Archive for the ‘Pain Management’ Category

My #1 Headache Trigger? Lyme Disease

Listen to the audio version of this blog below:

Skiing has always been part of my life. I went to a college in Vermont that had its own ski run. After graduation, I moved to Colorado to teach high school, and to become a ski instructor. It was supposed to be the high point of my life, and in many ways it was, but there were also some very low points because I was wrestling with undiagnosed tick-borne illnesses.

One such low found me on the bathroom floor, writhing in pain from an excruciating migraine. The throbbing started over my left eye, working its way up over that side of my head and around the back to my neck. I felt as if my brain was going to explode out of my skull.

“It’s probably from the altitude,” a doctor later told me. In the years since I had started developing strange symptoms—fever, joint aches, exhaustion, hand tremors, hives—I grew accustomed to doctors writing them off with a simple explanation.

But altitude was not causing my migraines. In fact, I was suffering from Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, and Babesia, the last being a tick-borne parasite that consumes oxygen in red blood cells. Due to these infections, a scan would later show that I was not getting enough oxygen to the left side of my brain. Living at a high altitude certainly didn’t help this situation, but the root cause was the fact that my oxygen levels were already compromised by infection.

Babesia is not the only tick-borne disease that can cause headaches; so can Ehrlichia and relapsing fevers. But with or without co-infections, the vast majority of Lyme disease patients complain of headaches as a chief symptom, with pain ranging from moderate to severe. Many patients, myself included, have encountered migraines so debilitating they’re relegated to bed in a dark room due to pain, light sensitivity and nausea. Though tick-borne diseases can cause pain throughout the cranium, migraines are usually focused to one side. As a child, I had four surgeries to correct weak muscles in my eyes, especially on the left, leaving scar tissue over that eye. I later learned that Lyme bacteria, spirochetes, like to hide out in scar tissue, which may explain why my migraines always started over that eye.

So why are headaches so common for Lyme patients? Spirochetes can enter the central nervous system by crossing the blood-brain barrier. This barrier is supposed to protect the brain from infection, but spirochetes are tricky and swift and can coil their way across, causing headaches for their victims.

Lyme is an inflammatory disease, so once spirochetes enter the central nervous system, they cause swelling there. In his book Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease, Dr. Richard Horowitz equates this inflammation to a fire that ignites heat, redness, pain, and loss of function.[1] Feeling like my brain was going to explode out of my skull was not really hyperbole; my head was indeed swollen, but I just couldn’t see it the way I would be able to if  I’d had a swollen ankle or knee.

At my lowest points of illness, I got migraines several times a week. I tried to try to push through the pain. I wanted to be living my life, teaching and skiing. But I always paid a high price for not listening to my body—or in this case, to my brain. Ignoring the headache only increased the pain, sometimes sending me to bed for two or three days at a time. I got prescription medication, which I learned to take as soon as I felt a headache coming on, rather than trying to wait it out. I also found that staying hydrated, eating foods rich in iron, and stretching gently—to help increase blood flow—sometimes helped alleviate my headaches.

The best treatment, however, was rest. If you have a swollen ankle or knee, you stay off that joint, giving it time to heal. The same is true for your brain. Your head needs time to recover from inflammation, and nothing has helped that process more for me than sleep. Though I rarely get migraines these days, I still get pressure on the left side of my head when I get tired or neurologically overwhelmed. I never want to spend a day in bed, but one is better than being there for several days—and it’s certainly better than writhing on the bathroom floor. A day spent recuperating means more days on the slopes, and I’ll take as many of those as I can get.

[1] Horowitz, Richard I. Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2013. (186)

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. She is working on a memoir about her journey with chronic tick-borne illness. Do you have a question for Jennifer? Email her at





Headaches with Lyme disease can be excruciating – particularly if you have Lyme and Babesia.  Bartonella also can give severe head pain.  Since I had all three, the head and spine were always my thorn.  I wondered if I’d ever have a day free from head pain.

Please know that appropriate treatment is necessary for this and YES, I am free from head pain after 5 years of treatment and a few relapses.  While I give credit predominantly to antimicrobials (for me, antibiotics) here’s a few things that seemed to help:

Lastly, I know of a few Lyme patients that also have a Chiari diagnosis.  In short, this is when inflammation from an infection causes the brain to be pushed through the opening at the base of the skull.  Since this is where most of my pain was I had a MRI to rule Chiari out.  Read about this condition here:

Woman Tripped 34 Hours on LSD. Said it Cured Pain From Chronic Lyme Disease

A woman who tripped for 34 hours on LSD after taking 550 times the normal dose said the drug cured her pain from chronic Lyme disease

psychedelic trip

Photo by Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

During the first 12 hours, the woman blacked out for most of it, but remembered vomiting a lot.

