16 Key Findings about Arachnoiditis

By Forest Tennant, MD, PNN Columnist

We initiated the “Arachnoiditis Research Project” about 6 months ago. Our first goal was to pull together what we have learned to this point. While we continue to gather new information, this short report is an interim attempt to get our findings into the patient and practitioner communities.  

This report is not intended to be a formal protocol or guideline, but a way to pass on what we have found and determined during the course of our learnings.  Please keep in mind that research is neither static nor absolute.  In the future, newer findings will likely both clarify and expand upon our initial findings as presented in this report.    

Frankly, the response to the Arachnoiditis Research Project has been overwhelming. Each day we receive inquiries from patients and practitioners. Patients want help. Practitioners want to know what to do.

We have now reviewed over 300 MRI’s of Adhesive Arachnoiditis (AA) cases. We have received inquiries from 5 continents and over 17 countries. One thing is clear. The need to research and identify treatment for AA is here.  

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The goal of our research is to bring AA treatment to every community worldwide. How? By developing both diagnostic and treatment protocols that can be implemented by any medical practitioner in every community. Here is what we have learned so far:

16 Findings about Adhesive Arachnoiditis  

  1. Treatment efficacy is best achieved by the simultaneous administration of a three component medication program to suppress neuroinflammation, promote neuro-regeneration (nerve regrowth), and provide pain control to function. Medication for these three categories can be competently prescribed by any primary medical practitioner.  

  2. The most common cause of lumbar sacral AA is no longer dural puncture or trauma but intervertebral disc deterioration and spinal stenosis, which has forced cauda equina nerve roots to rub together causing friction, inflammation and adhesion formation.  

  3. Although there is no single symptom that uniquely identifies AA, there are a few symptoms that the majority of AA patients will usually have.  A simple 7-question screening questionnaire has been developed to help in identifying potential AA. If a patient answers “yes” to at least four of the seven questions in the test, they should immediately be evaluated by a physician to confirm the diagnosis.  

  4. A contrast MRI or high-resolution TESLA-3 or higher MRI can be used to visualize the cauda equina nerve roots and show abnormal swelling, displacement, clumping, and adhesions between clumps and the arachnoid layer of the spinal canal covering.  A greater number and larger size of clumps is generally associated with the most severe pain and neurologic impairments.  

  5. Some MRI’s are inconclusive or equivocal even though typical symptoms may be present.  In these cases, therapeutic trials of anti-neuroinflammatory drugs and pain control are warranted.  

  6. Spinal fluid flow impairment is common in AA patients and appears to be a cause of headache, blurred vision, nausea, and dizziness.  Obstruction or back-up of fluid can often be seen on an MRI.   

  7. Spinal fluid “seepage” throughout the damaged arachnoid layer and wall of the lumbar sacral spine covering is common and can be a cause of pain, tissue destruction and severe contraction that causes restriction of extension of arms and legs.  A physical sign of chronic seepage is indentation of tissues around the lumbar spine.  

  8. Pain due to AA appears to be a combination of two types: inflammatory and neuropathic (nerve damage).  It may also be centralized with what is called “descending” pain.  Proper pain control may require medicinal agents for all types.  

  9. There is currently no reliable laboratory test for the presence of active neuroinflammation, although certain markers (by-products of inflammation) such as C-Reactive Protein and myeloperoxidase may sometimes show in the blood.  Neuroinflammation may go into remission, but it may also act silently to cause progressive nerve root destruction.  

  10. Basic science and animal studies show the neuro-steroids (hormones made inside the spinal cord) have the basic functions of neuroinflammation suppression and neuro-regeneration stimulation.  Our observations clearly indicate that the patients who have improved the most have taken one or more of the hormones reported to reduce neuroinflammation and promote and support neuro-regeneration.  

  11. Patients who have had AA for longer than 5 years must rely on aggressive pain control to function and achieve recovery.  After a long period of untreated neuroinflammation, scarring of nerve roots is too severe for much regeneration to occur.  

  12. The drugs and hormones required for suppression of neuroinflammation and promotion of neuro-regeneration do not need to be taken daily to be effective and prevent side effects.  Medical practitioners have a choice of agents, and they can be competently prescribed by primary care practitioners.  We have found that three times a week dosing is usually quite sufficient.

  13. Persons who have developed AA without warning, trauma or chronic disc disease have often been found to have a genetic connective tissue disorder of which the most common are Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.  

  14. Cervical neck arachnoiditis is primarily a clinical and presumed diagnosis as there are no nerve roots to clump and observe on MRI.  The key MRI finding is spinal fluid flow obstruction and the major clinical symptom is extreme pain on neck flexing.  

