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Category Archives: Health & Wellness

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Regret

A crammed medicine cabinet will only take you so far with pain. Lifestyle factors can have a drastic effect on your symptoms, so why not make the New Year your opportunity to heal?

Exercise to Reduce Pain

Pain is worsened by stiff muscles and lack of circulation, so keeping your body moving can have a powerful impact. Yoga will stretch out your spasms, strengthen your core, and get blood flowing to the areas that need it. Even regular walks will serve you, and if muscle stiffness is holding you back, try water aerobics in a heated pool. You need a minimum of three half-hour exercise sessions a week. If your pain prohibits you from exercising, see a pain specialist to identify exercises that will help.

Improve Your Sleeping Hours

Fourth stage sleep regenerates tissues and heals the damage of the day. Excellent sleep hygiene will not only improve your symptoms, but give you the serenity to cope with your pain more easily. Sleep hygiene supports this. Turn off electronics an hour before bedtime, stay out of bed during the day, and buy an appropriate mattress to support your spine.

Set a Date to Quit Smoking

Smoking impedes healing and worsens musculoskeletal conditions. If you’re planning surgery or are simply looking for new ways to improve your pain, setting a quit date will have a powerful impact on your life. Before that date, cut out habits that you associate with smoking, and speak to your doctor about medications that can support your new way of life by reducing cravings.

Rearrange Your Office

Your posture and physical work habits might be worsening your pain. An occupational therapist can assess your living conditions and create an ergonomic environment in your workspace.

Make 2018 the year you annihilate your pain. You deserve excellent quality of life, and simple habits can help you achieve it. If you suffer from persistent pain and need help managing it, schedule an appointment at Pain Stop today.

Another Reason to Quit Smoking: Prevent Lower Back Pain

The last 10 years have seen an inexplicable increase in functional disability caused by lower back pain. Despite improved treatments, pain and physical function in these patients is worsening in around 100 million U.S. patients. A simple symptom frequently devolves into a complicated condition affecting the entire central nervous system.

Several studies have drawn a link between smoking and lower back pain. A 50-year 2001 John Hopkins survey proposed a link, but at the time, the finding remained unproven and even unexplained. Researchers have since painted a fuller picture of the link. Smoking impacts upon knee, rotator cuff, and disc injuries because it:

  • Increases inflammation
  • Prevents healing
  • Reduces blood supply to wounds
  • Demineralizes bone
  • Impedes the supply of nutrients
  • Reduces bone metabolism
  • Increases the risk of postoperative infection

Lower back pain is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and high body mass index, but surveys are limited in that they use samples from hospital records. They consist of more surgical patients, which means they have higher rates of disability. This limits the survey to only the severest conditions. Those with mild back pain haven’t been covered quite as well.

Even so, smoking’s effect on wound healing is well understood, impacting upon everything from dental surgeries to burns. Nicotine and carbon monoxide constrict veins, limiting red blood cell transport and the macrophages needed for recovery. Oxygen transport to cells is also reduced by the hydrogen cyanide found in cigarettes.

Smokers also recover poorly from surgeries, which severely limits their treatment options.

The progress researchers have made in understanding smoking’s effects on back pain raises an important question. Should smokers be given an entirely different care strategy than nonsmokers? Doctors have wrestled with this problem for decades, but it can only be confronted on a case by case basis.

In any case, if you needed another reason to quit smoking in 2018, pain management makes the list.

Diets for Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back conditions are known to be more burdensome than any other syndrome, but many patients feel they have little control over their symptoms. People who suffer back pain need a balanced diet that supports bone strength, healthy cells, and good collagen formation. You have a new year ahead of you, so make it a pain-free one by choosing a diet to improve chronic pain.

Water

The spine is made almost entirely of water, which offers the flexibility needed to keep your vertebrae protected against shock.

Collagen

Collagen accounts for 30% of dry bone weight, and it needs a constant supply of amino acids and vitamin C. Glucosamine is an important component in connective tissues, so keep your protein levels where they should be with almonds, meat, broccoli, and quinoa.

Calcium and Magnesium

If you have poor bone density, calcium and magnesium should be core parts of your diet. You need a synergy of minerals to absorb these nutrients well. Keep your levels up with bok choy, dairy products, tofu, and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K distributes calcium, so you also need to include cheeses, egg yolks, and kale in your diet.

Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and is found in salmon and egg yolks. Some cereals and dairy products are fortified with it, too.

 

Protein

Omega-3-rich foods combat inflammation, so flax, chia seeds, and oily fish could improve your symptoms.

Alcohol and Soda

A daily cola habit can impede your absorption of important nutrients, while alcohol interferes with calcium absorption. Alcohol also suppresses the central nervous system. Combined with certain medications, it can cause breathing difficulties and impaired motor function.

Your diet is the building block of your medical care. Without wholesome food, even the most potent medications and therapies cannot bring their best benefits. Food has a profound effect on our short-term and long-term health outcomes, so fill your plate with nutrients that help your body recover from pain conditions.

Great Gifts For Pain Management

If a loved one suffers from chronic pain, a soothing care package could offer much needed support. Chocolate cures just about every ill, of course, but a more evidence-based gift would be appreciated just as much.

Gifts for Migraine Sufferers

Migraines are a neuropathic and vascular condition that can last days. Their cause isn’t well understood, but their triggers are. Light, noise, flashing, and certain food products are common triggers. Give a migraine sufferer:

  • a pair of tinted glasses.
  • total blackout blinds.
  • ice packs or an adjustable ice wrap.

Tension Headaches and Back Pain

When muscle tension causes pain, targeted heat therapy can relieve symptoms and make them feel tolerable. Give your muscle pain patient:

  • heated mattress pads with dual side control.
  • an infrared heat therapy pad for deeper heat delivery.
  • a deep tissue massage or spa voucher for serious spoiling.

Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Sensory diabetic neuropathy and ulcers are often worsened by poor circulation. Dry heat is needed, as soaking can prevent healing. Avoid heating pads, which can cause burns when used on numb feet. Give your diabetic family member:

  • podiatrist-recommended flexible slippers.
  • memory foam insets.
  • insoles designed specifically for those with plantar fasciitis.

Spasms

Many pain conditions are caused by spasms and are highly responsive to massage. Give your chronic pain sufferer:

  • a massage stick roller with comfortable handles.
  • an electric massage device or pillow.
  • an ergonomic chair.
  • a massage ball.

Better yet, take your loved one to Pain Stop Clinics for proactive medical support. Resist the temptation to offer miracle cures or solutions that worked for a completely different person with a completely different condition, as well-meaning gestures can create frustration.

Remember that the most valuable gift you can give is yourself. Pain can make life challenging, so offer your friend a shopping trip, frozen meals, or your baby-sitting services. Comfort is often in short supply when you’re not feeling well, and friendship is the warmest cure.

How Much Does Exercise Reduce Pain?

Chronic pain encourages a sedentary lifestyle, but recent research suggests that curling up in bed waiting for your aches to disappear could make your condition worse. Exercise not only improves lower back pain symptoms, but reduces your odds of ever developing the problem in the first place.

Positive Effects of Exercise on Back Pain

A daily walk, combined with patient education, reduces risk by between 27 and 33%.

If your lifestyle is currently inactive, you reduce your risk of developing lower back pain by up to 38%, simply by taking up exercise.

Occupational health specialist, Dr Rahman Shiri, suggests strengthening and stretching your core muscles, even if you’ve already developed spine issues. Muscle spasms set your posture off balance, which causes even more spasms, pain, and pinched nerves. By loosening up your back and strengthening your core, you encourage the right muscles to support your body weight.

Add some feel-good aerobic exercise to your routine, and you’ll flood your body with pain-reducing hormones. If you have poor posture, Pilates and yoga can teach you better habits.

The Wrong Kind of Exercise for Back Pain

If you have a painful condition, exercise can worsen your symptoms as much as improve them. Any movements that put your weight onto your back should be avoided. Substitute toe touches with half crunches. Avoid sit-ups, leg lifts, and any movements that place pressure on the hollow of your back. Avoid jarring exercise and take a moderate approach to stretching. If you’re unsure about your routine, your physician or physiotherapist is there to guide you.

Patients who exercise tend to be slow to ask for medical help or take necessary sick leave. It’s commendable to take your health into your own hands by exercising, but try not to view exercise as your only option for wellness.

Taking control of your health has mental benefits as well as medical payoffs. By taking action, you’ll find your emotional response to your pain will improve.

