During pregnancy, childbirth, and shortly thereafter, many women don’t experience pain to the degree expected. Many who use opiates for pain management find they don’t need as much of it during this time. One doctor in California thought it might be pregnancy hormones reducing their perception of pain so he enlisted some of his pain-management patients to test the theory.
Forest Tennant, MD, was aware of studies that used oxytocin (OT) to relieve pain in non-pregnant patients and he knew of other studies that used human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). He knew of no study that used both hormones to study their combined effect on intractable pain experienced by patients who are not pregnant.
Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter, is often called the love hormone because it produces feelings of intimacy and affection after sex. During pregnancy and l, OT is important for strengthening the connection a woman feels toward her newborn. Among its many roles, HCG supports development of the nervous system of a developing fetus.
Tennant wanted to explore the effects of these bio-identical, natural hormones for pain relief because he thought they might produce results without the dangerous side effects of the opium-based drugs so many patients with intractable (difficult to control) pain rely on. He is an addictionologist and internist specializing in research and treatments for intractable pain at the West Covina, California, Veract Intractable Pain Clinics, of which he is a founder.
Tennant enlisted nine non-pregnant patients diagnosed with intractable pain. Each was managing pain by using one or more short- and long-acting opioid prescription medications. Pregnancy hormone dosages for the study participants were:
- HCG — once a day, sublingually (beneath the tongue), in 250 to 500 units per dose
- OT — two to four times a day, sublingually, in 10-unit doses
Measures of relief included relief from pain, reduced opioid reliance, energy, mental function, and side effects after two to three months in the hormone trial.
One patient withdrew from the study, saying there was no effect. A second patient said the hormones made her despondent and weepy so she stopped taking the OTC but continued with HCG.
The remaining participants reported reduction in opioid use by as much as 30% to 40%. Baseline pain was reduced and flare intensity and length of time between flares improved. A flare is a sudden intense bout with pain that occurs in addition to chronic pain. Additional benefits reported by participants included increased energy and libido, improved mood, better mental function, and no undesirable side effects.
Tennant would like to see more studies done on the use of these pregnancy hormones for patients suffering intractable pain. Larger studies involving more researchers might reveal neurological biomarkers that could be used to quantify pain reduction and help devise more precise treatment plans.
Source: Tennant, Forest, MD. “Combined Use of Oxytocin and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin in Intractable Pain Patients (poster abstract).” 2014 American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting. The American Academy of Pain Medicine. n.d. Web. Mar 13, 2014.