobility problems out of proportion to those expected from the initial injury. The first and primary complaint occurring in one or more extremities is described as severe, constant, burning and/or deep aching pain. All tactile stimulation of the skin (e.g. wearing clothing, a light breeze) may be perceived as painful (allodynia). Repetitive tactile stimulation (e.g. tapping on the skin) may cause increasing pain with each tap and when the repetitive stimulation stops, there may be a prolonged after-sensation of pain (hyperpathia). There may be diffuse tenderness or point-tender spots in the muscles of the affected region due to small muscle spasms called muscle trigger points (myofascial pain syndrome). There may be spontaneous sharp jabs of pain in the affected region that seem to come from nowhere (paroxysmal dysesthesias and lancinating pains).


Skin changes in CRPS:

The skin may appear shiny (dystrophy-atrophy), dry or scaly. Hair may initially grow coarse and then thin. Nails in the affected extremity may be more brittle, grow faster and then slower. Faster growing nails is almost proof that the patient has CRPS.


CRPS is associated with a variety of skin disorders including rashes, ulcers and pustules.  Although extremely rare, some patients have required amputation of an extremity due to life-threatening recurring infections of the skin. Abnormal sympathetic (vasomotor changes) activity may be associated with skin that is either warm or cold to touch. The patient may perceive sensations of warmth or coolness in the affected limb without even touching it (vasomotor changes). The skin may show increased sweating (sudomotor changes) or increased chilling of the skin with goose flesh (pilomotor changes). Changes in skin color can range from a white mottled appearance to a red or blue appearance. Changes in skin color (and pain) can be triggered by changes in the room temperature, especially cold environments. However, many of these changes occur without any apparent provocation.


Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a malignant pain syndrome most often seen in the distal upper or lower extremities, but in variant forms also affects more proximal structures.  It is characterized by:


  • extremity pain, often severe (often seen in a stocking or glove pattern)
  • most commonly, involvement of the hand or foot, following injury to that structure or to a proximal limb structure;
  • allodynia (pain to non-painful touch) and hyperpathia;
  • peripheral thermal abnormalities;
  • other symptoms and signs of local autonomic nervous system dysfunction may be present, including locally increased or decreased sweating and edema;
  • local trophic changes;
  • progressive osteoporosis of the affected extremity
  • flexion contracture with significant atrophy


CRPS usually remains restricted to one limb, but it can spread to other body parts. Processes in the spinal cord as well as supraspinal changes are responsible for spontaneous spread in CRPS to other extremities.



Diagnosis is made largely on the basis of history and clinical examination.  A dynamic phase bone scan may help to document perfusion abnormality and is the most sensitive and specific study applicable in diagnosis.  Local sympathetic anesthetic block, performed for treatment, typically results in pain relief outlasting the transient anesthetic effect, which is supportive of the diagnosis.

Evaporative skin testing with loss of temperature discrimination and development of allodynia upon evaporation is a useful screening tool.

Electrodiagnostic testing to exclude nerve entrapment as well as Neurodiagnostic imaging may be necessary to exclude a neuraxial pathology, such as a bulging disc.


Patients with ischemic rest pain (pain from insufficient blood supply due to advanced CRPS):

  • Frequently are sleep deprived
  • Are limited in mobility and activities of daily living
  • Often will consent to amputation for pain relief
  • Often are unable to obtain adequate pain relief from narcotic medication
  • Rarely improve spontaneously, unless the blood perfusion to the affected area can be improved
  • Have a high incidence of major depression disorder and are high risk of suicide


Treatment options:

Early diagnosis in the first six months to maximal two years is the key to successful treatment. Surgical sympathectomy procedures (removal of a part of the chain of sympathetic ganglia on the side of the spine) have limited application for the treatment of RSD.


Management options include sympathetic blocks utilizing regional anesthetic techniques and radiofrequency thermoneurolysis or neuromodulation with spinal cord stimulation or peripheral nerve stimulation.  Radiofrequency neurolysis is an extension of a continuous regional sympathetic block or neurolytic block providing long-term relief with added safety.