  15. Only ketorolac among the anti-inflammatories, and methylprednisolone among the corticoids are routinely effective in AA.  Other anti-inflammatories and corticoids either do not cross the blood brain barrier or therapeutically attach to glial cell receptors.  

  16. Some seemingly unrelated compounds found to suppress microglial inflammation in animal and invitro studies also appear to have therapeutic benefit as neuroinflammatory suppressors in AA patients.  These include pentoxifylline, acetazolamide, minocycline and metformin.

The Tennant Foundation has also released an enhanced protocol for primary care physicians who treat AA patients. You can find the protocols and research reports on our website.

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Forest Tennant, MD, MPH, DrPH, has retired from clinical practice but continues his groundbreaking research on the treatment of intractable pain and arachnoiditis.

This report is provided as a public service by the Arachnoiditis Research and Education Project of the Tennant Foundation and is republished with permission. Correspondence should be sent to veractinc@msn.com

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

3 Advances in Hormonal Pain Care

By Forest Tennant, MD, Guest Columnist

There are three new discoveries or innovations in hormonal pain care that I dearly love. I believe they are real trend-setters, but keep in mind that the “next big thing” may not endure.  Nevertheless, I’m so excited about these three newcomers to the hormone and pain care movement, that I wish to share them.

Hormone Derivative Treatment

Some really smart scientists know how to make derivatives or analogues out of the “real McCoy.” Why do this? Because the derivative can boost the potency of the basic hormone several fold. 

There are two hormonal derivatives that, in my hands, have been extremely beneficial to sub-groups of chronic pain patients.  The first is medroxyprogesterone, which is a derivative of progesterone.  In my experience, medroxyprogesterone is far more potent in treating intractable pain patients than is plain progesterone. 

I have administered medroxyprogesterone to intractable pain patients and most found that it reduced their pain and their need for opioids.  The causes of intractable pain in these patients were multiple and included Lyme disease, post-traumatic headache, post-stroke and arachnoiditis. We have often made a topical medroxyprogesterone (skin massage) cream for use over arthritic joints and over the lumbar spine of adhesive arachnoiditis patients.

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The second hormone is nandrolone, which is a derivative of testosterone.  When a derivative is made from testosterone, it is often called an “anabolic steroid” because it grows tissue.

Anabolic steroids have a generally pejorative or negative view since they have been used to grow the muscles and nerves in athletes that wish to gain athletic advantage.  Don’t be too offended by the term.  After all, the pain patient needs to grow some nerves and muscle to relieve pain. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved nandrolone for use in “wasting” or “catabolic” conditions that cause tissue degeneration.  Many severe pain patients qualify.  A big problem today in pain practice is the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) patient whose nerves, muscles and connective tissue genetically and progressively degenerate. Nandrolone is proving to be a Godsend to some of these suffering individuals. 

One really good thing about the derivatives medroxyprogesterone and nandrolone is that patients can safely try these hormonal agents for only a month to see if they get a positive response.    

Medrol Test

Medrol is the commercial and best-known name for the cortisone derivative methylprednisolone. It’s an old drug, but ranks as a top-notch newbie because it is the cortisone derivative that best crosses the blood brain barrier and suppresses neuroinflammation. 

To date, we don’t yet have a reliable blood test to determine if there is neuroinflammation in the brain or spinal cord, but it is essential to know if active neuroinflammation is in the central nervous system (CNS). 

Step one on the mending road is to suppress and hopefully eliminate neuroinflammation.  A Medrol test is, in my experience, your best bet to know if you have active neuroinflammation.  There are 2 ways to take the Medrol test.  One is to take an injection of Medrol for 2 consecutive days.  The other is to obtain what is a 6-day dose pack.  You take a declining dose of Medrol over a 6-day period.  All MD’s, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are familiar with the Medrol dose pack. So ask for it.   

Here’s the payoff.  If you feel better with less pain and better physical function, appetite and sleep, you have just determined that you have active neuroinflammation that is not only causing pain today but will worsen your condition in future days. 

If you have active neuroinflammation, you will need to start medicinal agents that are known to suppress neuroinflammation.  If your Medrol test is negative -- meaning it didn’t reduce your pain or improve other symptoms -- it means you don’t have much neuroinflammation and that your pain is due to nerve damage and scarring.  In this case you will have to rely on symptomatic pain relievers and perhaps try some long-term neuro-regenerative anabolic hormones to hopefully regrow or revitalize some nerve tissue.  

