3 Factors that Contribute to Chronic Pain + How to Manage it from an Integrative Medicine Perspective
December 7, 2017 | Posted in: Chronic Illness and Pain
3 Factors that Contribute to Chronic Pain + How to Manage it from an Integrative Medicine Perspective.
If you struggle with chronic pain, you’ve likely experienced its impact in various parts of your life. Pain can disrupt sleep patterns, affect your ability to focus at work, deter you from social activities, and leave you with a sense of despair. As an integrative pain doctor I see this regularly in practice.
Finding the right medical help for chronic pain can be difficult. Conventional medicine typically uses pharmaceutical intervention which comes with a long list of side effects, and it also tends to focus on symptoms alone, rather than repairing the contributing factors of pain.
In integrative medicine we address contributing factors including your lifestyle habits in order to reduce inflammation and pain longterm plus support the body’s own natural healing mechanisms.
When I have an appointment with a patient, I spend a full hour discussing their concerns. I primarily cover eight different sections in this conversation including nutritional status, exercise, breathing, sleep, home environment, work environment, stress levels and mindfulness practices.
Below, I’ll be going through three of the most common areas we find links to pain, but you can go through all 8 sections as they apply to your personal health when you download my free personal health assessment.
3 Factors That Might Be Causing You Pain
Most of us are aware that the quality of our health is intricately connected to the way that we eat, and it’s no different for chronic pain. Every single time that you eat something, you change your body chemistry, which can either promote inflammation or reduce it. Certain foods like sugar, processed foods, poor quality fats and oils or red meat are considered pro-inflammatory and should be reduced or eliminated if you deal with chronic pain.
Alternatively, following an anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce your inflammation internally. This way of eating includes fruits and vegetables in abundance, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger, and healthy omega-3 fats found in cold water fish, chia seeds and flax seeds.
Supplements for Chronic Pain
Nutrient intake as a whole is also incredibly important as certain deficiencies are linked to increased levels of pain.
Vitamin D deficiencies are common for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, but they’re also common in chronic pain populations across the globe. Low vitamin D levels are linked to body-wide inflammation as well as a weakened immune-system. If you aren’t able to get sun exposure year-round, supplementation can help you maintain healthy levels. Look for Vitamin D3 for best absorption and always take it with a source of healthy fat.
Magnesium is another common deficiency often pinpointed by symptoms, such as leg cramps, high blood pressure, constipation, cardiac arrhythmia and even fibromyalgia. The best forms to supplement with include chelated magnesium or magnesium glycinate.
Research tells us that sleep deprivation can induce symptoms of pain, making it crucially important for you to get your 7-8 hours each night.
For quality restorative rest there are a couple of factors you need to consider.
Firstly, you want to give yourself time to wind down. That means turning off electronics about an hour before bed and doing something relaxing. Our laptops, televisions and phones emit a blue light that stimulates the brain and can interfere with sleep. (If for some reason you can’t avoid use before bed, limit your exposure with a blue light filter app – you can easily find a free option)
The second thing you want to do is darken your bedroom. Even a small crack of light can disrupt melatonin production and decrease your ability to fall into a deep sleep. Invest in room darkening curtains, or more affordably, a sleep mask. You should also cover the light from your alarm clock if you have one in your room.
Stress is an unavoidable day to day reality that comes and goes in varying degrees. If you’re someone who feels the burden of stress on a regular basis and might even notice physical effects like changes in your sleep patterns or appetite, you need to start integrating a mindfulness practice. Stress creates a pro-inflammatory state internally, and as you likely know, more inflammation = more pain.
A few stress-relieving strategies I recommend to patients include meditation (even if it’s simply 5-10 minutes a day), a gratitude practice, or yoga or light exercise like walking.
For stress relief, there really is no one size fits all approach. You have to find what makes you feel calm and balanced. The only rule is that you regularly carve time out for that self-care.
I hope you’re able to use this information in your personal life to help manage your pain more holistically. For more information, or if you have any personal health-related questions and need a little guidance, I host a free monthly Q&A webinar session and would love to help support you.