Consideration of sympathetic blocks is to facilitate management of CRPS with analgesia commensurate with a program of functional restoration and sympatholysis to provide unequivocal evidence of sympathetically maintained pain. Once it is established that sympatholysis is effective in relieving not only the burning dysesthesia but also allodynia or hyperalgesia, it is important to repeat the procedure to determine whether an increasing duration of effect can be expected in any particular patient. If this is the case, these individual blocks may be all that are necessary to enable a patient to regain function. When sympatholysis completely relieves the symptoms and facilitates exercise therapy but is limited to its duration of effect, it is appropriate to consider a prolonged block using radiofrequency neurolysis.

Radiofrequency has been described for lesioning of the cervical sympathetic chain, thoracic sympathetic chain, and lumbar sympathetic chain, in cases of CRPS I and II, as well as for neuropathic pain.


Sleep disturbance and pain

There is a dramatic upsurge of diseases and related conditions resulting from the Sleep Apnea and the Obesity Epidemic.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75 million Americas are affected by some type of sleep disorder and more than 18 million suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) alone.  It is estimated that a staggering percentage of those affected, 92% of women and 80% of men remain undiagnosed.  Complications from untreated sleep disorders include excessive daytime sleepiness and neurocognitive deficits including decreased intellectual capacity and psychomotor vigilance (such as the ability to drive).  Additionally, patients with untreated OSA are at increased risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, and other co-morbidities.


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Symptoms of significant sleep disturbance include:

  • Loud nighttime snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • REM behavior disorder (abnormal body movements during dreaming)



If you’re not sure if you need to have a sleep test, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale might help you decide. It  is a useful measurement of daytime sleepiness that doctors use to initially evaluate patients for sleep disorders.

People with sleep apnea experience cessations in breathing during sleep, and the condition is associated with a range of serious side effects and illnesses. It used to be that you had to go into a sleep lab to have polysomnography, or a sleep test, in order to diagnose sleep apnea. At home testing is also now possible if ordered by your physician, so you can take the test discreetly, in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Linkage of pain to sleep disturbance

Sleep disturbance is perhaps one of the most prevalent complaints of patients with chronically painful conditions.  Of all medical conditions, pain is the number one cause of insomnia. With chronic pain problems, difficulty falling asleep is one of the most prevalent types of sleep disruption.  However, awakening during the night and awakening earlier than desired are also frequent problems.

Research surveys of those with chronic pain problems have found that 65% report that they are awakened during the night due to pain and 62% report waking too early due to pain. In addition, many patients with chronic back pain problems do not feel “refreshed” in the morning when they awaken, a sleeping problem termed “non-restorative sleep.”  The National Sleep Foundation reports that 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers experience sleep problems. Approximately 15% of all people have sleep problems. Compounding the problem of disturbed sleep in people who hurt is the fact that some chronic pain medications tend to disrupt sleeping patterns.


Chronic pain sufferer experiences fragmented sleep due to:

  • Positional discomfort
  • Elevated Epinephrine/ Norepinephrine from stress responses as part of a flight or fight reaction, with secondary cortisol release.
  • Excessive carbohydrate consumption from ingestion analgesia and from sodium retention due to cortisol elevation
  • Obesity which occurs due to reduced Basal Metabolic Rate and due to excessive ingestion and preferential visceral fat deposition due to cortisol

Fragmented sleep leads to a vicious cycle– sleep disruption caused by chronic pain exacerbates the pain and obesity, which in turn interrupts sleep. With repetition, this becomes a hardwired pattern, a concept called neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life is often referred to as  neuroplasticity and is the basis of learned behavior).  Sleep deprivation increases neuroplasticity-related gene expression, strengthening synapses in brain regions involved in mood regulation, creating a hard wiring of pain-insomnia-obesity behavior.


Normal Sleep Patterns

Sleep is divided into 2 different phases – Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) and Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM).  Microarousals are quite common.

We spend about 70% of our time in NREM sleep and 30% in REM sleep. The proportion of each changes through our lives from infancy to senility.