Healthy Spine Tips to Prevent Back and Neck Pain

Lower back pain is responsible for more global disabilities than any other problem. It affects 80% of people at some point in their lives. Up to 90% will also suffer from tension headaches at least once, and posture, neck spasms, and stress can all contribute. The evolution of the human spine has been slow and, at times, painful. It’s simply not ideal for upright walking, so getting your pain under control requires a little effort and support. Causes include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle strain from overstretching or carrying heavy objects incorrectly
  • Poor posture and badly designed work stations
  • Sports injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Curvature

A typical strain creates swelling, sets your posture off balance, and causes spasms that create even more pronounced posture problems and swelling. Sports injuries, curvature, and even herniation can create a similar cycle, so two of the most important ways to bring healing are through stretching and spasm release. Physiotherapy, yoga, and stretching achieve this.

You can prevent back pain by

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lifting with your knees bent and your back upright
  • Taking walking or stretching breaks when you do desk work
  • Using ergonomic furniture
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Quitting smoking. Smokers have more spine problems than nonsmokers and recover from surgery more slowly.

Back Pain Associated with Aging

Osteoporosis, disk degeneration, and spinal arthritis often require more invasive solutions, but your lifestyle can greatly improve your symptoms. Solutions include:

  • Keeping calcium and magnesium levels optimal
  • Strengthening core muscles to support your spine better
  • Stretching and loosening your back muscles
  • Treating strains with ice and compression

The health of your spine is a core contributor to quality of life, and a little loving care can have powerful effects. Want to learn more about ways to relieve back pain? Ready for personalized care? Find a Pain Stop Clinic near you.

How Heavy Bags Cause Back Pain

The average sixth grader carries 18.4 pounds in his backpack, and the average handbag carries 6.27 pounds’ worth of lipstick and keys. Nobody seems to have done any research about the weight of the average briefcase, but man bags have done more than merely embarrass the fashion police—they’ve caused an increase in back and shoulder pain. That’s apart from the luggage you carry to the airport and the heavy lifting you do during your work day.

Back pain has become the norm rather than the exception throughout the world, and luggage is adding to the burden. It’s children’s spinal health that’s most at risk because bad back habits are easily entrenched, and young shoulders are prone to neurological damage, which can eventually affect finger dexterity.

Studies on Heavy Bags and Spine Health

A 2014 Spine study found that heavy backpacks cause disc compression that can have repercussions in adulthood. Pre-adolescents often carry as much as 30% of their body weight. The suggested upper limit is 10%, and this should be carried in a way that distributes weight evenly across both sides of the body. The core muscles should be doing most of that work, and for those with spinal curvature, even perfect carrying technique cannot prevent spasms and pain.

Offloading school backpacks can certainly help, but the problem has less to do with weight as it does off-axis loading. Ergonomic backpacks help children to carry their weight on their vertical axis while encouraging better posture. High seated, close fitting backpacks prevent the slouching traditional backpacks cause.

Adults can prevent baggage woes by developing core muscle strength, but the best solution is a simple one: carry less. Choose small briefcases and purses to remove the temptation of carrying too much weight. Make a habit of clearing your bags of clutter. As any backpacker can tell you, every little bit of weight removed helps.

 

Depression and Chronic Pain

Your frame of mind is inextricably linked to how well you cope with illness. Depression is not just chronic pain’s intolerable result, but its catalyst as well. The two are so commonly connected that 65% of depression patients suffer from pain. In the past, this link was poorly understood, and people with a desperate medical need were labelled malingerers. Researchers are still struggling with a chicken-or-egg riddle of which comes first. Does depression cause pain, or does pain precede depression? The answer seems to be both.

Research Findings on Depression’s Effect on Pain, and Vice Versa

To establish causation, researchers must find an unbiased way to assess these patients from the moment of their first psychiatric and physiological symptoms—and that’s a challenge that’s not been overcome yet. Researchers do, at least, know that physiological pain feels more intolerable when depression exists. The human body is remarkably reactive to feelings of optimism, as Amy Donaldson et al. discovered when they measured the pain intensity of coronary artery bypass surgery patients. The more optimistic they were prior to their procedures, the less pain they reported afterwards.