Hormonal Extracts

Years ago, including the days of the medicine man and shaman, extracts of whole glands, particularly the adrenals, gonads, pancreas and thyroid, were given to the sick.  In the early part of the last century, this practice was known as “glandular medicine” and whole gland extracts were administered by practicing physicians. Many a person today still finds that an extract of thyroid (made by the Armour Company) is superior to a single component of the thyroid gland or a synthetic thyroid. 

Some commercial companies have brought back whole adrenal and gonadal extracts.  These extracts are non-prescription and are starting to be used by chronic pain patients.  To date, they appear to be essentially void of complications or side-effects. Some chronic pain patients are reporting positive results for pain reduction and improvement in energy, appetite and sleep.  They are a safe, inexpensive way for patients and physicians who don’t like steroids or cortisone.

Hormonal treatments for chronic pain patients are fundamentally essential if a chronic pain patient wants some curative effects. 

Although hormones are a great advance, with more progress to come, they will never be a total replacement for symptomatic care with opioids, neuropathic agents and medical devices. Many long-term intractable pain patients have damaged and scarred nervous systems that neither hormones nor other known treatment can cure. 

Hormone treatments should be initiated as early as possible if a person develops chronic pain.  I recommend hormone blood testing at least twice a year.
— Dr. Forest Tennant

Hormone treatments should be initiated as early as possible if a person develops chronic pain.  I recommend hormone blood testing at least twice a year with a six-hormone panel.  You should replenish any hormone that is low in the blood stream. 

The hormone oxytocin has, as one of its natural functions, pain relief.  It is an excellent short-term pain reliever that can be taken with other symptomatic pain relievers to avoid an opioid.  There are other hormones made in the CNS that protect nerve cells by suppressing neuroinflammation and then regenerating them. To download a full copy of my latest report on hormones and pain care, click here.

Hormones and their derivatives are beginning to be used by chronic pain patients.  All chronic pain patients can and should ask their medical practitioners for a short-term therapeutic trial to find one that fits them.  While one size doesn’t fit all, all can find one size that does fit.  It’s the way forward.  

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Forest Tennant, MD, MPH, DrPH, recently retired from clinical practice but continues his groundbreaking research on the treatment of intractable pain and arachnoiditis.

The Tennant Foundation has updated its free handbook for patients and families living with adhesive arachnoiditis and intractable pain. The handbook features the latest groundbreaking research on hormones and pain care. To see and download a copy, click here.

This report is provided as a public service by the Arachnoiditis Research and Education Project of the Tennant Foundation and is republished with permission. Correspondence should be sent to veractinc@msn.com

Hormones & Pain Care: What Every Patient Should Know

By Forest Tennant, MD, Guest Columnist

As we start the year 2019, every chronic pain patient needs to know the status of hormones and pain care. Unfortunately, the recent hysteria over opioids has obscured the positive advances in the understanding and application of hormonal care to the relief and recovery of pain patients.

In fact, research and clinical experience is starting to revolutionize the way I personally think about pain care. Hormones are showing us the natural, biologic way the body deals with pain and injury. They are clearly the way forward.

Why the Excitement Over Hormones?

Hormones have recently been discovered to be made in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system – CNS). Some hormones are made that have the specific job and function to protect (“neuroprotection”) CNS tissue from injury and to regrow the injured tissue (“neuroregeneration”). These hormones are collectively called “neurohormones.”

Intractable, chronic pain is actually a type of poisonous, electromagnetic energy that causes injury by producing inflammation (“neuroinflammation”) in the CNS and implanting the pain (e.g. “centralization”) so as to make it constantly (“24/7”) present.

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The process is similar to dropping acid on your skin which burns and causes inflammation to be followed by tissue destruction and scar formation. Fortunately, some neurohormones are made in the CNS to stop the pain, inflammation, tissue destruction and scarring process and rebuild the nerve cell network in the CNS.

Until recently, we physicians didn’t have a clue on how to enhance the natural, biologic hormonal system to help pain patients.

Excitement over neurohormones has really been enhanced by research in rats that had their spinal cords cut so that they walked around their cages dragging their hind legs. They were given some neurohormones which healed their spinal cords to the point that they could normally walk.

Other animal research studies using different test models with CNS tissue have also shown the power of specific hormones to heal and regrow brain and spinal cord nerve cells. This author can’t speak for others, but, in my opinion, these research studies are so compelling that hormone use in pain care has got to be fully investigated.

Are We Making Headway?

Absolutely, yes! First, eight specific hormones made in the CNS have been identified that produce healing effects in animals and show benefit in early clinical trials with chronic pain patients. These early trials indicate that some neurohormones can reduce pain and produce healing and curative neuroregeneration effects.

