Monthly Archives: November 2005

Pain relief all done with mirrors

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The Weekend Australian, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Pain relief all done with mirrors
Anjana Ahuja
November 19, 2005

PAIN may be caused by a mismatch between what the brain expects and what information it receives, according to a new scientific theory.

Through a series of ingenious experiments, scientists have begun to theorise that pain may be an outward sign of a mismatch akin to the momentary shock people get when they put their foot on a step in the dark and stumble when the surface is not where they thought it would be.

The so-called cortical model of pain would help to explain such enigmas as phantom limb pain, in which an amputee is tormented by aches in a missing limb. It would also illuminate why people frequently report pain in the absence of an obvious clinical cause.

Intriguingly, researchers have discovered that the pain can be cured by using mirrors.

Candy McCabe and David Blake, at the University of Bath, enlisted patients with a condition called complex regional pain syndrome. This describes an ache that sets in after nerve injury; it lingers and often escalates long after the break has healed. The agony can be so excruciating that patients request amputation.

Dr McCabe angled a full-length mirror up against each patient, so that the damaged side was out of view and only the healthy side was reflected. She then asked them to do symmetrical exercises, such as lifting both arms. Half the patients reported a reduction in pain. The effect could not be replicated using a white board – suggesting relief lay, somehow, in the reflection.

Since the damaged limb is hidden, and replaced by the mirror image of the healthy one, McCabe speculates that the brain is fooled into believing that all the limbs are moving normally. The brain-body mismatch disappears – and the pain with it. “It sounds bizarre until you see it, and then it’s fantastic,” she says. The research, funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign, is published in the journal Clinical Medicine .

McCabe explains that injury disrupts communication between brain and limb – in other words they do not “talk” to each other as they normally do. “Plaster casts also reduce the sensory input from a limb. In some people – we don’t know who or why – the system doesn’t correct itself after healing. We think that pain is the alert mechanism, and it then sets off other alert mechanisms, so the area becomes hypersensitive and even more painful.

“But the mirror gives the brain a normal-looking arm, and gives the patient the feeling that their limb belongs to them again.” The mirror exercises apparently help to repair the broken loop between brain and limb – some patients on this therapy find that their pain disappears permanently.

The Times

Original Article @,5744,17286912%255E23289,00.html


Beach-goer sues Sentosa

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Adam Hamzah, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Tuesday November 15, 2005

Beach-goer sues Sentosa

A beach-goer is suing Sentosa Development Corporation after he stepped on a poisonous stonefish at one of the island’s beaches and ended up with a rare permanent pain condition that cost him a career.

Adam Hamzah, 31, was afflicted with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which affects a nerve and causes persistent pains of varying intensity every day.

The reef stonefish – reputedly one of the most venomous fish in the world – punctured the sole of Adam’s left foot in two places while he was wading in waist-high waters at Tanjong Beach in February.

The well-camouflaged greenish-brown creature has dorsal spines that discharge poison if stepped on.

Adam’s wife, Eidza Jumanis, alerted a lifeguard as he hobbled ashore and he was taken to hospital, where doctors had to cut open his sole to draw out the poison on two occasions over about a month. Adam underwent two foot operations and racked up a S$20,000 (RM44,400) medical bill.

The father of three is suing Sentosa Development for compensation for the suffering he underwent and losses he suffered. The case came up for a pre-trial hearing in the subordinate courts last week, and was postponed for further mention on Dec 5.

In an interview, Adam said Sentosa did not seek to settle out of court.

“They think I should have worn shoes, but everybody goes barefoot on the beach. Everybody knows Sentosa is the cleanest, best-kept resort and the beach is man-made and not natural. They maintain it well and that is why I trusted Sentosa and went there always,” he said.

A sign near the lifeguard’s post on the Sentosa beach warns bathers to “beware of uninvited guests,” referring to stonefish and jellyfish.

“During the monsoon season (November to January), stonefish are occasionally sighted in our tropical seawater as they migrate closer to shore,” it says.

Court documents filed show that the location of the signboard is at issue. Adam claims that the sole signboard was nowhere in the vicinity where he had parked his car. He claims that he had walked from his car directly to the beach and had not seen the sign.

