Chronic pain is one of the most debilitating conditions many of us face today. Every time I look around, more and more people suffer with one form of chronic pain or another. In every case, I have to have one conversation that rarely anyone wants to hear initially, but once you understand this concept, you can do wonders to help relieve your pain.
Many of us think we have little or no control over our pain. And the little control we have comes in a prescription bottle. Though you may not be able to relieve your chronic pain 100%, you can help to manage it and reduce it, without the aid of prescription drugs.
What three things should you focus on? You have to have the fortitude and determination to find ways to improve circulation, nutrition and the removal of waste products. It does take effort on your part, and when you’re in pain and exhausted, effort is hard to come by. However, the more you minimize the triggers and support your own body’s natural ability to heal itself, the less overall pain and more energy you will have.
I recently had a conversation with a man on how to relieve his chronic pain. This gentleman has chronic back pain due to nerve damage. Initially he came to me for help with food choices. And noticing he also had severe back pain, I thought I could recommend a few things he could try. Every time I started to mention something he could do, he would stop me and say “no.” When I asked him why he kept stopping me, he said nothing would help. It’s nerve damage and so there’s nothing he can do.
The thing is, there are things he can do. And you can too.
First, reduce or eliminate foods that you are sensitive to. Food Sensitivities do not result in producing IgE antibodies, making them hard to detect. However, these foods have a direct effect on your brain and/or body. It is believed that about 80 percent of the population has undiagnosed food sensitivities. Contrast that with food allergies that occur in only about 5 percent of the population.
Food allergies create an immediate and pronounced effect like breathing difficulties or anaphylactic shock and IgE antibodies are present. Food sensitivities are usually delayed or hidden and the symptoms are not as recognizable. For example, I have clients on the look out for worsening pain symptoms, headaches, bloating, gas and even itchy toes. There are many more, and even with a list you may experience something completely new. However, severe fatigue, wide-spread muscle pain, arthritic pain and more are very common symptoms.
Remove pain triggers by removing food sensitivities.
Secondly, improve nutrition by eating more whole foods consisting of mostly vegetables. This will give your body the building blocks and tools it needs to repair damage, reduce inflammation and reduce the toxic load.
Third, add movement. I’m not talking heavy-duty exercise here. I’m talking movement. When you move and stretch you provide information to your central nervous system which stimulates your muscles to become stronger at the points where you are weak.
This doesn’t take a lot of effort. If I have a client who can’t move, I tell them to start fidgeting first. Find reasons to stand up more, rotate hips, lifts arms and make circles with your legs and shoulders, turn your feet toward the center and then out.
Any movement which stretches the muscles actually stimulates them to become stronger. And movement that stretches the connective tissue allows fluid to flow through the tissue keeping it well hydrated. Most pain receptors are actually located in the connective tissue, not muscle tissue. By keeping your connective tissue hydrated and free of blockages, you can reduce pain and improved structural alignment which further alleviates pain. It’s also this same fluid which transports oxygen and nutrients to and waste away from cells.
Muscle spasms, cramps and aches in any part of your body are often related to poor blood circulation. Movement also promotes blood flow and this is another reason why exercise and keeping joints and muscles moving is important for managing overall pain.
Fourth, try bodywork. There are many forms of bodywork you can do to include self-treatment techniques. Try massage, Rolfing, Feldenkrais. MELTMethod, rollers, balls, massage sticks and more.
Just like movement, bodywork helps to break up knots, bunchy or fibrous soft tissue and improves circulation, activates the lymphatic system and calms and/or stimulates the nervous system.
Fifth, work with pain relief methods that reduce toxic load or at least doesn’t add to it. When your body has to process toxins, it struggles to filter them out and causes stress and inflammation. Since prescription drugs are usually synthetic, the body doesn't immediately recognize them causing the liver to process them as toxins. So though they are meant to help with pain, they can actually contribute to pain. And as mentioned previous, cramps and muscle pain I soften associated with poor circulation. What actually occurs is that with poor circulation, your muscle pain is a build-up of metabolic toxic wastes and oxygen starved muscle tissues.
Therefore, in addition to getting your circulatory system moving again, you want to support your lymphatic system and the liver in order to support their efforts of filtering out the metabolic and toxic wastes.
Try using heat, cold compresses, essential oils, and herbs or foods like the following:
- Cherries – arthritis and muscle pain
- Ginger – migraines, arthritis, sore muscles
- Cranberry Juice – ulcers (many pain medications cause stomach ulcers)
- Salmon, Herring, Sardines – Achy back, neck and joints
- Turmeric – achy joints, colitis (inflammation of the colon, which pain medications can contribute to too.)
- Yogurt – IBS
- Mint – IBS and headaches
- Sesame Seeds – arthritis, joint and muscle pain
Finally, practice relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, mediation and conscious muscle release. When pain sensory signals are set off they cause the surrounding muscle tissues to contract in order to protect or offer support to the injured tissue. However, what begins as a good thing can turn bad when sustained for a long period of time. This reflex reaction can cause more damage to the surrounding muscle tissues than the original injury.
Sustained contractions can become widespread and cause even more pain, which spreads to surrounding muscle tissues. Sustained muscle contraction reduces blood flow in the constricted area, and once again, this restriction and the lack of oxygenated blood getting into the muscle tissues can be very painful.
Along with pain, comes anxiety, which can further complicate both the pain symptoms and the healing process. The increased anxiety and emotional stress from sustained muscle contractions will lead to even more oxygen starved muscle tissues and prevent toxic metabolic wastes from properly circulating out of the muscle tissues.
Why go on about toxic wastes and lack of oxygen? If this continues it can cause your cells to die off and the body will form scar tissue and fibrosis. Fibrosis can permanently limit the ability for connective tissues to lengthen and stretch preventing muscle movement, blocks fluid necessary for feeding and removing waste from surrounding cells, and triggering the pain receptors within the soft tissue itself. And toxins (lactic acids) can buildup to the point where they will periodically start depositing small amounts into the bloodstream affecting not only your local muscle tissues and cells but also your nervous system.
It’s a cycle that spreads throughout the body and one which increases your pain. By slowing down and consciously allowing your body to relax, it stimulates the healing process and allows nutrients and oxygen to flow while removing of waste products.
The key is to remember that you do have some options when it comes to pain management and it’s up to you to consciously find ways to improve circulation, provide optimal nutrition and to reduce the toxic load. Many of these options seem simple and can be, but we both know that when you’re in pain, if feels like you can’t do anything nor do you want to. That’s why I said you have to have fortitude and determination in order to be able to muscle through the pain to do what will help you.
You now have some ideas to start with. Experiment and determine what works for you. Just remember, that many of these options require consistency, even when you don’t feel pain. It’s so easy for the pain to come back. Believe me, I know, but I also know that I have a lot less of it now that I understand the importance of my role in monitoring these three things; circulation, nutrition and the removal of waste products.