  • REM sleep has the following features:-
    • Rapid eye movements associated with typical saw tooth brain wave patterns on EEG (Electro-encephalogram)
    • A rise in heart rate, blood pressure, associated with an irregular breathing pattern
    • Susceptibility to being woken by sensory stimuli – light, noise, touch, pain
    • Paralysis of all muscles except the diaphragm
  • NREM sleep can be divided into 2 phases – transitional and deep:-
    • Transitional sleep is divided into stages 1 and 2
      • Stage 1 – The transition from wake to sleep occurs within minutes of the onset of slow rolling eye movements. The subject is less aware of their surroundings then just a few minutes ago. They may waken by a whisper, or noise. They are relaxed, their breathing is more regular and there is slower, rolling eye movement noticed. There may also be  “hypnogogic experiences” – dream-like sensations of falling, hearing voices, or seeing flashes of pictures. It takes 5 – 10 minutes to progress to Stage 2. Stage 1 accounts for only about 5% of the total sleep time.
      • Stage 2 – Stage two is the first stage of true sleep and accounts for about 50% of total sleep. The subject is even less aware of their surroundings and is characterized by as light sleep since individuals are easily aroused from this sleep state. Stage 1 & 2 are “transitional” stages of sleep. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete these stages and enter Stage 3.
    • Deep sleep is divided into stages 3 and 4
      • Stages 3 and 4 are also referred as Slow Wave Sleep (Delta Waves). As the subject is in a very relaxed state, they have a slow, regular heartbeat and respiratory rate. Their muscles are very relaxed. It is very difficult to arouse a patient in “Slow Wave Sleep”. If they are awakened, they are confused and slow to react. It is normally easy for them to go back to sleep.
  • Normal Sleep Cycles
    • Cycling  from deep sleep to REM sleep and back again occurs several times during a normal nights sleep. There is tendency to have more deep sleep at the beginning of the sleep period and increasing amounts of REM later in the period.


Diagnosing sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is an under-diagnosed condition that results in breathing cessations during sleep, up to hundreds of times a night, which can critically lower blood oxygen levels. If left untreated, sleep apnea is associated with a host of problems including daytime sleepiness, increase in car accidents and serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Symptoms of sleep apnea can be hard to define because they are vague and often can be explained away by a patient’s overall condition. Snoring and daytime sleepiness are two hallmarks of sleep apnea, but do not in and of themselves prove someone has the condition. The first step in evaluating those symptoms is for your doctor to rule out other medical reasons for sleepiness such as interrupted sleep due to environmental reasons, narcolepsy, night shift work, etc.

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Additional indicators of sleep apnea that merit a sleeping test or an evaluation by a sleep specialist include:

  • Sleepiness that is dangerous to others (pilots, truck drivers, and anyone who drives).
  • Sleepiness that affects quality of life.
  • Partner reports of choking and gasping spells during sleep.
  • The presence of strongly associated conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Children who snore loudly and have difficulty with concentration and paying attention in school.


The best options for diagnosing sleep apnea are either an overnight polysomnography, which is conducted in a sleep lab, or a home sleeping test. Both tests evaluate the various sleep stages patients go through, and both monitor changes in breathing, episode of apnea (breathing cessation) and blood oxygen levels. Sleep lab studies are more labor-intensive and expensive, and home tests offer significant savings and patient comfort. However, home tests may not be appropriate for evaluating other sleep disorders, so if the results are unclear, a full polysomnography in a sleep lab may be necessary.

Many people prefer home sleep testing because it is more private, more comfortable, and is accurate in evaluating for the number of apneas, drops in oxygen, and heart rate variability. People with certain kinds of jobs such as pilots and truck drivers may choose home testing because it is more discreet and participation in a sleep study is less likely to be known to employers.

No matter where or how you get tested, greater than five episodes of apnea lasting longer than 10 seconds is considered significant sleep apnea if you are sleepy, and more than 15 episodes regardless of how sleepy you are. The good news is that there is effective treatment for sleep apnea, including CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight may also help the condition. The most important thing for symptomatic people to do is get tested, either at home or in a sleep lab, so sleep apnea doesn’t interfere any further with their quality of life.


What is polysomnography?

Polysomnography is considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. OSA is a common but under-diagnosed condition in which breathing ceases temporarily during sleep, up to hundreds of times per night, resulting in lowered blood oxygen levels.  Polysomnography is a study of how you sleep, or how you try to sleep. It is usually performed to evaluate sleep problems and diagnose possible sleep disorders.