Adam, who is represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, said he decided to seek compensation because of “the suffering I had been through and the job that I lost.”

He said: “After I lost my job, I went down with a lot of debt; even my car was impounded. I used to be a volunteer citizen on patrol, but I can’t do that any more. Every night, I’m woken up by the pain. I feel there are about 10 nails in my feet. I can’t run, squat or even bend the way I used to in order to pray any more.”

He lost his job as a trainer in the firm where he was also a shareholder. He found a sales job in July, after several other attempts failed.

A spokesman for Sentosa Development declined to comment. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Original Article @

County closes case in fraud trial

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The Daily Journal, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

County closes case in fraud trial
Daily Journal wire report
Closing arguments were presented Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court in the case of a county collections employee whom prosecutors believe was caught red-handed defrauding the state and county.

Yolanda Dobkins, 54, filed a workers’ compensation claim on Feb. 7, 2001, after being hired as a county collections officer in 1998, Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Alberti said.

According to Alberti, Dobkins, who faces nine felony counts including attempted perjury, has exaggerated her condition more than once throughout the course of the trial.

“This trial is about misconceptions and false statements,” Alberti said Monday.

Dobkins maintains that she suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. It is a neurological syndrome often characterized by debilitating pain, according to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association’s Web site.

“RSD is supposed to be worse then carpal tunnel syndrome,” Alberti said.

Dobkins, who first made mention of the pain in October 1998, said that the ailment specifically hindered her ability to use her right hand, and that she was unable to lift objects, drive her car or even shake people’s hands, according to Alberti.

The county denied Dobkins’ claim, but did compensate her for her medical expenses, which totaled $10,000, Alberti said.

“This is the county of San Mateo,” Alberti said to the jury. “That money comes from our property taxes.”

The largest amount of money collected by Dobkins came from the state, which gave her $24,000, Alberti said.

Immediately after the claim was filed, Alberti said the county hired private investigators who repeatedly videotaped Dobkins doing things that she claimed she was physically incapable of doing.

“We have tape of her washing her car by hand and she shows no pain or resistance,” Alberti said. “She washed her car for an hour and 45 minutes.”

Dobkins’ defense attorneys, Kathleen McCasey and Lou Ann Bassan, claim that people suffering from RSD can have good days and bad days, but Alberti said that was highly unlikely.

“Is it a coincidence that every bad day was in a medical office, and every good day was at home?” Alberti said.

The tapes also reportedly show Dobkins jumping into the back of a truck and moving a large box containing what looked like a grill, with both hands, according to Alberti.

“If you truly have RSD then you are truly in pain,” Alberti said. Dobkins “looks fine on the tapes.”

Dobkins was offered a plea bargain by the court that would have put her in county jail for a maximum of one year, but she rejected it, Alberti said.

If Dobkins is convicted of the nine felony counts, she could face up to five years in state prison, Alberti said.

Original Article @

Designs for better access

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TimesLeader, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Posted on Tue, Nov. 15, 2005

A DAY IN THE LIFE: Alaine Chang

Designs for better access

Architecture student’s goal is to be educator who would help future designers see needs of disabled.


WILKES-BARRE – She’s not asking you to walk a mile in her tan Velcro sneakers. But she wants you to think about it.

She’s not asking you to roll a mile in her wheelchair. But she wants you to consider the challenges in getting around that way – especially if you happen to be an architect.

“The world is by and large inaccessible,” Alaine Chang, who struggles with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, said recently.

The 51-year-old has become an unlikely architecture student who hopes to change the way we think about buildings.

“Designers should be talking to people with all different facets of disabilities,” she said.

After suffering nerve damage in one of her arms eight years ago, Chang developed the chronic pain disorder also known as complex regional pain syndrome.

It’s the result of a sympathetic nervous system gone haywire.

Following an injury, sympathetic nerve impulses cause blood vessels in the skin to contract, forcing blood deep into muscle tissue to minimize blood loss. Ordinarily the sympathetic nervous system shuts down within hours of an injury, but in Chang’s case that hasn’t happened.