Six of these hormones are collectively known as “neurosteroids.” Don’t let the term “steroid” raise your eyebrows as it refers only to the chemical structure and not the complications of cortisone-type drugs. Some of the neurosteroids are known to the lay person such as estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone.

Two of the hormones produced in the CNS that control pain but are not classified as a “neurosteroid” are human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and oxytocin.

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM HORMONES

  • ALLOPREGNANOLONE
  • ESTRADIOL
  • DEHYDROEPIANDROSTERONE (DHEA)
  • HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPIN (HCG)
  • OXYTOCIN
  • PREGNENOLONE
  • PROGESTERONE
  • TESTOSTERONE

Due to all the controversies surrounding opioids and pain treatment, one would never know we have, in the past couple of years, made serious headway with hormones and pain care. Medical science has discovered which hormones reduce chronic pain and how the hormones can be prescribed. The overall hormone advance in pain care can, however, be generally summarized in that one or more of the neurohormones can be administered to provide some curative and regenerative benefit in essentially every chronic pain patient.

Replenishment of Deficient Hormones

The production of hormones made in the CNS can be assessed by blood tests which are available in every commercial, community laboratory. The amount of hormone in your blood stream is a pooled amount of hormone made in the CNS and in the glands; adrenals, ovary, and gonads (ovary and testicles).

I recommend a hormone blood test panel of these 6 hormones: cortisol, DHEA, estradiol, pregnenolone, progesterone, and testosterone. If any are low, they should be replenished. Why? Severe chronic pain may overwhelm the production of one or more of these hormones.

If you take opioids and other symptomatic pain medications such as antidepressants and muscle relaxants, you may actually suppress the production of some hormones, particularly testosterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone.

I highly recommend that every chronic pain patient have a hormone blood panel test at least twice a year and replenish any hormone that is low in the blood stream.
— Dr. Forest Tennant

The reason you must replace any deficient hormone is because all 6 of them activate pain centers (“receptors”) in the CNS to reduce pain and produce a healing and curative effect. These hormones act as sort of a co-factor or “booster” of symptomatic pain relievers such as opioids and muscle relaxants. I highly recommend that every chronic pain patient have a hormone blood panel test at least twice a year and replenish any hormone that is low in the blood stream.

The Pregnancy Connection

A couple of years ago I was presenting a scientific poster at a medical meeting on some of my hormone research. An old friend came up and asked, “What took you so long?”

I initially thought he was insulting me. He wasn’t. He was lamenting, along with me, a sad fact. We should have long ago been studying the pregnancy hormones, HCG and oxytocin, for everyday pain care.

Why? HCG in pregnancy is the hormone that grows the CNS in the embryo and fetus. Oxytocin is the natural pain reliever in pregnancy that allows a big “tumor” to grow in the abdomen without death-dealing pain. Also, oxytocin surges at the time of delivery to make sure that pain doesn’t kill the expectant mother.

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With such obvious knowledge about natural pain relief in pregnancy, we should have tested these hormones for severe, chronic pain problems before now. Do they work? Yes. Long-term HCG use (over 60 days) is proving most effective in reducing pain and restoring function in some patients with adhesive arachnoiditis and other severe pain problems. Oxytocin is an effective short-term pain reliever that can be taken for pain flares. It can even be taken with symptomatic pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, or a stimulant to help a patient avoid opioids.

Goodbye Symptomatic Treatments

Until the hormones came our way, you never heard much about “symptomatic” versus “curative” care. Why? Up until the discovery that hormones are made inside the CNS and produce curative effects, about all we could do was prescribe symptomatic pain relievers such as opioids, muscle relaxants, and anti-seizure (“neuropathic”) agents. There was no need or hope that we can permanently reduce severe chronic pain, much less hold out a hope for cure or near cure.

Chronic pain patients are beginning to use DHEA, pregnenolone, testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, and HCG on a long-term basis. Dosages are beginning to be determined. For example, DHEA requires a dosage of 200 mg or more each day. Pregnenolone requires 100 mg or more. Patients report reduced levels of pain, fatigue, and depression.

Although few controlled studies have yet been done, the open-label clinical trials are impressive and clearly call for chronic pain patients to get started with the neurohormones that are being found to be beneficial. Neurohormones have changed our thinking and old-hat beliefs.

Every severe chronic pain patient needs to know they can probably do a lot of mending with hormonal care. Be, however, clearly advised. Hormones can mend a lot of damaged nerve tissue, but they can’t fix scar tissue once it sets in.