A sense of hopelessness and confusion can make symptoms more unbearable. Investigators have found that the more precise the diagnosis is, the less pain depression patients experience. Those with more than one symptom were also three times as likely to become depressed. Similarly, depression is linked to poorer outcomes.

Depression cannot simply be fixed overnight. If people with depression could simply decide to be more optimistic, there would be no depression. Understanding the link between depression and pain is not meant to discourage patients with both, but to examine ways that both can be treated to break the depression-pain cycle.

The studies of the last decade have led to a better understanding of how to care for people who have comorbid depression and pain. Specialists with a comprehensive understanding of these two conditions can mean all the difference for the prognosis of both. Pain Stop Clinics employ clinical staff from a range of different disciplines. This way, each unique case is treated from all angles by a clinical team.

Does Pilates Improve Posture?

You’d be hard pressed to find a fitness guru more obsessed with posture than your average Pilates instructor (perhaps a classical ballet instructor? We digress). Both forms of exercise focus on moving efficiently, and that requires core strength. If you’re relying on your superficial muscles to support you, you probably suffer from at least a little pain. Headaches, pinched nerves, and hip pain can all happen as the result of slouching, and Pilates will address the problem from a few different angles.

Why is Good Posture Important?

If your spine is poorly aligned as you work and play, some muscles must compensate while others become knotted and contracted. Your range of motion will be limited and some of your organs will be compressed. Inflammation can result from nerve compression, too.

Pilates teaches balance, which requires you to rely on core strength while teaching you to balance your weight onto the middle of your foot. You’ll learn a neutral spine position, which keeps your curvature relaxed and natural. If you overcompensate by opening your chest too widely and pushing your shoulders too far back, you will lose your balance, so the process teaches you good habits intuitively.

Pilates for Back Pain

Core strength is an obvious support for back pain, but flexibility has a role, too. By stretching out the muscles around the spine, it releases contractions while reinforcing a healthy curvature. Pilates is so effective at its job that trials have demonstrated improved endurance, flexibility, and posture within only 12 weeks. You needn’t turn your exercise into an obsession to enjoy results. Even mild Pilates routines, when performed twice weekly, have an impact.

Pilates specifically targets the hunched kyphotic lordotic posture, which brings hip spasms, neck tension, and weak abs. Your back pain deserves a proactive solution, and Pain Stop Clinics can help you design a treatment plan.

7 Bad Back Habits to Avoid

Back pain may result from a recent or past injury. It can develop gradually over time from repetitive motion, or from lack thereof. While seeking out assistance in diagnosing and treating your back can help clear up the problem, you can help yourself by avoiding these seven bad habits that cause back pain.

Not Exercising

Exercise prevents injury throughout your body by strengthening the muscles. Yoga, pilates and other core workouts strengthen the back and ease strain by also strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Poor Posture

Bad posture causes muscle strain and increases the level of stress on your spine. To improve posture, keep your shoulders back (to avoid slouching), sit against the back of your chair, and stand with a slight bend in your knees.

Improper Lifting

When lifting heavy items, bend your knees and use your leg strength to reduce strain on your back. Make sure you don’t curve your back over the object you’re lifting.

Baggage

As Erykah Badu soulfully reminds us, “Bag lady/ You gon’ hurt your back.” Remember that bags, briefcases and purses count as lifting. If you regularly carry a lot of stuff, consider a wheeled briefcase, a properly adjusted backpack or a downsized purse.

Smoking

There isn’t much good that comes out of smoking, and you can add back pain to your list of reasons to quit. Smoking cuts down blood flow to your disks, increasing back pain.

Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency

These nutrients develop and strengthen your bones. Discuss increasing your daily intake with your doctor, because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much calcium, for example, could result in kidney stones, which entirely defeats the purpose of reducing back pain.

Weight

The more weight you carry, the more your muscles and joints strain to support you. Of course, pain makes exercise more challenging. Set realistic exercise goals, eat a balanced diet, and discuss any issues you are having with your physician or professional.

Not Moving

If your back hurts, you might want to settle into the couch, but unless you have a serious injury, rest may be counterproductive. Stretch out and get the blood flowing instead.

Back pain can make everyday tasks difficult to perform. Although there may be deeper causes or complicated symptoms, improving your habits can reduce pain and improve your quality of life.

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