An inflammatory response causes more pain, which in turn sparks further inflammation. Her legs have swollen, the skin on her hands is cracked, her vision is affected, and her doctors have told her that her condition will only worsen.

Chang’s disability has become both obstacle and motivation.

She recalls a trip to Philadelphia with her husband. They spotted an Asian grocery store and they both wanted to go inside to take a look. Her husband could, but Chang, in her wheelchair, couldn’t make it.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It requires government buildings, services and programs to be accessible to those with disabilities, but 15 years later local governments are still working to cut ramps into sidewalks and retrofit older buildings.

And, of course, the world of small grocery stores, cafes and even her doctors’ offices is a different matter, Chang said.

Her life is a maze of narrow hallways, doors that aren’t automatic, and doors that are difficult to open, and that’s something she wants to change.

Two years ago in September, Chang returned to school at Luzerne County Community College to begin studying architecture.

This semester she’s enrolled in a construction material class that recently visited the downtown theater project to take a tour and sketch the structure.

Sitting in a coffee shop surrounded by her much younger classmates, Chang acknowledges that she has a long way to go before she achieves her goal.

She plans to get an associate’s degree in architecture and engineering and then go on for a master’s degree – one day she even hopes to be in a position to teach the next generation of architects.

Sipping a diet soda, she describes a row of dominoes as an analogy to explain her desire to be a teacher.

By becoming involved as an educator she hopes to get design students to consider the challenges of the disabled.

That’s like flicking the first domino, she explains, a small gesture that will create momentum and radiate change.

“It’s something that needs to be done,” she said, adding that “retirement’s far overrated. It’s boring.”

In her first go around with college, she got a political science degree from Wilkes University and then ran a dance school and later a retail store.

But that’s not something she relishes discussing.

“That’s the past, and now is now,” she said.

This semester, she’s thrown herself into drawing and detail work that has strained her eyes and left streaks of blood in her notebook.

She normally wears thin white gloves to protect the skin on her hands, made delicate and prone to splitting by her disorder.

Pulling a notebook out of a bag slung on the back of her wheelchair, she flips through pencil sketches of construction sites.

“Drafting is nasty,” she said. “On the computer it’s OK, but drafting with pencils and rulers when your hands are bleeding is not fun.”

Next semester she plans to take two classes, but she doesn’t really know when or where she’ll end up in a graduate program.

She’s dedicated, but her kids think she’s crazy.

A grown son and a daughter hundreds of miles away in Boston and New York can’t understand why their mother, who has nearly as many doctors as fingers, is back in school.

“They think I’m insane,” she said.

There’s no time to debate. It’s early afternoon and time for her class to meet at the construction site.

Along with her classmates, Chang, in her wheelchair, rolls to the half-completed theater. She’s concerned the site may not be wheelchair friendly, but that’s a minor blip on the way to her ultimate goal.

“You can overcome practically anything, the only thing you have to do is want to,” she said.

Original Article @


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Yvonne Haines, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.



YVONNE HAINES is wracked with pain and just wants to die with dignity.

The 67-year-old Shaws Bay woman, who suffers from a debilitating incurable illness, has already tried to end her life five times.

Yesterday, she was one of about 50 people who turned up at the Lismore Workers Club to hear controversial pro-euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke’s ideas on taking control over death.

“People must be allowed the right to choose how and when they die if they are of sound mind and are in terrible suffering,” Dr Nitschke said.

Dr Nitschke gave very explicit instructions on how to end your life using a variety of options, including manufacturing your own ‘peaceful pill’ — a barbiturate that can kill within minutes.

Yvonne, who has a rare condition called chronic complex regional pain syndrome, said she had already suffered the humiliation and defeat of trying to unsuccessfully end her life and was sick of being alive.

Her crippling condition, which followed an injury to her hand, has no cure and causes continuous, intense burning pain and swelling, which gets worse rather than better over time.

She needs help with many facets of personal care which she finds demeaning and degrading.

Yvonne said her most recent attempt at ending her life — going into the surf after a medication overdose — was thwarted by her partner, who had unexpectedly rescued her.

“I came here today to learn how I could end my life without once again failing in the attempt,” she said.