So far at my clinic site, we have around 60 to 70 people on oxytocin. Early results look good so far. Many are also on DHEA and pregnenolone as well. The treatment seems to be working.
— Nurse practitioner

Unfortunately, millions of severe, chronic pain patients have had no option in the past couple of decades except to take symptomatic medication and use such devices as electrical stimulators.

Even long-standing severe chronic pain patients who are on opioids, however, can almost always benefit from one or more hormones. Most important, I am finding that hormone administration is the best way in most chronic pain patients to reduce opioid dosages but still get good pain relief.

Therapeutic Trials

One of my major purposes in writing this report is to encourage all chronic pain patients to embark upon a search for one or more hormonal treatments that will reduce their pain, need for opioids, and yield a better life. Don’t wait for your medical practitioner to offer hormone testing or treatment. To many overworked medical practitioners, such a request may be considered a real nuisance or even a threat.

Be prepared. Check with other patients in your social media group. Know what you need. Make it easy on your medic. Please share with your social media group this report and any materials you have about hormones and pain care. Most MD’s, NP’s, and PA’s will appreciate your preparation and desire to try something new on a short-term, trial basis.

Every chronic pain patient needs to know that all the hormonal agents described here can be safely tried for one month. This is known as a “therapeutic trial.” Specifically ask your medical practitioner for a one-month, therapeutic trial. In this manner you can find out if the hormone is right for you and whether you should continue with it past one month.

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Forest Tennant, MD, MPH, DrPH, recently retired from clinical practice but continues his groundbreaking research on the treatment of intractable pain and arachnoiditis. To download a complete copy of Dr. Tennant’s report on hormones and pain care, click here.

This report is provided as a public service by the Arachnoiditis Research and Education Project of the Tennant Foundation and is republished with permission. Correspondence should be sent to veractinc@msn.com

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Former Tennant Patients Get New Doctor

By Pat Anson, PNN Editor

At a time when many pain patients have difficulty finding doctors willing to treat them, some of the sickest and most complicated pain patients in the U.S. have found a new physician. Or to be more precise, she found them.

Dr. Margaret Aranda is treating former patients of Dr. Forest Tennant, a prominent California pain physician who recently retired from clinical practice.  Tennant was seeing about 150 patients with severe intractable pain at his West Covina pain clinic. Most suffer from arachnoiditis, a chronic and painful disease of the spinal cord, and traveled to California from out-of-state because they could not find effective treatment locally.

Tennant, who is 77, is a beloved figure in the pain community. He was forced into retirement after the DEA raided his clinic last year and alleged he was running a pill mill. No charges were ever filed, but Tennant reluctantly agreed to close his clinic on the advice of his lawyer and doctor. That’s when Aranda stepped in and offered to take on Tennant’s patients.

“I feel very happy to be here and to be doing this and to feel qualified to do it because of my experience, my background and my education. But I think the thing I love the most is the connection I have with patients who understand that I’ve been through a lot myself,” said Aranda, an anesthesiologist whose medical career was put on hold for several years while she recovered from a car accident that left her with traumatic brain injuries.

“They just seem be relieved that they can talk to somebody who knows what it feels like. I think Dr. Tennant did that for them too. He wasn’t sick like a lot us were sick, but he carried that empathy with him. I find this to be very spiritual. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time in my life and everything I went through prepared me for this.”

DR. MARGARET ARANDA

DR. MARGARET ARANDA

Tennant had success treating patients with an unusual combination of high dose opioid prescriptions, hormones, anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, which Aranda plans to continue.

“I’m working to decrease the opioids as much as possible. For some patients that’s totally impossible, for others it’s not,” she told PNN. “I really think what we’re doing is redefining palliative care. I tell people this isn’t a pain clinic. This is a ‘keep you out of a wheelchair’ clinic. Keep you in the family. Keep you getting out of your house here and there.”

“Dr. Aranda is very intelligent and picked up on the scientific precepts of this disease and other things very rapidly,” says Tennant. “I was tickled to death the way she’s caught on to all this and knows how to carry on everything I was doing. Plus, she’s improving a lot of things I was doing.”

Under a Microscope

Aranda admits being a little worried about being scrutinized by the DEA.

“Of course, that would be the natural inclination I think for anyone in my field. It’s a little bit scary to walk in the shoes of a man who is so well known and beloved by everyone and had issues with the DEA I think most people felt were unfounded,” Aranda said.

“I am of course very concerned that they could be looking at me with a microscope. Or a double and triple microscope. But I think they already know our patient population and they now understand that we do have some of the sickest patients in the country. That’s why they come to us from all over. And so, we’re just careful.”

While Tennant operated his clinic basically as a charity, Aranda is “cash only” and will not accept medical insurance.  She is temporarily seeing patients at a clinic in Malibu but is looking for a permanent location.