  • A woman overdosed, but didn’t die, after consuming 550 times an average dose of the psychedelic drug LSD. She had mistaken it as cocaine and ended up tripping for 34 hours.
  • Following her overdose, the woman microdosed LSD and found it eliminated her chronic pain, a symptom of her Lyme disease.
  • Other psychedelics like DMT and psilocybin also have been shown to manage conditions, like anxiety and depression.  (See link for article)



Case report found here:

Important excerpt:

She’d stopped taking morphine for five days after her LSD experience, and then her chronic pain returned, so she decided to take the morphine again but at a lower dose, and to also microdose LSD, every three days. A microdose of LSD is about a quarter of the typical 10-milligram dose and doesn’t cause a hallucinogenic effect.

Three years later, the woman was able to completely stop using morphine to manage her pain and said she had no withdrawal symptoms.

The pain Lyme/MSIDS can cause is of a magnitude that makes life unbearable.

I remember the story of a woman with Lyme who went into the garage, took a hammer and broke all her fingers on one hand to get her mind off her shoulder pain.

Testosterone Replacement in Chronic Pain Patients

Testosterone Replacement in Chronic Pain Patients

By Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH and Lisa Lichota, DO

Adequate testosterone serum levels are required in males and females not just for libido and sexual function but also for cellular growth, healing, maintenance of muscle mass and bone, and central nervous system maintenance of opioid receptors, blood- brain barrier, and dopamine-norepinephrine activity.

Testosterone deficiency in chronic pain patients has now been recognized by many observers.1-6 Due to its critical biologic functions in pain control, testosterone testing and replacement (TR) should now become a mandatory component in the treatment of chronic pain. This paper summarizes the physiologic actions of testosterone relative to pain management and lays out practical guidelines for testing and treatment that can easily be adapted to pain practice… (See link for article.  It is excellent and very needed information.  Please read about my personal experiences below.)



I’ve self injected testosterone for years and I’m a woman.  My husband also injects T.

Are we crazed body builders?  Hardly….

For me, it started as severe PMS that I had pretty much my entire adult life.  I had one good week out of the month and that’s an understatement.  Not only did I struggle with pain but I struggled mentally.  It was as if someone painted my world gray.  I also riveted on things that normally I should be able to drop.  Thankfully, I had a holistic doctor who specialized in pain management as well as breast cancer.  Little did I know – testosterone helps both.  He actually told me one day, “I have no studies to prove this, only 35 years of experience but if you give testosterone to women, their breast cancer dries up.”  After trying progesterone cream with little effect, he asked if I’d like to try T.  Within 20 minutes, I felt it.  I felt it mentally, as if I could see color for the first time in my life.  Physically I felt blood rushing into areas I thought were dead.  Yes, it helped sex drive, but it did so much more than that.

Recently, I lowered my dose as I appeared high on paper.  Within weeks I developed the old familiar ovarian pain and then lower back pain so severe I could hardly stand.  I called my hormone doctor to run it by him, wondering if the two could be related.  He said that yes, they could be related and to go back up on the dose I was previously.  I had a female physical to rule things out first.  I also shared my theory for the pain (lowering my T) with the physician’s assistant.  Our conversation was interesting.  She said I was blessed to have found doctors willing to treat me with testosterone as the results were clear. She also said I would not receive that type of help in her mainstream facility.  This isn’t the first conversation of this sort I’ve had with mainstream doctors who admit that their hands are completely tied to convention – in spite of results and science. I also tried to convince Physician’s For Women and the Wisconsin Fertility Clinic to adopt using various forms of testosterone for suffering women – to no avail.

Armed with the knowledge I was normal physically I went back to my regular dose.

Within ONE injection, both the ovarian and back pain were GONE.

I tell this story to demonstrate how hormones can help dramatically with pain.

