Pain Management

Curcumin for arthritis: Does it really work?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Could a naturally-occurring substance derived from a common spice provide relief from osteoarthritis of the knee? A new study suggests curcumin might help, but the research has some important limitations.

What is palliative care, and who can benefit from it?

Palliative care improves comfort and quality of life for people with serious illness and their families, yet many people who could benefit from these services are not taking advantage of them.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: A new treatment for knee arthritis

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A TV ad for a procedure to treat arthritis of the knee claims that relief lasts for up to a year, but not much research has been done on its effectiveness. Studies are small and show little to support the claim.

Leg pain when you walk? Don’t ignore it

Leg pain when walking that eases with rest may be a sign of peripheral artery disease, which raises risk for other cardiovascular problems. Lifestyle changes — keep walking! — and treatment help.

I’m in pain, so why is my doctor suggesting a psychologist?

David Boyce, MD

Contributor

The negative emotions that come from coping with chronic pain can lead to depression, and that very depression can lead to worse pain. Understanding the connection between pain and emotional health with the help of a psychologist can address these issues, and there are evidence-based therapies that can help as well.

Kratom: Fear-worthy foliage or beneficial botanical?

Kratom has been used for hundreds of years for various conditions, and today many people are using it to treat chronic pain and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. But there is no control or regulation of the product, and it can have serious side effects.

Opioids for acute pain: How much is too much?

Scott Weiner, MD

Contributor

One of the roots of the opioid crisis in the US is how frequently the medications are prescribed. There are times when a prescription opioid is called for, but in many cases an over-the-counter pain medication is very effective.

More opioids, more pain: Fueling the fire

David Boyce, MD

Contributor

One of the paradoxes of treating pain is that the longer a person takes an opioid medication, the greater possibility they will become more sensitive to pain, a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

Is an opioid really the best medication for my pain?

David Boyce, MD

Contributor

With all the concern around opioid medications and the risk of addiction, it’s understandable that a person might be hesitant if prescribed an opioid. Many factors need to be weighed in making this decision, including the type of pain, the cause, and how long it has persisted.

Is tramadol a risky pain medication?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Tramadol is a unique prescription pain medicine similar to opioids. Research finds people taking it had a higher risk of dying than those taking other pain medicines. But a confounding factor may make tramadol seem more risky than it really is.