Like Tennant, Aranda is willing to treat patients from out-of-state, including those who suffer from severe intractable pain. Patients interested in seeing Aranda can reach her at (800) 992-9280.   

DR. FOREST TENNANT

DR. FOREST TENNANT

As for Tennant, he’s not quite ready to retire completely. He plans to continue researching arachnoiditis, a progressive and incurable disease that often begins when the spinal cord is damaged during surgery or punctured by a misplaced needle during an epidural steroid injection.

Inflammation sets in and can spiral out of control, forming scar tissue that cause spinal nerves to stick together. That leads to adhesive arachnoiditis and neurological problems, which can cause burning or stinging pain that can be felt from head to toe.

Arachnoiditis is poorly understood and often misdiagnosed as “failed back syndrome.” Tennant estimates as many as a million Americans may have it. Few doctors are trained to recognize the symptoms or know how to treat it.

“I’m going to be spending my time trying to research and educate on arachanoiditis. I think it’s the biggest, most severe pain problem we have,” says Tennant. “Before I hang up my spurs totally I want to make sure arachnoiditis is known to every family doctor and nurse practitioner in every community in the country.”

My Arachnoiditis Family

By Elaine Ballard, Guest Columnist

I live in the rural county of Somerset in England, UK. At the age of 22, I had a sporting accident which eventually left me 80 percent disabled and unable to lead a normal life. 

The accident caused several crushed discs in my spine and a great deal of nerve damage. Over the years multi-level disc degeneration set in, as well as osteoarthritis. I am unable to use a wheelchair, as bulging discs prevent me from sitting without severe pain. I am now 73.

ELAINE BALLARD

ELAINE BALLARD

Since 1994, I have been confined to lying on a bed in my living room and only leave home to keep hospital appointments. I travel by stretcher ambulance.

Just over two years ago I had an MRI scan which showed I had Adhesive Arachnoiditis (AA) and my life changed drastically yet again. 

Arachnoiditis is listed as a rare neurological condition, but in fact many thousands of people all over the world have been diagnosed with it. There are also thousands of other people who have the same symptoms, but as yet, no diagnosis.

It is difficult for patients to get diagnosed as doctors are not trained to recognize this disease and often fail to even recognize the symptoms.

Arachnoiditis results from severe inflammation of the arachnoid membrane that surrounds the nerves of the spinal cord. It may cause stinging and burning pain, as well as muscle cramps, spasms, and uncontrollable twitching. The most common symptom is severe to unbearable neurological pain, especially to the nerves connecting to the lower back, legs and feet. This can lead to tingling, numbness, weakness and severe pain in the legs and feet.

Other symptoms include sensations that feel like insects crawling on the skin or water trickling down the legs. It can also affect the bladder, bowel and sexual function. Unfortunately for some, it may also result in paralysis.

As this disease progresses, the symptoms can become more severe or even permanent. Most people with Arachnoiditis are eventually unable to work and suffer significant disability because they are in constant pain. Pain is the most dominant factor and it is both chronic and acute. As the disease progresses, it can be relentless and unbearable and sadly suicide becomes an option.

Inflammation of the arachnoid membrane can lead to the formation of scar tissue, which may cause the spinal nerves to clump together and eventually adhere to the lining wall of the dura, the middle layer of the spine. The disease can then progress to Adhesive Arachnoiditis.

What Causes Arachnoiditis

There are a few different causes of Arachnoiditis. In the 1970's a dye used in myelograms was injected during spinal procedures directly into the area surrounding the spinal cord and nerves. The dye was too toxic for these delicate parts of the spine and was blamed for causing Arachnoiditis. This dye continues to be used in some parts of the world.

Bacterial infections and viruses in the spine can also lead to Arachnoiditis. So can complications from spinal surgery and invasive spinal procedures such as epidural steroid injections.

There is no cure for Arachnoiditis and there is little effective pain relief. This is a disease or condition for life. Opioids are offered by doctors, but are not specific to reducing neurological pain of this nature.

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It is very sad and cruel that opioids are being clamped down in America and that Arachnoiditis patients are being classed together with people who seek drugs for recreational purposes. We are not drug seekers but desperate victims crying out for something that will stop this relentless and overwhelming neurological pain.

The Facebook support group Arachnoiditis Together We Fight has been an important part of my education in understanding this disease. I am thankful to say it has become more of a family, where members can come in and gradually feel at home while we bring education, support and encouragement. This family atmosphere and great support has saved many lives, as people first arrive feeling suicidal and lost in a medical world that will not help them.