My husband’s story is similar, albeit different. Before he was diagnosed with Lyme/MSIDS it was discovered that his testosterone level was nonexistent and he had severe joint pain.  He started injections as well but the pain, although diminished, was still there.  Eventually, he developed a whole battery of symptoms consistent with tick-borne illness and he was diagnosed with Lyme/MSIDS.  For him, T has helped his mood as well as pain.  At various times he’s gone off T for certain tests. Every single time, PAIN comes back with a vengeance and he becomes depressed.

So why do I bring this up?

I don’t think we are alone.  Due to environmental toxins and estrogens (xenoestrogens), many are estrogen dominant.  “The Textbook of Bio-Identical Hormones,” by Edward Lichten M.D. shows in detail how estrogen disorders are prevalent.  Did you know that testosterone is a treatment for diabetes in men?  I didn’t either until I read the book.  It does so many things.

According to this article,

Estrogen dominance has also been linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, and increased blood clotting, and is also associated with acceleration of the aging process.  Put simply, estrogen dominance is an elevated estradiol to progesterone radio.

But for me, the addition of progesterone wasn’t enough.

And to counter the argument that hormones aren’t “natural,” please understand hormones are made from cholesterol – all of which is within the body and is completely natural.  There are obviously synthetic forms of hormones used for specific purposes but bioidential hormones are as natural as you can get.  For a great read:  Essentially, we’ve been told cholesterol is the bad guy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We need cholesterol.  The article also points out that toxicity, mercury poisoning and fluoride toxicity all contribute to hormone disruption.  Mercury can interfere with the conversion of progesterone into cortisol.

Unfortunately, hormones, like cholesterol, have been mischaracterized by mainstream medicine and are currently classified as class 3 substances along with Vicodin and Ketamine.  A class 3 drug has, “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.”

To understand why Medicine hates hormones:

In a nutshell Medicine (and pharmacists I might add) hates hormones due to a study called the Womens Health Initiative (WHI) trial which had numerous design flaws.  Researchers concluded things that weren’t verified in the data and over time many statements were retracted, but this little detail didn’t make the evening news, and medical professionals still tout the study as if it’s settled science – much like the Klempner study is used to keep Lyme/MSIDS patients from further treatment for continuing symptoms.  Also, they used Premarin, a synthetic hormone.  They never looked at bioidentical hormones.


Since the WHI, there  have been hundreds if not thousands of research articles identifying bio-identical hormones as safe and effective.  However, in the medical community, the thought is “If Premarin is bad, then you have to assume that bio-identical estrogen is bad also”.  The statement is logical, but unfortunately it has not been proven in the literature; in fact just the opposite.  Bio-identical hormones have been shown over and over to not have the same deleterious effects that there synthetic counterparts have, and yet, doctors continue to assume that bio-identicalls and synthetics are the same.

I will also add that another very real reason steroids are frowned upon is that they are cheap and natural and would solve so many problems that it would affect Big Pharma.

And just to play devil’s advocate, I’ll stick up for synthetics for just a moment.

I know of a patient who has severe endometriosis.  Her pain was of a magnitude that made life unbearable.  She tried everything mainstream medicine had to offer and actually had memory loss after one injection of Lupron. Under the supervision of a MD she is currently taking two synthetic steroids for severe endometriosis.  The results are clear – her pain is GONE.  She is enjoying a normal life. The use of these two hormones (nandrolone and stanozolol) lowers the sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which stops the bleeding, and the pain.  As I write this, 10 million women worldwide are suffering lives not worth living due to the pain of endometriosis.  It is the number one reason for infertility.  But, doctors are so afraid of hormones they would rather watch women suffer than learn for themselves the effectiveness of this simple treatment.  The other key ingredient that stops the androgenic effects (voice lowering and acne) is spironolactone.  To learn more about this cutting edge treatment:

So once again we see that for a certain subset of patients, a synthetic version may be more helpful and it’s, “the dose that makes the poison.”

Our family was forced to find these answers and testosterone has made all the difference in the world to our current health.
 I hope this helps someone out there.


Innovative Pain Treatment Strategies Podcast

Cindy Kennedy, FNP, is joined by nurse practitioner Jackie Orent-Nathan to have a frank conversation surrounding her approach to working with patients who deal with chronic pain. Jackie has found great success in educating her patients about the physiology of pain and why current medical therapies are not the answer.Jackie specializes in pain management at a large primary care practice. Understanding offers a way out of the despair of persistent pain. Jackie facilitates a program that combines pain education with yoga to empower pain sufferers to take back control of their lives as they reduce their fear of movement.

