Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or HCG, is a peptide hormone used to induce fertility in women. It is traditionally isolated from the urine of pregnant women and then purified into an injectable preparation. In addition to its main use as a fertility drug, HCG is touted by many as a weight loss miracle – however this use is both controversial and scientifically questionable. Of course, bodybuilders and athletes are most familiar with HCG as a LH/FSH mimetic useful for restoring testicular testosterone production in steroid users experiencing HPTA suppression (which usually occurs to some extent in all steroid users).
One thing you probably never heard of though is HCG being useful as a pain reliever. Yet that’s exactly what some doctors are claiming in a recent abstact presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. http://www.painmed.org/library/posters/poster-164/
Specifically we are talking about a form of pain referred to as “intractable pain.” Intractable pain is defined as pain that is not relieved by ordinary medical, surgical, and nursing measures. This pain is usually chronic and persistent, and thought by many to be at least partly psychogenic in nature. Examples of medical conditions commonly associated with intractable pain are Fibromyalgia and Lupus. Often the only remedy that gives any bit of relief from such pain is opiate medication, which of course is strongly addictive and potentially dangerous.
In this study, the researchers started off by giving 12 patients various dosages of HCG to determine what dose might be optimal while watching for any potential adverse effects. 8 patients felt something beneficial was happening in this preliminary part of the study and so these 8 patients continued the HCG at weekly dosages that varied from 1000 to 3000 units a week. They stayed on this regimen for one year.
At the end of the year the patients reported greater energy, improved mental and psychological function, and reduction in pain flare ups. 7 out of the 10 were able to reduce their opiate pain medicine consumption by 30-50%.
These results are intriguing, but you have to take into consideration that this was a preliminary study with a very small number of participants. Additionally, we are talking about a form of pain that is considered to have a substantial psychological component associated with it so the possibility of placebo effects cannot be dismissed. If there is something to the results then it is hard to explain what the mechanism might be. Perhaps the pain relief was secondary to an anabolic effect from the HCG. Such an effect might have enhanced the patients strength and resilience, allowing them to tolerate their pain better.
The doctors who performed the study say they have gone on to successfully treat 30 or 40 more pain patients with HCG as part of their practice. Hopefully maybe these doctors, or someone else, will organize a more comprehensive clinical study exploring this therapeutic approach in the near future.