A nerve-block procedure for menopausal symptoms has become more common, as more doctors are learning the technique.
But doctors at North Carolina’s University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say they’re struggling to determine how effective it is.
The University of New Hampshire is one of the first medical centers in the country to use the procedure to treat menopausal pain.
Dr. Jennifer Reitz, the center’s clinical professor, says the treatment was developed with the goal of providing relief to menopausal women who feel unable to tolerate the same pain medications they used to cope with their menstrual cramps.
Women typically use estrogen and progesterone as their primary painkillers for the first seven to 10 weeks of their menopausal cycle.
But in the menopausal period, pain tends to decrease as women take more estrogen and stop taking the other medications.
“Women who do take these drugs, we know they have a lower risk of having chronic pain,” Reitz says.
“If they can stop taking those medications, then they’re able to do it at a lower rate.
So that’s really the point.”
Reitz says the results of the University of Durham study are promising, but there’s still much more work to be done to determine whether the procedure could help alleviate pain for men who don’t experience severe pain during the entire menstrual cycle.
The new treatment has been around for several years, but the technique has been more popular in the past few years.
Reitz is currently working on a pilot study in women at Duke University, and expects to be ready to start using it in a few weeks.
But for now, she says she’s focused on using the technique for the sake of the women who are having a painful time coping with their menopause.
“We’re really focused on the women we know who have pain problems, and it’s very difficult for them to get an answer,” she says.
The study will likely involve a lot of women with chronic pain.
In the meantime, doctors at Duke are still assessing the effectiveness of the treatment, and if the results are positive, it will go into practice in the near future.
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