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Suffering from chronic pain? Have a coffee

A US study has found that coffee is much better than standard over-the-counter pills for chronic pain relief.

The study was conducted by the Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center (BDMC) and found that tiredness dramatically increases our pain sensitivity.

So to counteract this effect, scientists gave exhausted lab mice either painkillers, coffee or more time asleep, and it’s they surprisingly found that coffee was the best ailment.

Common causes for higher pain sensitivity in humans comes from sleep loss or sleep deprivation, with the results finding that sleep and caffeine helped increase our pain threshold.

Testing for pain response is a difficult measure, the research team measured the pain sensitivity in a sort of ‘blinded fashion’ by exposing mice to controlled amounts of heat, cold, pressure or capsaicin (the agent responsible for making chilli peppers hot).

The time was then measured as to how long it took the animals to move away or lick away the discomfort caused by the spicy hot chilli essence. Researchers also tested responses to non-painful stimuli, such as how animals reacted to being startled by sudden loud noises.

After an extensive period of testing and analysing, the researchers conclude that just simply taking painkillers alone, patients with chronic pain are likely to benefit from better sleeping habits, or taking sleep-promoting medication at night, coupled with daytime alertness-promoting medication or agents to reduce pain.

As some medication also includes caffeine as an active ingredient, the exact mechanism of this phenomenon are unknown until further research is conducted, but caffeine does boost our dopamine perception within the brain, which could be a clue as to why the stimulant helps alleviate pain.

“Many patients with chronic pain suffer from poor sleep and daytime fatigue, and some pain medications themselves can contribute to these co-morbidities,” notes Kiran Maski, MD, a specialist in sleep disorders at Boston Children’s.

“This study suggests a novel approach to pain management that would be relatively easy to implement in clinical care. Clinical research is needed to understand what sleep duration is required and to test the efficacy of wake-promoting medications in chronic pain patients.”

So if you’re ever feeling a little achy, or a troublesome old injury is causing you pain, a good old cup of coffee might just sort you out.