That is why I wrote this poem to show people how important support groups can be and to bring more attention to this rare but life changing disease.

"The Family"

By Elaine Ballard

Lonely, fearfully I knock at the door
Arac greets me, a smile, so kind
I want to die, eyes keep to the floor
"Welcome" she says, but what will I find?

"Welcome" repeated again and again
"Good to have you!" Are you kidding?  
"Family" really can it be true? 
Lost, lonely, rejected... what you too? 

I tell my story, they will never believe
"We understand, you're not alone"
Tears trickle down, I cannot believe
We are bound together by this dreaded disease

Files, inflammation, medication
Head's in a spin, where do I begin?  
Then a hand upon my shoulder
Guides me to those precious folders

Questions answered, hope is rising
Found some friends, pain subsiding
Flares still come but under control
No longer afraid nor out in the cold

We need each other, your pain is mine  
Strength in unity, love is the sign
Moving forward we are free
To Fight Together as one FAMILY

 

Elaine Ballard has written a book about Adhesive Arachnoiditis and how her Christian faith helped her through many difficult flares and times. It is called “The Furnace of Fire” and is available on Amazon. Click on the book's cover to see price and ordering information.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories (and poems) with us. Send them to editor@painnewsnetwork.org.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

I Would Not Be Alive Without Dr. Tennant

(Editor’s note: As PNN has reported, last week the DEA raided the home and offices of Dr. Forest Tennant, a prominent pain physician in California.  The DEA search warrant alleges that Dr. Tennant is part of a “drug trafficking organization” and prescribes excessive amounts of opioid pain medication. Dr. Tennant treats about 120 patients with intractable chronic pain, including many from out-of-state who can’t get effective treatment elsewhere. Kimberley Comfort is one of them.)  

By Kimberley Comfort, Guest Columnist

My Dad searched the country for help for me, as I have spent my life since September 2010 in 24/7 intractable pain. I ended up having two major surgeries trying to help. None helped with the severe intractable pain.

My Dad finally found Dr. Tennant and flew me on three plane seats, while he sat in another row, so I could remain laying down to reach California in January 2014.

Dr. Tennant saw me for over 12 hours in two hour sections in the morning and afternoon. He was essentially a charity. It was 12 hours of full one-on-one attention for $100. He did extensive examinations, blood tests, a genetic test, and trying out different very mild exercises once he diagnosed my adhesive arachnoiditis. He explained some treatments that might help if I ever had my spinal cord stimulator removed.

KIMBERLEY COMFORT

KIMBERLEY COMFORT

Dr. Tennant did prescribe me some additional opioid medication, while awaiting the results from genetic testing, along with vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory drugs, and a water reduction pill that mainly concentrated on the spine.

He agreed that I try a drug combination from a doctor in France that my Dad had researched and spoken with. Opioids were Dr. Tennant's last choice and high dose opioids were for those who metabolized the opioids much too fast.

Dr. Tennant thought I should return monthly, but we explained that the flight was just way too much for me to handle. So Dr. Tennant explained that palliative care was all that remained. He wrote letters to my pharmacy in Florida explaining my disease and why I was requiring such high amounts of opioids. He wrote my primary care provider and explained everything to him, offering to help in any way he could.

Dr. Tennant had recommended injectable Dilaudid, but my doctor would not give me that. Instead, it took him another 15 months and 4 different opioids to get me to a point where I was not in intractable pain 24/7.

I would not be alive today if it were not for Dr. Tennant. There is no way I could or would survive the pain I have without my high dosage of opioids. The genetic test showed I was a very fast metabolizer of opioids.

I have suffered with pain since I was a teenager.  Even back then, I was given opioids with Valium. My primary care provider still gives them to me today. If a doctor told me my liver was dying and they needed to cut back on my opioids, my answer would be the same now at age 52, as it was at 16.  I would much prefer a shortened life with manageable pain than to live a long torturous life with intractable pain. Frankly, I believe my heart would give out if I faced intractable pain again 24/7.

The opioid doses that the CDC recommends are far less then I have been on since the day adhesive arachnoiditis hit me like a Mack truck.

As for the money Dr. Tennant received from Insys Therapeutics, it is very little compared to some doctors. Doctors often get paid for speaking, get free lunches for the staff and themselves, and airfare to conferences where they will speak. Dr. Tennant is far from the only doctor to do this.

One can go online to ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs and see how much your internist, orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, etc. got from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. It shows that from 2013 to 2015, Dr. Tennant received $127,000.

Compare that to the highest paid doctor. Dr. Roger Jackson, an orthopedic spine surgeon, was paid $54,100,000 during that same time period.

