How to Deal with Chronic Pain
It is estimated that by 2030, chronic pain will affect 20% of the population in Singapore. Musculoskeletal pain such as neck, back and shoulder pain are highly prevalent. Chronic pain can give rise to other complications like fatigue, restlessness, and mood swings, decreased productivity at work and low mood. Thankfully, physiotherapy, among other treatment options, can help cure the problem from within. Here’s how you can deal with your chronic pain.
Start tracking the pain
Keep a record of your daytime activity, tracking every detail. Mark pain suffered from certain activities on a scale of 0-10. You will be able to see patterns after a week or so. If it is the sedentary nature of your job that is causing the pain, simply change your chair or adjusting your desk height may be a good start. Sometimes you may even notice changes in pain with certain foods so a food diary may also benefit. A functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist will help guide you with this.
Engage in physical activity
It might sound counteractive, but staying physically active is necessary to fight chronic pain. The body's natural reaction to pain is to protect the concerned part from further strain. If you experience acute pain, you should rest and consult a healthcare professional. However, if you have chronic pain, you may be advised to engage in light physical activity. Go cycling, swim, walk, or get physiotherapy.
Keep the body hydrated
Dehydration is proved to aggravate conditions like back pain and headache. Drink 2-3 litres of water every day and always carry a water bottle with you. Now days water is potentially contaminated with synthetic hormones, heavy metals amongst other toxins. Get yourself a water trusted filter to help avoid this. A functional medicine practitioner can help guide you in this process.
Whilst self management is the aim. A physiotherapy clinic or physiotherapist can help to diagnose in structural pathology and also seek the underlying causes of your pain. Choose a practitioner that provides holistic treatment, seeks imbalances and utilises a wide range of techniques including dry needling, manual therapy. A practitioner that understands nutrition and systemic causes of pain is also of real value.
Don't force yourself
Those with chronic pain often have a tendency to get carried away and push through the pain. It might come off momentarily, but it could get even worse the next morning. The focus, instead, should be on time, and not task. Pacing is a technique where you can accomplish all your tasks by knowing how long you can go without experiencing pain. It is not a case of no pain no gain. Work within pain free limits to help “desensitise your brain to movement”.
Dos and Don'ts of eating
Processed food and refined sugar must be avoided, they trigger inflammation. Diets that are easy to digest can help reduce inflammation. These include leafy greens, low-sugar fruits, soy products, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory ingredient which is also good for ligament flexibility. Foods bad for inflammation include dairy, eggs, chocolate, nightshade vegetables, and red wine. Magnesium in leafy greens is great for muscle relaxation amongst hundreds of other chemical reactions in the body and many of us are deficient without knowing.
Watch your posture
You needn't be an expert at Yoga or a member of the armed forces to have a healthy spine. This can be done by simply maintaining good posture while watching TV or working at the computer. Remember posture is the average orientation of body parts over time. This means you don’t have to sit straight ALL the time but on average you want to be in neutral. Basically “your next posture is your best posture” - in other words, keep moving! Set a challenge, move every 20mins - this is a key physiological time.
Stress does many things. It actually changes our hormone production pushing us more towards cortisol and reduces our sex hormone production. This causes all sorts of effects including increasing inflammation, increasing pain sensitivity but also reducing drive (for sex and for work), increasing weight gain around the middle and even effecting hair loss. There are many ways of managing this as we will go through in subsequent articles, but scheduling time out and even simple breathing exercises can make a real difference.