Trained sleep specialists perform Polysomnography at a sleep lab or sleep center. Patients sleep in beds at the center, at their usual bedtime, in a comfortable bedroom. They are monitored both visually and electronically. The test is done at night in order to study normal sleep patterns.

Electrodes are placed on the chin, scalp, and outer edges of the eyes, and monitors are placed on the body to record heart rate and breathing. The sleep specialists directly watch patients while they sleep and record changes in position, breathing and heart rate. Episodes of apnea, or cessations in breathing, are also recorded. A video camera records position changes throughout the night. In addition, airflow through the nose and mouth, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels are monitored.

The electrodes send signals indicating the two states of sleep; Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep is associated with dreaming, and NREM has four different stages that the electrodes can detect. Normally, REM and NREM sleep alternate approximately every 90 minutes during the night. That means most people have four to five cycles of REM and NREM each night.

People with a normal sleep patterns will show normal brain waves and muscle movements during sleep, and no significant breathing difficulties. Abnormal results can lead to diagnosis of a sleep disorder. Reduced airflow through the nose and mouth, along with a fall in blood oxygen levels, may indicate sleep apnea.

Sleep disorders are associated with serious complications and effective treatment is available, so polysomnography is a highly useful tool for people who suspect they have sleep apnea or another sleeping problem.


Linkage of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) to obesity.

New research reveals that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may cause more severe consequences in overweight people than in people of normal weight. A study, published in the October 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that greater oxygen depletion occurred in the blood of overweight people with OSA both during and after apnea events.

Apnea events are cessations in breathing during sleep that can happen up to hundreds of times a night, and that can cause significant reductions in blood oxygen levels. These reductions appear to be greater in overweight people, possibly leading to more severe outcomes. Since sleep apnea is related to the development of serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke, as well as daytime sleepiness and increased automobile accidents, all of these risks could be greater among overweight people with OSA. The study revealed that overweight people have more frequent episodes of apnea during sleep.

The researchers were careful to account for age, gender, and body position during sleep, so they can be sure it was body weight that contributed to the severity of oxygen saturation reductions in the people with OSA. They note that it isn’t just obese people that suffer from more severe episodes of apnea; anyone above the normal maximum Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is at increased risk. A 10% increase in BMI led to a 10% increase in oxygen depletion associated with sleep apnea. In other words, the greater your weight, the greater the consequences.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that excess weight is a significant risk factor for the development, progression, and severity of OSA. Doctors and sleep specialists need to be aware that their overweight patients might be suffering from greater oxygen depletion related to OSA, even if they have the same number of sleep apnea events during the night as normal weight patients. People with sleep apnea who are overweight should keep in mind that any reduction in body weight would be beneficial to reducing the severity of their sleep apnea events, and to improving overall blood oxygen levels during sleep.


Improved sleep leads to better weight loss.

It may come as no surprise that being overweight causes sleep problems, but new research shows that the reverse may also be true! Sleep problems may be the reason you are putting on weight or unable to reduce weight with diet and exercise.

There are several explanations for why sleep loss causes weight gain.  Two key players are the hormones leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin suppresses appetite while ghrelin does just the opposite – it stimulates it. In just a few weeks of not sleeping well, your leptin levels can decrease by as much as 15%. Instead of registering that you are no longer hungry, your brain receives the message, ‘Hey! I am hungry. I need to eat.’  Uh oh!

A few years ago there was great hope in the obese community that leptin would be the magic weight loss solution everyone was looking for – but this proved not to be the case. Obese patients typically suffer from a condition called leptin resistance where despite having high leptin levels, which should help them lose weight, they no longer respond to the hormone effectively. To regain leptin sensitivity, patients first need to decrease body fat, because leptin is produced by adipocytes and the brain becomes resistant to the excessive leptin production in obese individuals.

Once sleep apnea is treated, you will be able to lose weight.   Getting a good night’s rest contributes to proper hormone function as well as providing energy for exercise – both of which are essential for effective weight loss. Patients need to recognize the importance of sleeping well for long-term weight control, as well as for overall good health.  Many people unknowingly suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder, affects over 20 million Americans, yet the majority remains undiagnosed. A person who suffers from sleep apnea typically stops breathing for periods of 10 to 60 seconds, possibly hundreds of times throughout the night, resulting in a very poor quality of sleep.