DR. FOREST TENNANT

DR. FOREST TENNANT

Dr. Tennant basically works for nothing. You should see how hard and long he works, speaks to educate doctors, and does research to help those of us who would very likely be dead if not for him. To me, Dr. Tennant is a saint!

The DEA should be going to Dr. Tennant, not to raid his offices, but to learn from him. My understanding of U.S. medicine is that a doctor had to be a Doctor of Public Health (DPH), as Dr. Tennant is, to have prescribed pain medication back in the 1960’s. Dr. Tennant was sent the worst of the worst pain patients back then, when “learning to live with it” was impossible for severely injured patients. Pain patients from all walks of life were referred to him for help that the other doctors could not give.

Dr. Tennant is far more educated than most any doctor left today, except perhaps other DPH doctors who have kept up with the times. In my Dad’s research, we found no other doctor specializing in intractable pain. Dr. Tennant has more than 35 years of prescribing pain medication under his belt. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He is the doctor the DEA and the Department of Justice should be calling as an expert witness in the treatment of pain, not going after.

This is nothing more than a smear campaign to try to ruin Dr. Tennant. All these government agencies, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP), and the news media have mixed up illicit drug use with needed intractable and chronic pain relief. They are mixing apples with oranges. Pain patients do NOT get a high from opioids. If we are lucky, we get some relief. Some get more relief than others and can go back to living a fairly normal life with opioids.

The crackdown on pain medication isn’t going to stop an addict from looking for that next high. Overdoses will continue even if the DEA, FDA, CDC and DOJ totally eliminate opioid medication. People will find something else to get high with and we will still have overdoses.

The intractable pain patient who has followed the law and their prescription directions will never get high and will, if they’re lucky, be able to have some semblance of a life. Take away their opioid medication and you will murder these people by forcing them to take their own life or waiting until their body fails from the extreme stress of the pain. Our blood will be forever on your hands.

You are trying so hard to take down any doctor who follows the Hippocratic Oath they took to render care to those who need it. You are too ignorant to not recognize the bad science used by the greedy doctors trying to get more money for rehabilitating illicit drug users. You fail to listen to the experts in the treatment of pain and instead only care about the treatment of addicts.

We, the intractable and chronic pain patients, need and depend on the assistance of the few remaining doctors willing to help. Let Dr. Tennant continue to be the highly educated pain doctor he is. Let him continue to help us stay alive and be with our loved ones.

We all are suffering, some worse than others. Without Dr. Tennant and those good doctors you have already tossed to the curb or worse, you will be responsible for our screams of pain and our forced intentional suicides. It will be murder by proxy.

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Kimberly Comfort lives in Florida.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.  Send them to:  editor@PainNewsNetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Dr. Tennant and the Tennant Foundation have given financial support to Pain News Network and are currently sponsoring PNN’s Patient Resources section.  

What You Need to Know About Chronic Pain

By Sarah Elizabeth Hirschle, Guest Columnist

This is a side of my life not many know about, except close friends and family.

This is me when traveling anywhere over an hour away. I can only sit in the car for up to an hour. I was traveling to my doctor's appointment several hours away. 

I share for awareness, not pity.

In the past three weeks, I have been able to leave the house twice a week at most. Some of those days were just short car rides to get some fresh air and sun. 

This is the sad reality of so many chronic pain patients. Much more awareness is needed, especially in the medical community. 

If you have a loved one that is suffering from pain, please listen. Talk to them, let them know you care. Even if you don't know what to do to help or hate seeing them that way. 

A few things to know about chronic illness and pain:

SARAH ELIZABETH HIRSCHLE

SARAH ELIZABETH HIRSCHLE

  • The pain causes depression and depression causes pain.
  • Pain is very isolating, making patients feel unlovable and alone, when in fact we need love and companionship the most at these times.
  • True chronic pain patients who are on narcotics for pain do not get high from their meds.

When your body is under stress and in insurmountable amounts of pain, all you get from opioid medication is relief. There is a big difference between dependence and addiction.

We do what whatever is necessary to have some quality of life.

Please reach out if you know someone is suffering. You may save their life without knowing it.

Sarah Elizabeth Hirschle lives in Pennsylvania. Sarah contracted Lyme disease as an infant, which caused permanent organ damage. At age 20, her spinal cord was damaged during a botched epidural and she developed arachnoiditis.  Sarah also lives with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome in her legs and feet.

Sarah helps run a Facebook support group called Arachnoiditis Everyday and moderates the Facebook page of the Arachnoiditis Society.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.  Send them to:  editor@PainNewsNetwork.org

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.