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Oxytocin may offer benefits in treatment of chronic pain

Tuesday 25 January 2011




By Dr. James Howenstine, MD.
January 5, 2011

The hormone oxytocin is used to induce labor in pregnant women. Large amounts of oxycytoxin are released during childbirth and the uterus is stimulated to contract. There is now research evidence that this hormone has a valuable role to play in healing fibromylgia, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and sexual dysfunction in females (delayed or inability to experience orgasms).

Dr. Jorge Flechas has done considerable research with Oxytocin. Twenty years ago he became aware that there were at least 20,000,000 patients with fibromyalgia who had no effective therapy.

Dr. Flechas learned that patients with fibromyalgia had only about one third the levels of DHEA that was present in normal persons. Nearly every patient he encountered advised him that that stress greatly intensified the symptoms. Patients with fibromyalgia who were free of symptoms often developed a severe recurrence of their symptoms when they found themselves in a new stressful situation. One patient was quite well on therapy until she learned that her son had died. Within 24 hours she had reappearance of a full flare-up of her illness. These patients also are aware that having an orgasm brought about a dramatic decrease in their symptoms for up to 4 hours.

Dr. Guy Abraham, former head of infertility at UCLA Medical School, advised Dr. Flechas that orgasm is followed by marked elevation of oxytocin levels. Oxytocin produces the feeling of warmth all over, cuddling and relaxation. Oxytocin appears to counteract the effects of stress. Lack of oxytocin is not rare in the general population.

Most women find the pain in childbirth so unpleasant that during delivery they decide to never have another child. Dr. Flechas reports that Oxytocin seems to have the fascinating ability to cause the brain to be unable to recall the severe pain that occurs with childbirth. This certainly plays a role in why most women proceed to have more than one child.

Some patients seem to use sexual activity as a method to decrease stressful situations. Oxytocin appears to be an effective anti-stress hormone. There is also substantial literature supporting the concept that it is effective in pain control.

Soldiers returning from the Vietnam War with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were found by Dr. Flechas to have an insufficiency of oxytocin. These patients were successfully treated with oxytocin.

In 1992 Dr. Flechas took care of a woman who been involved in a terrible airplane crash. This crash triggered a relapse of her fibromyalgia which often follows physical injury particularly neck trauma. She had continuous pain in a breast that had been injured in the accident. This was associated with generalized pain compatible with fibromyalgia. She related that in all 5 of her pregnancies physicians were forced to use oxytocin. This had encouraged her to be suspicious she could be lacking oxytocin. She was given intravenous oxytocin and proceeded to leave Dr. Flechas’s office in one hour pain free. She also noted that her energy levels which had always been subnormal and had never permitted her to undertake a physical activity lasting more than 20 minutes. She went shopping with her husband for 4 hours and proceeded to have sexual relations with her husband which resulted in the best orgasm she could recall for 5 years. She advised Dr. Flechas that she was awakened from sleep at 3 AM with reappearance of all her fibromyalgia pain. Her pain relief from oxytocin therapy had lasted 18 hours.

Dr. Flechas decided to do a test study to see if she could detect whether she was getting oxytocin or not. Identical intravenous fluid bags were prepared. One contained oxytocin and the other did not. Within 5 minutes of being given a bag which contained no oxytocin she told Dr Flechas she was not receiving oxytocin. She knew this because the preceding day when given oxytocin within 5 minutes of starting the oxytocin infusion she developeda heat sensation involving ears, hands and feet. This sensation was absent. Oxytocin controls the capillary circulation in the arms and legs. Cold hands and feet without an adequate explanation are indications oxytocin deficiency is probably present.

Dr. Flechas is convinced that the primary factor governing the presence or absence of adequate oxytocin is the patient’s exposure to stress. When a woman who is breast feeding becomes very stressed it is common for breast milk to dry up resulting from decreased oxytocin production caused by stress.

Dr. Frank Shellenberger has noted that menopause appears to be a factor pushing women into fibromyalgia. Correcting deficient estrogen levels causes fibromyalgia symptoms to improve.

Patients with oxytocin insufficiency often have experienced emotional or physical trauma immediately before symptoms began. Physical findings seen in these patients include cold hands and feet and a blanched white pasty appearance in the skin of the face and ears. These patients with oxytocin lack often give a history of lack of orgasms (anorgasmia). They tend to dislike being held and cuddled. They often appear agitated and full of anxiety. Another common symptom they have is loss of memory for social events.

Because there is no readily available blood test to establish oxytocin deficiency a trial of oxytocin therapy is warranted. An intramuscular injection of 1 cc. (20 units of oxytocin) combined with ½ cc. of lidocaine to alleviate pain can be used. Warming up of the hands, ears, and feet within 5 to 10 minutes is a good sign that oxytocin deficiency is probably present. This should be associated with increased libido, improved energy and decreased pain within one or two hours.

In order to avoid daily injections the Belmar Pharmacy (800-525-9473) has formulated oxcytocin embedded in a wax matrix. This permits oxcytocin to get absorbed into lymphatic channels which permits oxcytocin to escape destruction by the liver. Blood levels have been proven to rise within an hour. This formulation requires a prescription from a physician.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety States, and other diseases may respond to oxcytocin. Research has discovered that oxcytocin is not solely created in the pituitary gland but can be made in ovaries, testicles, adrenal glands, pancreas, heart, gastrointestinal tract, thymus, pineal gland and retina. This raises the possibility that other sites may be experiencing symptoms relating to oxcytocin lack that are yet to be identified.

Oxytocin levels rise in relaxed patients and fall in stressed patients. Administration of any hormone to a patient may not result in a beneficial effect if the patient has become resistant to the effect of the hormone being given. When this occurs it raises suspicion that either estradiol or DHEA is lacking. Correction of a deficiency of either estradiol or DHEA restores responsiveness to oxytocin.

There is sufficient evidence that oxcytocin can be valuable to patients with fibromyalgia to warrant a trial of oxcytocin in these patients. The wax formulation from Belmar Pharmacy may prove more practical than injections.

Malignancies create major stress in nearly every patient. A common problem in patients with malignancies is pain management. Pain may appear at sites where malignant cells are located due to tumor cells releasing lactic acid which is painful. Additionally tumor masses can press on nerves generating painful stimuli. A safe therapy like oxcytocin would become very valuable in caring for cancer patients if it could be shown to be effective in alleviating pain caused by malignancies. This is of major importance because the narcotics and synthetic pain drugs stimulate the growth of cancer cells [1] which obviously impairs the ability of patients to recover.


1, Singleton, P.A., Moss, J., Effect of preoperative opiods on cancer recurrence: a hypothesis Int Immunopharmacol. 2010 Sept. 1149-52
2, Campos, G et al 2010 Elsevier B.V. Department of Pharmacology University of Bologna, Italy

© 2011 Dr. James Howenstine - All Rights Reserved

Dr. James A. Howenstine is a board certified specialist in internal medicine. The Second Edition of his book A Physicians Guide To Natural Health Products That Work is available.

Dr. Howenstine can be reached by phoning 001-506-2262-7504.



The above originally appeared here.


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