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Check out Pursue Wellness:


What are modern thoughts about pain?
What is the association with the brain?
Jackie’s pain treatment strategies.
How does the Mind-Body approach work with handling pain?
Other co-factors when dealing with pain.


For more:  Please see comment section for more ideas

10 Ways to Ease Pain in Patients With Chronic Lyme

10 Ways To Ease Pain In Patients With Chronic Lyme

Patients with Lyme disease often have many symptoms that make their day-to-day lives challenging. With everything from fatigue to muscle aches, individuals with Lyme often have a myriad of physical issues. Many people wonder, ‘Can Lyme disease cause severe pain?’ In fact, many patients note that their most debilitating symptom is actually the pain they experience because of the condition. So, in order to make sure Lyme patients are as comfortable as possible, we need to know how to ease pain in patients with chronic Lyme. Here’s a rundown of how to potentially lessen pain levels in Lyme patients.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by an infectious bite from a tick that is a carrier for the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. It was first studied back in the 1970s when it got its name from a town called Lyme in Connecticut in the U.S. A group of people (young and old) began to experience similar symptoms, and the condition started to be studied in order to find a connection between these symptoms and tick bites. Researchers have continued to study the disease and recent years have seen even more global awareness and more accurate diagnoses of the condition. Lyme typically presents with a combination of symptoms (although not every patient will get every single one of these):

  • Red, bullseye rash (typically around the site of the bite)
  • Flu-like symptoms (headache, dizziness, malaise, fever)
  • Joint or muscle aches and pains
  • Extreme fatigue

These symptoms appear typically between three and 30 days after the initial tick bite. A person diagnosed with Lyme after experiencing these symptoms is known as having acute Lyme disease. They can be treated with antibiotics from their doctor.

However, if Lyme disease is not diagnosed immediately (often because of a misdiagnosis of another condition), patients can develop chronic Lyme disease. This can also occur because a patient does not respond to antibiotics. This is then called Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or PTLDS. More severe symptoms can develop during this period and they can manifest anywhere from months to years after the tick bite occurred. These symptoms can include:

  • Severe joint pain and swelling (arthritis)
  • Pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Facial palsy
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
  • Nerve pain

Patients can also develop inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, as well as cognitive and memory issues.

Image by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash: Patients with chronic Lyme disease can experience high levels of pain.

Why does Lyme disease cause pain?

Lyme disease causes pain because the bacteria is spread throughout the body’s tissues. Acute Lyme can cause pain in multiple places (head, neck, knees, etc.), but chronic Lyme can create even more pain throughout the body. Bacteria can spread through the nervous system, which also creates inflammation and pain. Researchers believe that PTLDS affects the body’s tissue long after the infection has been cleared. More rounds of antibiotics might be tried, but they’re not always effective for everyone.

What helps with Lyme disease pain?

Luckily, there are some options for pain treatment for Lyme patients. There are several medical avenues a patient can take, as well as at-home, holistic options to try.

1. Take medications prescribed by a doctor.

A Lyme patient can try a variety of medications to help with their specific symptoms. Anti-inflammatory agents can work to help lessen overall inflammation in the body, and acetaminophen can help with general pain. For specific areas of the body, individuals can try topical anaesthetics (such as lidocaine) that can be applied directly to the source of the pain. Ingested muscle relaxants and neuropathic drugs (such as amitriptyline) can work to ease muscle and nerve pain related to Lyme. If none of these medications are helping, doctors might prescribe opioid analgesics (such as oxycodone) to help with severe pain. These medications can be addictive, so patients are advised to only use them if they’re following their doctor’s strict orders.

2. Try electromagnetic treatments.

There are a variety of electromagnetic options to help with Lyme-specific pain. These can include radio wave, infrared, or laser treatments that are administered by a healthcare professional. Some of these magnetic treatments work to ease several symptoms from Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

3. Do sessions of acupuncture.

This Eastern medicine technique has been shown to ease a wide variety of conditions. The versatility of acupuncture is especially helpful when treating Lyme because it can ease pain due to headaches, arthritis and tendinitis (all of which can occur with Lyme). Acupuncture can also be effective in treating fatigue, which many Lyme patients experience.

Image by Alterfines on Pixabay: Acupuncture can be an effective way of dealing with Lyme disease pain.

