Summary: The release of hormones is the way body counters pain and stress. Thus, now researchers think that using hormones for pain relief may be a good approach, as it helps treat the root cause. Doctors have long used corticosteroids for pain management. However, they have now discovered that other hormones like HCG, oxytocin, progesterone, estradiol, and testosterone can also help relieve pain. They are also exploring the role of over-the-counter neurosteroids in pain management, like DHEA. Hormones are good in the way that they lower neuroinflammation and promote neuro-regeneration.
The current approach to chronic pain treatment is not helping people adequately. However, there is something that medical science still has to learn. Some researchers think that this missing link is the hormones. Human body produces many hormones that promote healing and the body’s natural defenses. Moreover, in recent years, researchers have discovered some new hormones like neurosteroid (NS). Hormones differ from painkillers or opioids in the way that they help treat the root cause of pain.
What doctors are offering to date in many cases is just symptomatic relief, without any perspective of a complete cure. However, this is far from a perfect approach. The use of hormones to treat painful conditions is not new, and doctors have used some hormones to manage pain for a long time. For example, corticosteroid injections into the joints can help reduce pain and inflammation for a long, and they are pretty safe. In addition, short-term corticosteroids use to provide relief in conditions like neuralgia and arthritic flares.
Neurosteroids are naturally produced in the brain and act on different brain cells like neurons glial cells. They have an intrinsic ability to reduce pain sensation. Unfortunately, these compounds also suppress neuroinflammation and promote neurodegeneration. Researchers have identified many neurosteroids like pregnenolone (PREG), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estradiol, progesterone, and even testosterone.
Many animal studies show that neurosteroids can help in many ways. They suppress the overactivity of the brain’s immune cells or glial cells, protect the brain from further damage, and at the same time, they boost neuro-regeneration. For example, studies in rat models show that PREG and DHEA can promote the healing of damaged spinal cords. At present, there are two types of neurosteroid therapies, the first is replenishment therapy, and another is using these hormones at supraphysiological levels.
For pain treatment, there are prescription hormones and non-prescription hormones. Thus, doctors may use prescription hormones like testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol to treat pain. Or they may recommend hormones that are readily available without a prescription, like DHEA and PREG.
When it comes to using prescription hormones for pain, there could be many ways. However, experts recommend using them intermittently to avoid adverse effects. On the other hand, over-the-counter hormones like DHEA and PREG are suitable for regular and prolonged use.
The human body has numerous hormones, and doctors are still exploring their benefits in pain management. Thus, for example, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a potent hormone that raises testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol levels. Studies show that it can be pretty good for pain management.
Further, researchers are exploring newer ways in which various hormones can help. For example, doctors have known for a long that corticosteroids are good for suppressing inflammation and, thus, pain. However, now they have realized that corticosteroids may also act on the brain and help reduce neuroinflammation. Therefore, they may have a particular role in managing chronic pains. In addition, it appears that hormones like prednisone, triamcinolone, and hydrocortisone are pretty good for neuroinflammation.
Moreover, corticosteroids appear to help manage neuroinflammation at much lower dosages. Hence, their intermittent use at low dosages may help reduce neuroinflammation and provide chronic pain relief or even intractable pains. Another surprising discovery is the role of oxytocin in pain management. Oxytocin is known to act on the brain and alter mood and behavior. However, new studies show that it may also help manage pain. It can act on specific brain centers and thus reduce pain sensation. The human body naturally releases oxytocin during periods of stress or pain.
Oxytocin is quite a potent pain reliever, acting on the same receptors as opioids. However, it also means that oxytocin is not helpful to those using opioids for pain relief. To sum up, neuroinflammation is one of the significant causes of chronic or intractable pain. It now appears that using hormones instead of painkillers or painkillers may be a better approach to pain management. Moreover, many neurohormones are pretty safe for prolonged use and can help treat the root cause of pain.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA