This October on Pain Doctor, we focused on a variety of topics, but three in particular: arthritis, health literacy, and forms of nerve pain. Let’s take a look back at the month that was.


Arthritis affects nearly 50 million people in the United States–the young and old alike. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The most common include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, however there are other forms ranging from psoriatic arthritis (a form of arthritis than begins developing through a skin condition) or juvenile arthritis which directly affects children.

Clearly, arthritis is a large-scale health issue that we need to address through lifestyle modifications and research on treatments and preventative measures. As we noted in our post about lifestyle modifications:

“Arthritis symptoms can range from minor soreness to pain so debilitating that it makes walking difficult. There are a lot of interventional, alternative, and medication treatments available for arthritis, but there are also a lot of personal changes that can lessen arthritis symptoms.”

These changes may impact the foods we eat, or they may be habits that we take up, such as low-impact exercise, the use of assistive devices, or making minor changes at work. These include:

“Getting up and moving around every 20 to 30 minutes can keep joints loose and prevent stiffness. Flex the hands often to prevent soreness or stiffness. Computer monitors should be positioned so it’s not necessary to keep the neck bent.”

Making changes to lifestyle, however, isn’t enough. There also needs to be new research into the prevention and treatment for arthritis. This month we covered a few new research studies into the topic. These studies found that:

  • Parental addiction can increase the risk of adult arthritis
  • Moderate alcohol consumption may actually lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
  • Breastfeeding can seriously impact a woman’s risk for rheumatoid arthritis
  • A small, naturally produced protein may be able to reduce the bone loss and inflammation associated with arthritis
  • A combined treatment method may actually provide a long-term cure for rheumatoid arthritis

Health literacy

Health literacy is about how well people are able to understand and act on medical information. This is an important concept, especially with the growing use of the internet to research and find new doctors, treatments, and cures. October was established as Healthy Literacy Month to bring to light some of the failings of our current health literacy system as well as ways to improve it.

As we noted:

“It’s estimated that only about 12% of the United States population possesses proficient health literacy. This means that the majority of the population may lack the necessary skills to manage their own health. A few groups have been identified as being higher-risk for poor health literacy.”

These at-risk groups also include some of our most vulnerable, including older adults, ethnic minorities, non-native English speakers, and those with a lower income.

In order to improve your own health literacy, we suggested a few key questions to ask yourself when reviewing a health site. These are:

  • Who: Examine the site’s authority, or who runs it and why you should believe them
  • What: Look at exactly what the website has to say
  • When: Find a date
  • Where: Find out where the information comes from
  • Why: Ask yourself “Why does this website exist?”

By focusing on these fundamental questions, you can begin to develop your own health literacy and know-how.

Also, since videos are becoming such a huge part of how we take in and understand information online, we also discussed some places to find credible online health videos during October. Our favorites include our own video library, of course, but also, WebMD, and MedlinePlus’ selections of health videos. When determining the credibility on online videos, ask yourself the same questions: who, what, when, where, and why.

Forms of nerve pain  

In addition to these two focused topics, we also discussed a few other less common types of nerve pain in October. Two sets of related conditions that we discussed in particular included:

  • Shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia: Shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia are related in that post-herpetic neuralgia is an extension of the nerve damage that is caused by shingles. The best way to prevent the occurrence of post-herpetic neuralgia is to get prompt medical attention if you develop shingles.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia and occipital neuralgia: Another pair of related conditions that we discussed was trigeminal and occipital neuralgia. With both of these types of pain, head pain occurs due to nerve damage. Pain can be minor or it can result in debilitating migraines. The difference between the two is the particular nerve affected–the trigeminal or occipital nerve.

Another nerve pain condition that was discussed in October is diabetic peripheral neuropathy. As we noted:

“Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the many potential complications of diabetes. This condition can be painful and, in some cases, even dangerous.”

The nerve damage that causes this pain can be the result of uncontrolled high blood sugar levels, genetic factors, an autoimmune condition, tobacco or alcohol use, or obesity. For those patients with diabetes:

“It’s estimated that more than half of all diabetics eventually develop peripheral neuropathy. The risk of diabetic neuropathy, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, increases with both age and the duration of the disease. People who have had diabetes for 25 years or more experience the highest rate of diabetic neuropathy.”

There is a way to live well with this condition, even when encountering the sweet-filled holidays that October kicks off. Through preparation, research before an event, and ways to liven up special occasions without resorting to sweets, those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy and diabetes can enjoy the holiday season. They may even find a way to celebrate in a new way through the Teal Pumpkin Project. Head over to the post to learn more about this fun new initiative.

What was your favorite post on Pain Doctor from October? 

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr


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