“I have had this extremely painful condition for 15 years and I am on high doses of morphine to control the pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

“People who haven’t lived with chronic pain have no idea what it’s like. My life is a nightmare and it’s getting worse every day. I’ve just had enough.”

Original Story:

Chronic Pain – Silent Epidemic in Canada

Chronic Pain – Silent Epidemic in Canada

By Wire Services
Nov 7, 2005, 15:11

For almost six million Canadians who experience some form of chronic pain, the results of a recent public opinion survey will be discouraging. A recent survey, completed by Decima Research (November 2005) for the Canadian Pain Coalition (CPC) involving more than 1,000 adults in all provinces, highlights the confusion and lack of awareness about pain and those it affects.

Twenty-one percent of respondents indicated they suffered from chronic pain while 46% indicated they knew someone with the disease. Only 47 per cent of Canadians surveyed fully believe that chronic pain is real.

“We have a long way to go in order to change the way the general public, even health care professionals, think about pain and how it affects the lives of Canadians,” says Helen Tupper, President of the CPC who has experienced neuropathic and other forms of chronic pain for almost 30 years. “People with pain are constantly dealing with the stigma of their illness. They may miss work, spend more time in hospital and visit their doctors more frequently. It can take several years for some of us to get the right diagnosis and treatment.”

Chronic pain is pain that continues a month or more beyond the usual recovery period for an injury or illness or that goes on for months or years due to a chronic condition. The pain may not be constant but it can interfere with daily life at all levels. Neuropathic pain or “nerve pain” is a disease caused by injury or dysfunction of the nerves in the body’s pain sensing system. It is frequently described as a stabbing, burning, tingling or shock-like sensation. It is estimated that 500,000 Canadian chronic pain sufferers have neuropathic pain.

There is currently a shortage of specialized health care services for people with pain. In some cities, this can result in waits of up to five years for an appointment at a multi-disciplinary pain clinic. The vast majority of respondents to the Decima survey say pain is an important health issue in this country that should receive more funding for research, specialized pain centres and medications.

“People with pain often struggle to have their family, friends and co-workers believe their pain is real. Not only are they suffering because of the pain, they often face a lack of support to help them deal with it,” says Celeste Johnston CPC board member and Professor at the McGill School of Nursing. This was confirmed in the survey results as 46 per cent of those surveyed did not fully believe pain was a real health issue for people they knew.

For pain patients living in Quebec the news was more concerning when compared to the national results. Only 37 per cent (compared to 47 per cent in the rest of Canada) said they fully believed a friend or co-worker when told about their pain.

Treating pain is another issue that leads to confusion and prevents patients from seeking out and following treatment regimes. Sixty-four per cent of respondents believe pain patients should continue to seek a medical opinion to resolve their pain however 38 per cent of Canadians believe they should seek non-narcotic alternatives to relieve pain, while another 8 per cent believe those with pain should avoid taking pain medications in case they become addicted.

“While the CPC has chosen this week to highlight the issues surrounding pain in Canada, it is around 52 weeks of the year,” says Helen Tupper. “It is a non-stop job to educate people about pain. We hope that by raising awareness we will give a voice to the six million Canadians impacted by this illness and the people committed to helping them.”

Original Article:


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Dolly Parton, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Country icon LOUISE MANDRELL is set to bring the curtain down on her Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, theatre on New Year’s Eve (31DEC05) after deciding to sell the venue.

The singer has performed regularly at the concert hall, which is close to DOLLY PARTON’s Dollywood theme park, for the past eight years and will end her residence there with her annual Christmas shows.

In a posting on her website, Mandrell explains she has decided to sell-up in order to spend more time in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband JOHN, who suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Original Article:

Related Story:

Louise Mandrell Leaving Pigeon Forge

Louise Mandrell will leave her Pigeon Forge, Tenn., theater at the end of 2005 following eight years of performances. A series of Christmas shows begins Thursday (Nov. 3), and her last performance at the venue will be held on New Year’s Eve. Mandrell has sold the theater to Fee Hedrick Entertainment. In a letter posted on her Web site, Mandrell writes that she moved to the area to raise her daughter, Nicole, and now plans to return to Nashville to be with her husband, John, who has reflex sympathetic dystrophy.