4. Change to a healthier diet.

Altering the diet (especially to an anti-inflammatory one) can work to help reduce inflammation in the body, which can then lead to less pain.

5. Take part in frequent exercise.

Although it can be hard for Lyme patients to feel well enough to exercise, getting in frequent movement can be beneficial for pain levels. Less high-intensity workouts, like yoga, water aerobics, range of motion exercises, etc., can all work to lessen inflammation and reduce pain. Lyme patients might also want to try working with a physiotherapist to learn exercises that will actually feel doable when they’re in pain.

6. Utilise the healing properties of water.

Taking hot baths or engaging in water therapy can be helpful for people with chronic pain. Moving around in the water can often ease muscle and joint tension too.

7. Use cooling or heating pads.

Depending on the location of the patient’s pain, using cooling or heating pads on the specific areas that are hurting can help bring pain levels down.

8. Use naturopathic remedies.

For patients who experience headaches, there are many natural remedies to try, including essential oils and cold compresses. Many people also recommend supplements like magnesium or B-complex vitamin supplements to help ease pain from headaches.

9. Practise yoga or meditation.

Research has shown that practising mindfulness (whether through yoga or meditation) can help patients to better cope with their pain. Practising mindfulness can also possibly help ease some emotional symptoms that go along with Lyme disease.

10. Talk about the pain.

Although it’s a little less traditional, talking about chronic pain can end up being really helpful for Lyme patients. Whether they’re talking with friends or family or with a mental health professional, venting about the pain or learning healthy coping skills can be invaluable in dealing with chronic pain. Patients might even want to consider getting a pet, since animals have been shown to reduce chronic pain levels in their owners.

Lyme patients can try out any of the suggestions mentioned above to help get relief from their pain as soon as possible.

Featured image by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash



I wondered if I’d ever have a day without pain again.  Thankfully, the answer to that question is a resounding YES.  In my effort to deal with pain, I tried many, many things. I must state that for me the best treatment for pain, hands down, was proper Lyme/MSIDS treatment:  As you can see, proper treatment is multi-pronged and addresses:

  • Killing pathogens
  • Detoxification 
  • Supplementing for deficiencies (including hormones, minerals, vitamins, etc.)
  • Nutrition 
  • Exercise 
  • Sleep
  • Addressing things like mold, food & environmental sensitivities
  • Addressing heavy metals (chelation)
  • Mental health & support

Here are some of the things I tried for pain:



Laser Therapy:,


Heat: (hot epsom salt baths help tremendously with pain)



I have not tried the following but have heard positive results from patients:



Magnetic Fields:





Acetyl-L-Carnitine For Neuropathy Pain Relief

Acetyl-L-Carnitine for Neuropathy Pain Relief

Acetyl-L-Carnitine for Neuropathy Pain Relief

A recent research review published in the Journal of Pain Research found that a little known supplement, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), is an effective preventive and treatment for all kinds of neuropathic pain.

The therapeutic benefits of acetyl-L-carnitine for neuropathy include pain reduction, promoting peripheral nerve regeneration, and a neuroprotective effect, among other therapeutic effects. Nerve conduction studies show improved velocity and amplitude….(See link for article)


High Level of Psychiatric Disorders Found in Individuals With Chronic Pain

High Level of Psychiatric Disorders Found in Individuals with Chronic Pain

December 16, 2019
Depression, anxiety, and other emotional distress are common in this population.

A PPM Brief

Psychiatric problems significantly affect somatic (body) disorders, which can make treatment difficult and affect prognosis negatively. In some studies, rates of psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic pain have been shown to be higher than the general population.1 One recent study2 evaluated comorbid psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic pain to examine the effects of sociodemographic details and the level of somatic sense perception on disease severity…..(See link for article)



Important quote:

“Although the mechanisms of the relationship between chronic pain and psychiatric disorders are not fully understood, effective management of both pain intensity and comorbid psychiatric conditions is necessary for the quality of life of patients,” they concluded.

This makes complete sense.  As a patient, I found depression coincided with how I felt physically.  They worked in tandem.  The worse I felt physically, the worse I felt mentally.  I highly doubt I’m alone.  Also, due to the fact mainstream medicine is still in a coma regarding all things tick-borne, family and friends often take the side of the CDC/IDSA that we are all making it up and are nuts.  Isolation, disbelief, and abuse does not help one’s mental outlook!

The medical profession is part of the problem.

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