If you’ve ever suffered from chronic pain, you know how much it affects every aspect of your life.
You can’t do the things you want to do. You don’t sleep well. It affects your mood, even your outlook on life. There’s a certain desperation that sets in, wondering if you’ll ever be back to normal.
Chronic pain can come from an injury that didn’t heal well. It can be from migraines, arthritis, chronic inflammation, digestive problems, and many other things.
The Four Major Pain Types
- Nociceptive Pain: Usually from an injury, like back pain, a shoulder injury, or post-surgical pain.
- Inflammatory Pain: Caused by an inappropriate immune system response, such as Gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Neuropathic Pain: Pain from nerve irritation, such as neuropathy or neuralgias. These are often from nerve impingement or entrapment.
- Functional Pain: the IDK of pain. There’s no obvious cause of the pain, like fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome.
Regardless of what kind of pain you’re having, there are some things you can do to help. Some of this is pure common sense, but when you’re plagued with chronic pain, sometimes we all forget the basics.
Here’s a loving reminder…
1. Reduce Your Toxic Load
Toxic Load is all the many chemical toxins that we unwittingly dump into and onto our bodies every day. Things like V.O.Cs (volatile organic compounds), sulfates, parabens and phthalates that you find in your shampoo, body wash, laundry detergents and fabric softerners, air fresheners.
Even your makeup may not be safe. Check for PEG compounds, which are linked to cancer, parabens, which cause hormone disruption, formaldehyde/methylene glycol, which cause a whole host of issues.
You are even getting a load of toxins from the packaging of processed foods, which may contain PFAS, aka “forever chemicals”, that get transferred into the food. Yuck. These are seriously bad.
Instead, go for products from stores like Natural Grocers or Whole Foods, which don’t carry products that contain these toxins. Think scents from essential oils vs. chemical “fragrance.” You’ll be helping the environment, too, by making the switch.
2. Get Moving, Goldilocks Style…
In Chinese Medicine, stagnation is one of the main causes of pain for any reason. One of the best remedies for stagnation? Movement.
It can be hard to want to move when you have pain, but the more you sit, the more stagnant you become, and it will likely make your pain worse.
Now, when you have chronic pain, this is a bit of a dance.
You need to keep moving gently, consistently, as much as you’re able, but without exhausting yourself or flaring up your pain. That’s the Goldilock’s piece…finding what type and amount of movement work best for you and is just right.
Generally, shorter bouts of movement several times a day are a good place to start. Gentle stretching, walking, and light exercise as tolerated (avoiding injured areas as applicable.) Swimming, yoga, and sometimes even just dancing to your favorite music for a few minutes are good options, too.
3. Eat Better
We all know eating a lot of junk won’t make you feel very good.
For those of us with chronic pain, eating too much (and sometimes any) of the wrong foods can cause a flare-up of pain. Avoiding heavily processed foods, red meat, sugary foods, fried foods, MSG, rich foods and alcohol can go a long way towards easing chronic pain.
So what can you eat to help manage pain?
The Mediterranean Diet is hands down the best diet, year after year for all health outcomes. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest and most delish diets out there.
- Mono-unsaturated oils like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Avocado Oil for when you need a flavorless oil for baking or cooking
- Green leafy veggies, like spinach, salad greens, arugula, kale, and collard greens
- Nuts, like almonds and walnuts
- Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and sardines
- Lots of fresh fruits, especially berries, citrus, and apples.
- A variety of veggies, like carrots, sweet potatoes, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussel sprouts, etc.
- Whole grains, from quinoa to whole wheat, sorghum, buckwheat, and brown rice.
Of course, if you have a food sensitivity, cater this to fit what you need.
4. Drink More Water
You probably are not drinking enough water on a daily basis. Me, too. Some days we do great at staying hydrated, but other days we get distracted and just forget.
Dehydration is a major factor in many kinds of pain, from headaches to chronic muscle and joint pain. So, drinking enough water should be a goal to help fend off pain (and it’s great for your skin, too!)
Here are some tips to make staying hydrated a habit
- Start your day with a glass of water first thing in the morning. Keep a glass by your bed and drink it as soon as you sit up in the morning.
- Carry a non-BPA water bottle with you and sip throughout the day.
- Have a glass of water with each meal.
- Eat more hydrating foods, like watermelon, cucumbers, salads, and soups.
- Keep track of how much water you’re drinking. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrating, so keep that in mind.
5. Get Regular Acupuncture & Massage Therapy
Whether it’s musculoskeletal pain, TMJ, back pain, neck pain, migraines or other headaches, arthritis, IBS, or even chronic period pain, acupuncture has been successfully treating chronic pain for centuries. Your acupuncture treatment can also include cupping, which is great at releasing tight fascia.
Likewise, massage therapy is “recognized as a legitimate therapy” for several pain mechanisms, and is effective at relieving musculoskeletal pain, relieving stress and anxiety related to chronic pain, and helping to stop pain by stimulating competing nerves.
Both acupuncture and massage work best when used regularly in managing chronic pain. At Family Tree Acupuncture & Wellness, we offer acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, and visceral manipulation to help you manage and heal from your chronic pain.
For personalized support with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, or for your free 15-minute initial telemedicine consult, book an appointment with Dr. Jennie.
Book a massage anytime here.
Dr. Jennie Luther, DACM, L.Ac
Family Tree Acupuncture & Wellness