Taking a pill will not improve your sleep; it will just make you forget you slept poorly.

A New York Times article reports that about 42 million prescriptions for sleep medication were issued in 2005. Aside from being over prescribed, sleep medications these days can have strange side effects (parasomnias) such as sleep driving, sleep-sex, and sleep eating.  Drug makers target and capitalize on the public perception that “modern day lifestyle” is frenetic, and that a restful eight hours of sleep is an absolute necessity; although physiologically our natural pattern of sleep is supposed to include short periods of microarousal.

Sleeping Pills (benzodiazepine family) are often used to treat insomnia, but long-term use is not recommended. They have been shown to disturb the normal NREM:REM sleep ratios during the night, causing the sufferer to awaken unrefreshed even though they’ve had a reasonable number of hours sleep. They also cause rebound sleeplessness on withdrawal, making them highly addictive. Sleeping pills also worsen obstructive sleep apnea.

These days, we all live with more stress than usual and it may be affecting your sleep. While it’s normal to have the occasional night when you can’t sleep very well, having those kind of nights more often can indicate a more serious problem. If you regularly take medications to fall asleep, even over-the counter medicines, you could be masking a sleep disorder – and not solving the problem causing it.

Insomnia is a symptom of an underlying issue, and is not an illness in itself. By simply taking pills and not dealing with the underlying causes of your sleeping problems, there’s little chance it will ever go away – and it could get worse. And if you are taking prescription sleep medications, there is the potential for addiction, which is a very difficult habit to break that may require professional help.

There are additional risks to allowing a sleep disorder to continue while simply taking sleeping pills at night. Sleep disorders are associated with serious health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – not to mention quality of life issues such as daytime sleepiness, general fatigue, and increased car accidents.

If you find yourself needing sleeping pills more than very occasionally, it’s important to talk to your doctor about treating the cause of your sleeping problems. A good physician will do more than simply write a prescription. He or she will talk to you about what’s going on in your life, any other physical or emotional problems you are dealing with, and what might be affecting your ability to sleep well at night. You will also be evaluated for a possible sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing ceases for a period of time, up to hundreds of times a night. It is associated with a host of serious health problems but can be effectively treated – without pills.

You can also make some simple lifestyle changes to sleep better at night. Getting 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise each day is an excellent sleep enhancer. Avoid alcohol or caffeine within 5 hours of bedtime, and try to maintain a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends. Your body will get used to the routine and you will feel sleepier at night and better in the mornings.

If these changes don’t help and you continue to experience insomnia or symptoms of a sleep disorder (loud snoring, daytime fatigue, inability to concentrate) – don’t turn to pills to fix the problem. Talk to your doctor and get to the root of the problem, so you can eliminate it without having to turn to medications.

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How to sleep better with chronic pain:

  • Optimize pain relief by using interventional techniques and minimize benzodiazepines and narcotic analgesics.
  • Maintain a schedule – Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and vacations, maintaining a circadian rhythm.
  • Regular exercise improves sleeping habits. Exercise between twenty to thirty minutes a day for the best results, but take care not to exercise within five hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t Lie Awake – If you cannot fall asleep, don’t lie in bed awake. Worrying about sleep actually keeps many people awake. Get up and do something else until you feel sleepy.
  • Limit Alcohol, Nicotine and Caffeine – Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants, and should be avoided up to 12 hours before bedtime. Alcohol is a sedative, and may appear to promote sleep in the early part of the night, but may then cause a very disturbed sleep pattern for the rest of the night.
  • Eat and Drink Long Before Bedtime – A heavy meal before bed can cause indigestion, which can keep you up.
  • Drinking fluids before bed can interrupt your rest by causing you to get up to urinate. Try to avoid both food and fluids for at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Relax – Spending some down time before bed can relax you enough that falling asleep comes easier.
  • Meditation, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques may all work. Relaxation could be as simple as a warm bath, or quiet reading (but not in the bedroom).
  • Consider Melatonin supplements – Melatonin is a natural substance that builds up in the body as daylight fades, making people drowsy.
  • Taking a warm bath in the evening, which can relax muscles.
  • Stretching for three to five minutes before going to bed, which can loosen joints and make assuming a comfortable position in bed more likely.
  • Drinking a warm, non-caffeinated beverage about an hour before bedtime, such as warm milk, or herbal tea.
  • Keep the Bedroom for Two Things (sleeping and sex) – Watching television, paying the bills, reading a book, and listening to music in the bedroom are not recommended.



