Pain is a typical process of life, but why does it sometimes become a lingering concern? This is because pain while initiated by a mechanical cause; a tissue injury, never lives in isolation, it’s part of a complex system we call being human.
If you have had an injury and yet still in pain months after tissue healing should have occurred, here are 7 points to consider.
- There is no quick fix
- Stay active
- Sleep is NOT overrated
- Eat whole/real foods
- The role of supplementation
- Return to work as soon as possible
- Find the right health practitioner
There is no quick fix – I know, no one wants to hear that especially if you’ve had pain for a long time, but give your body time, it wants to heal as much as you want it to.
Stay active and avoid prolonged bed rest. This might go against everything you feel is right and maybe everything you’ve been told before; you are fearful of moving because pain means damage, right? Actually, that is often not the case, the pain you feel when you move is because you have tissues that are sensitive, bruised or inflamed and when you move these parts they are going to remind you that ‘you are sore’, but this is not the same as, ‘you are in danger’. Our bodies have an in-built pain mechanism that creates a safety buffer to prevent us from injuring ourselves. In other words, you might feel an increase in discomfort as you apply stress to the body, at some point this will become a sensation of pain, but there is still a zone/buffer between the stress applied and tissue damage occurring. When you have suffered chronic pain, this buffer is significantly bigger, your body is going to warn you by a sensation of pain, long before the stress is big enough to cause tissue damage.
We were made to move, and our musculo-skeletal system is intricately designed to bring about desired movement. If we stop moving, the whole system is affected, and the body finds alternate methods to achieve the desired result. This often leads to compensatory actions and perpetuates our pain. More exciting is the research that shows muscle contractions releases a chemical messenger that switches off inflammation and accelerating healing of the body as a whole. Gentle movement is the best way to start dealing with your pain.
Develop good sleep hygiene. We are in a sleep deprivation epidemic because we live in an environment that is overstimulated by busyness, screens and the need to always be doing. “Sleep is the most undervalued component of health in today’s society” (Dr Rangan Chatterjee – The Four Pillar Plan). Sleep deprivation increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, it impacts our immune system and creates inflammation – hello pain. The right amount of sleep might be different for different people, if you fall asleep easily and always wake feeling refreshed, you are probably sleeping well. Creating a positive sleep routine is essential for everyone and it’s easier than you think.
- Try to avoid caffeine after lunch, develop a love for good old water or herbal teas for your evening relaxation.
- Decide which TV program you want to watch and then turn the telly off; avoid just surfing the channels till you fall asleep in the couch.
- Try have a regular bedtime and protect that fiercely.
- Spend 5 minutes planning tomorrow and write it down on paper.
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for today– they do not have to be big, but they do need to be authentic.
- Remove all devices from your room; charge your phone elsewhere and keep the TV in the TV room.
- Dim the lights and read a book for a short time if you do not feel sleepy yet.
- Close your eyes and take 5 – 10 deep slow breaths; breath in for 3 sec, hold it for 4 and release it over 5 sec.
- Have a regular wake time – it may take some time to develop this habit naturally without the alarm clock.
- Spend 15 mins outside enjoying a cup of tea/coffee and just being still before the busyness of the day.
Consider your diet. I truly believe that healthy eating is the answer to good health. The word diet is negatively seen to mean calorie reduction and consequent Blaaa!, but healthy eating should not focus on calories but on nutrients and when you consider that your gut is the key to living well, why wouldn’t you make this a priority in your life. Our modern diet of quick prep, conveniently packaged, highly processed foods actually drives inflammation via our immune system. This is because they are absorbed quickly, create a spike in blood sugar levels which activates our Fight or Flight The release of cortisol, our stress hormone triggers over and over again this inflammatory response, which medical experts believe is the basis for autoimmune diseases. The most foolproof way to know if your diet is good for you, is to get back to eating real foods; foods that are a s close to their natural state as they can be and not processed or modified.
The role of supplementation. If you are not getting the right nutrients to stay healthy, supplements are a great way to fill in the gaps, but make sure your supplements are actually getting to your cells. Synthetic supplements may mimic a natural vitamin’s chemical makeup, but your body won’t recognise it or more importantly, you won’t assimilate it. Check your brands and be prepared to pay a little more, because if your body does not assimilate the vitamins, you have nothing more than expensive urine/ In addition to whole food supplements there is the exciting science of Redox, an emerging technology as sited by Huffington Post, (06/13/2016 02:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017) that is paving the way to health in an extraordinary fashion. Redox signalling molecules regulate every major system of the body at a cellular level, keeping the cells healthy by detecting problems and repairing or replacing cells. As we age and as our bodies are exposed to toxins and environmental stress, cellular function diminishes, and with it, our health and quality of life. This decline also affects the body’s ability to produce and maintain a proper balance of redox signalling. Restoring and maintaining optimal levels of redox signaling molecules, helps anyone at any age maximize their health and wellness. Discover more about redox here. https://BarbsCullinan.redoxrockstars.com
Return to your usual activities as soon as you can. This might sound counter-productive, but living is the key. Let your physio guide you to make necessary modifications that prevent possibly hurting yourself, but where possible normalise life as quickly as you can. What are you passionate about? Enjoy doing it again. I try to encourage my patients to continue doing the things that give their life meaning. If they are passionate about exercise, we modify it, if they love gardening or cooking, we find ways to ‘chunk’ these activity into manageable units to suit the injury.
Go back to work if possible. This can be a little trickier because most businesses have strict policies regarding return to work, but if you can either modify your work hours, or the role you have, getting back to work is a step closer to managing your pain. Why is that? Well getting back to work helps you normalise your situation, it encourages social connection, it gives you back your purpose and it relieves the financial burden. There is tremendous fear associated with return to work, but most often I see patients begin to improve more rapidly when this step is reached. Work Cover certainly takes a lot of the stress out of dealing with a new injury and gives you some breathing space to focus on your healing, but over and over again, I see chronic pain suffers whose work cover lingers too long, become negatively impacted by their need to justify their claim. When Work Cover eventually falls over, an amazing thing happens, they start to improve.
Find a health practitioner who understands the importance of addressing more than just the physical pain. A collaborative approach is essential and someone to champion your efforts, invaluable.