A local researcher is testing whether an injection designed for physical pain can heal the emotional pain of post-partum depression (PPD).

The study comes after the treatment of 37-year-old Nicole Hooper. Recently the Villa Park native became the first woman with post-partum depression to receive a traditional neck injection for physical pain called a Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). The new mother was so anxious after the birth of her son; she was paralyzed with an overwhelming urge to abandon her child.

When hormones and antidepressants didn't work, her local doctor recommended the radically different approach. Yet after getting the treatment "Everything became brighter," she says. "I wasn't as overwhelmed and had more energy. My husband said I was transformed." '

"My team and I weren't surprised," says Eugene Lipov M.D, Founder of Advanced Pain Centers. "We often see an emotional boost after giving pain patients Stellate Ganglion Blocks. What's more we've recently shown the procedure helps veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.[1] Our PTSD results were recently replicated at Walter Reed Army Hospital.[2]"

He continues, "The question has always been why would a treatment for physical pain have such an emotional effect?"

Now a groundbreaking study involving Tylenol may explain why.

"Researchers showed that emotional pain can be eased with Tylenol and similar pain relievers," says Dr. Lipov. In the recent study University of Kentucky researchers gave 62 subjects either placebos or the equivalent of five Tylenol pills a day.[3] Over three weeks the Tylenol users feelings were measured daily using a psychologically accepted "hurt feelings" scale. The Tylenol users' scores consistently declined till by day 21 that group's average score was 15% lower than those taking placebo.

The lead researcher, Dr. Nathan DeWall, concluded "We have shown for the first time that acetaminophen (Tylenol)...also reduces the pain of social rejection, at both neural and behavioral levels."

Dr. Lipov says, "What really intrigued me about Dr, DeWall's study was he showed Tylenol exerted this emotional effect by acting on the insular cortex of the brain. That's exactly the same area that's affected by a Stellate Ganglion Block.[4]" The specialist is also Director of Chronic Pain Research at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

Now the researcher hopes to do a similar study to confirm SGB is a safe effective treatment for other women with post-partum depression. He believes the treatment is ideal for PPD. Unlike medication a SGB acts almost immediately so there's no disruption in mother??"son bonding.

Dr. Lipov seeks funding and volunteers to treat and carefully monitor the feelings of ten women with PPD. He estimates those women may need an average of two such treatments to get their emotional lives back.

"What we're finding is terms like 'emotional pain' and 'hurt feelings' are more than just metaphors. Emotional pain is so similar to physical pain it can be helped by many of the same treatments. Now I think we'll find that's true with post-partum depression as well."

Nicole Hooper says, "I don't know how it worked, all I know is this treatment turned my mood around. And I know without this treatment the challenges in my life would have pushed me over the edge."

[1] Lipov EG, Joshi JR, Lipov SG, Sanders SE, Siroko MK. Cervical sympathetic blockade in a patient with posttraumatic stress disorder: a case report. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2008;20:227-228

[2] Mulvaney SW, McLean B, de Leeuw J. The use of stellate ganglion block in the treatment of panic/anxiety symptoms with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder; preliminary results of long-term follow-up: a case series. Pain Pract. 2010;10:359-365

[3] Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain: Behavioral and Neural Evidence
DeWall et al, Psychological Science 21 (7) 931-937

[4] Lipov EG, Joshi JR, et al. A unifying theory linking the prolonged efficacy of the stellate ganglion block for the treatment of chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS), hot flashes, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Med Hypotheses 2009;72(6):657-61.

Dr. Michael Breen Associates