Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Living With HIV-Related Pain

Today's post from painresource.com (see link below) looks at pain as a result of contracting HIV and the subsequent treatment needed to suppress it. Neuropathy  attacking the nervous system, is just one of the potential side effects of the virus itself, or it can be caused by the antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV in control, or one of 100 other possible causes. Of course, being HIV positive, doesn't mean that you can't get other serious and often unrelated conditions, in much the same way that the rest of the population does and some of these can bring chronic pain into the picture. The article looks at various sorts of HIV-related pain but also suggests various non-chemical treatments to help reduce the effects. Whether you are convinced by any of these suggestions depends on your own attitude towards alternative therapies in general but it's always wise to keep an open mind. People living with chronic pain often react very differently to normal drug treatments and some find that painkillers that work for one, have no effect on the other, so trying out other methods (after due discussion with your doctor or specialist) may bring unexpected benefits. Chronic pain patients are accustomed to disappointment but learn to keep trying and adapting their lives to make their pain as bearable as possible.

Living with HIV can mean living with pain
By Lisa Davis on June 30, 2013

Lisa Davis is the editor-in-chief of Pain Resource’s print publication and also a contributor to several award-winning health, lifestyle and travel publications, including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, About.com and more. When she’s not at the keyboard, she enjoys photography, hiking, yoga, playing tennis and working on her children’s book, featuring her puppy Boo, to be published in 2014. She is also a certified Pilates instructor teaching at health clubs in Chicago where she lives.

Ailments + Conditions

Pain is common not only in those suffering the last stages of AIDS but also in HIV-positive people who are still active.

June is Pride Month. While PainResource.com celebrates the fact that having HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) no longer inevitably leads to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), we also recognize that HIV/AIDS can be painful.

And it’s not only among people suffering the last stages of AIDS but also the HIV-infected who are still active and healthy. Uncontrolled pain has been recognized as a contributing factor to suicide in AIDS patients.

According to a study from Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, pain is the second-most prevalent symptom in HIV/AIDS (fever is No. 1), and it increases in severity with advancing disease.

The most common pain syndromes are abdominal, throat, and back pain; peripheral neuropathy, which damages the nerves in the feet and lower legs, and occasionally the hands; and headache. The causes are varied. Short-term pain can be a result of infection or surgery. Chronic pain can also be brought on by infections, as well as cancers, gut problems, and nerve damage, including peripheral neuropathy.

HIV treatments (generally a combination of drugs referred to as “the cocktail”) can also have side effects that include fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and insomnia.

If you know what to expect before you begin HIV therapy, you can develop a plan for coping. Tips for dealing with the side effects can include:

Fatigue: Try taking naps, cutting back your work schedule, eating balanced meals, and doing gentle exercises like stretching.

Nausea and vomiting: Eat some crackers in the morning or try ginger (in ginger ale, ginger tea, or gingersnaps). Eating small meals may also help.

Diarrhea: Make sure to get plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. Talk to your doctor about safe over-the-counter anti-diarrhea products.

Headaches: Stay rested, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid loud noise and bright light.

Insomnia: Health coach Angela Gaffney advises limiting caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime. (Try to eat dinner three hours before going to sleep.) Enjoy relaxing bedtime rituals such as a warm bath with lavender salts, soothing music or sounds such as ocean waves or rain, or a massage.

Pain or peripheral nerve problems. Wear loose-fitting shoes, soak your feet in ice water, and try ibuprofen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.

In addition, people with pain due to HIV/AIDS might also find relief with alternative therapies, which can strengthen the immune system and remedy the side effects of medications.

Alternative medicine involves a range of healing approaches, and many are holistic, meaning they connect the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. HIV/AIDS alternative treatments can include:

Yoga and meditation, which helps to quiet the mind and involves deep breathing for relaxation.

Visualization, a form of self-hypnosis that can be used to foster healing. (Learn how Kent St. John used the power of photos to cope with his cancer pain.)

Humor and inspirational audiotapes can take the mind off pain and can help sufferers establish life-coping skills.

Massage therapy, which involves manipulation of body tissues and muscles to reduce pain and improve blood flow.

Acupuncture, which increases energy, reduces fatigue and decreases nerve pain. (Read our story on if acupuncture is effective in treating pain).

Biofield therapies such as reiki and qigong, which improves energy flow, and bioelectromagnetic therapies, which use magnetic or pulsed fields to rebalance energy.


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