Opioids: use and misuse in chronic pain management

Opioids have been historically used for pain for thousands of years, but opioid therapy for chronic non-cancer pain remains controversial, despite the fact that opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.  The prevalence of chronic pain in the adult population averages a median point prevalence rate of 15%, but some studies suggest rates of nearly 40%.  Prevalence rates are higher in the elderly, those suffering significant physically traumatic injuries, or malignancy.  Pain is often associated with severe functional limitations and difficulty in performing daily life activities.  Pain disables more people than heart disease and cancer combined, carrying a significant societal cost.

Papaver somniferum (opium poppy), is the species of plant from which opium and poppy seeds are extracted. Opium is the source of many opiates, including morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine.



Although pain is difficult to measure directly in individual patient, as it is considered a “subjective” symptom, its effects are abundantly clear in the suffering individual and their immediate caregivers, reducing individual and caregiver socioeconomic status. Reduced earnings are evident in not only the individual with pain, but their immediate associated caregivers by at least one quartile, which is reversed upon adequate relief of pain and return to function of the individual.


Judicious use of opioids in selected patients with chronic non-cancer pain who have not responded to other treatments and analgesic medications is considered acceptable, but remains controversial due to concerns regarding the long-term effectiveness, safety, risk of tolerance, dependence, and abuse.  Keep in mind that the efficacy of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain has been demonstrated in only short-term trials, including those for neuropathic pain, but the evidence is limited for long term chronic non-cancer pain.


Regulatory concerns by prescribers are neither inconsequential nor unfounded, due to the unprecedented diversion rates by unscrupulous “patients,” with up to 30% of patients diverting some or all of their medication for direct economic gain or for recreational abuse.  Simultaneously, empowered patients rightfully demand relief from suffering while regulatory bodies rightfully attempt to limit improper prescribing as a significant public health and policy concern.  Sophisticated illegitimate patients also leverage physician prescribing by threatening regulatory reporting for under prescribing or by fabricating physician quality of care concerns.

Legitimate prescribers often feel caught between the needs of patient’s presenting with subjective complaints, and their fear of improper prescribing to unscrupulous sophisticated “patients.”

Further muddying the waters, some individuals truly legitimate in their need for opioid analgesia, undergo neuroplastic changes in the peripheral and central nervous system (CNS) leading to a sensitization of pronociceptive pathways, resulting in a opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH).  The condition is characterized by a paradoxical response, whereby a patient receiving opioids for the treatment of pain could actually become more sensitive to stimuli, resulting in a reduction in the opioid’s treatment effect in the absence of disease progression, often mimicking the neurobehavioral effects of addiction.  Escalating doses in chronic opioid therapy might cause OIH by inducing a vicious cycle of increasing dosage and anxiety for both the physician and patient.  Referral to a qualified interventional pain clinic for multimodal therapy to minimize opioid utilization is strongly encouraged for patient’s with suspected OIH, reducing both physician anxiety and improving patient care.

Safely navigating a course of care in these treacherous waters poses a difficult challenge to the prescriber, sworn to relieve suffering of the individual but cognizant of the unintended consequences to society and to self for inadvertent improper prescribing.

Although many of these challenging patients can be managed in a primary setting, the necessity for close monitoring for therapeutic use, overuse, abuse, and diversion of controlled substances is an absolute necessity and requires specific unwavering treatment protocols, which will result in occasional patient dissatisfaction, sometimes quite vocal. These protocols must include a methodology to monitor consumption against prescription dispensation, with an accurate cost effective biological validation, such as a qualitative in-office urine drug screen cross validated by a more sensitive quantitative laboratory analysis.  These protocols must also minimize the use of opioids overall, using adjuvant therapies which should include interventional, behavioral, non-opioid pharmaceutical, or physical therapy options.

Most importantly, a clearly defined prescriber exit strategy should exist when utilizing opioids to treat chronic pain because of the potential complications in managing these patients such as opioid dependence, addiction, and abuse.