Dr. Mary Lynch
Chronic pain alternatives:
Pain is the nervous system’s response to injury - it usually goes away when the injury heals, but for many people it lingers. As a clinician who works with people who have chronic pain, Dr. Mary Lynch is dedicated to alleviating what for many can become lifelong suffering. She has turned to alternative approaches she feels are safer and more effective than typical pain medications.
“The long-lasting nature of chronic pain means we must look beyond drugs that carry the risk of addiction and negative side effects, ” says Dr. Lynch, a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Anaesthesia and Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School. “that’s why we’re evaluating the effectiveness of Qigong, and developing new treatments that mimic our bodies’ own responses to pain, such as the endocannabinoid system.”
As Dr. Lynch explains, our bodies naturally produce cannabis-like compounds that reduce pain and inflammation - but not enough to stop chronic pain. She and Dalhousie colleagues have started a company to develop cannabinoid-based treatments that avoid the problems of marijuana. “Our collaborators in Israel have developed a synthetic cannabinoid that contains the pain-reducing properties of marijuana, without the psychoactive ingredient, THC,” she says. “This provides relief without creating a high or posing a risk of addiction or harmful side effects.”
Dr. Lynch is also pursuing drug-free treatments, such as Qigong, an ancient Chinese system of movement that influences the nervous system. “Qigong activates the body’s own capacity for healing and pain management,” says Dr. Lynch. “we don’t understand the mechanism yet - it’s on our wish list to get funding to study this - but we do know from randomized controlled trails that it works extremely well. We now run an ongoing treatment group for people with fibromyalgia, who are finding it very beneficial.”