Five lifestyle changes to up your pain relief game
I know several of you have mentioned to me that you have dealt with or are currently dealing with painful joints… whether it's your knees, low back, neck, etc. So, I wanted to take a minute and talk about the myths that are STRONG in our culture surrounding our bodies and pain.
Working as an orthopedic physical therapist for almost a decade, I can't tell you how many times I've heard hopelessness in my patients about their bodies. They would say to me things like:
"Bad backs run in my family, so I just want to do 1 session of PT so my insurance will pay for surgery since that's the only thing that might help."
"I played sports growing up, and the doctor told me I have bad knees, so I'm just waiting until I can get them replaced in 10 years."
"My job makes my pain worse, so unless I quit my job which isn't an option, nothing can be done. I'm only here so I can tell my doctor I tried PT, but I'm not coming back."
"My doctor told me that you could help me, but I've had this pain for 20 years. It's just how I'm made. I've tried everything, and I don't think there's anything to make me feel better."
It blew me away how pervasive these beliefs are.
I'm here today to tell you that it's very likely that you DON'T have to accept that pain. You don't have to be reliant on various medicines to get through your day.
Here are 5 lifestyle changes that can make a MAJOR impact on your pain:
1) Diet has a HUGE impact on pain levels. In fact, for SO many women, following an anti-inflammatory eating plan has *eliminated* their arthritis pain or put autoimmune-related pain in remission.
2) The American lifestyle encourages sitting most of our days and spending hours on computers, tablets, phones, etc. directly impacts our musculoskeletal system in ways that directly increases our chances of injury. From what I've seen, these habits contribute to more function-limiting pain than sports participation.
Obviously, we can't eliminate these behaviors, but we can control more than we often think by limiting our time on phones, choosing more ergonomic work stations, and taking frequent standing and movement breaks throughout a work day.
3) Sleep quality and quantity can impact the pain process. If you're not getting enough restorative sleep on a regular basis, inflammation increases. So, put away the phone, tablet, and the TV for an hour or two before you go to sleep. Plan to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If your schedule doesn't allow for that or you're a new parent, find a way to work in a nap as often as you can. Sleep is a building block, so if you're not prioritizing it, you HAVE to start doing so ASAP.
4) Consider other things you can control that may have varying levels of impact on your pain: the chemicals you choose to clean your home, the amount of plastic you use in the kitchen (heating plastics can cause estrogen-mimicking chemicals to leach into your food), the skincare and makeup products you use (pthalates are the #1 thing I avoid in my book, but certainly there's a long list of other things worth watching out for as well).
Some people are simply more sensitive to environmental triggers than others, and if you're one of those people, these stimuli may be encouraging an inflammatory response in your body that could be contributing to how you experience pain.
5) Take full ownership over your healthcare. Just as there are bad mechanics, there's bad doctors, PTs, massage therapists, etc.- even if they are well-meaning.
Along those lines, there's mechanics who work magic with European brands, but are useless with American-made cars. They may just not advertise themselves as such. The very same thing is true with any person who works on humans.
Not finding relief from your doctor? Ask around. Read bio's on company websites. Get on your local FB community page. See if you can talk to a PT, massage therapist, chiropractor, etc. before you schedule. It may take some extra effort, but once you find that person, it will all be worth it.
Keep in mind that you don't know what you don't know… meaning, there may be just the thing that works on your particular pain- you just haven't found it yet.
So, if you're not getting the results you're looking for using methods you are 100% on board with, KEEP LOOKING.
But whatever you do, don't lose hope.