Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. Pain can appear suddenly or build slowly over time, ranging from mild and intermittent to severe and persistent. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) indicates that acute pain, left untreated, can lead to chronic pain. According to Drs. Angela Koestler and Ann Myers, authors of Understanding Chronic Pain, chronic pain disables more people than cancer or heart disease.
Is it Acute or Chronic Pain?
Identifying which type of pain you have is the first step in taking control:
- Acute pain comes on suddenly. It can be brief or last for weeks or months. Acute pain goes away once the cause has been treated.
- Chronic pain is ongoing. It may result from an injury or infection or be psychogenic, meaning it’s unrelated to injury. Chronic pain persists for months or years and affects your physical and emotional well-being.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration may aggravate the symptoms of some chronic conditions, like headaches and back pain. Although it may be tempting to load up on coffee, soda, or juice, their diuretic effect makes them poor sources for hydration. Water keeps you hydrated without the extra calories, sodium, or caffeine.
Foods to Eat
An easy-to-digest diet free from processed foods can alleviate inflammation, according to studies published the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Foods that may alleviate inflammation that leads to pain include leafy greens, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, asparagus, low-sugar fruits (cherries, cranberries, plums, pineapple), and soy products.
Foods to Limit
Inflammation is a common cause of pain, and certain chemicals in foods may exacerbate it. Stay away from these possible inflammation instigators:
- nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant)
- citrus fruits
- high-fat red meat
- wheat products
- processed foods
- red wine, coffee, tea, and soda
Turn to Turmeric
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this brightly colored spice is a beneficial treatment for many health conditions, including chronic pain. Turmeric contains curcumin, which provides a natural way to reduce inflammation in the body, without harming the liver or kidneys. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine explains that turmeric increases ligament flexibility and boosts the immune system. Add turmeric to meals, or sprinkle it in your tea.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga promotes both strength and flexibility while calming the mind and decreasing stress. This centuries-old practice offers a method of stress reduction that can help those suffering from chronic pain, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Asana, the physical postures of yoga, breathwork, and meditation are all tools in the pain-reduction kit. Stress makes muscles spasm, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because muscle spasms are a part of acute and chronic pain, practicing asana trains your body to relax.
Don’t always have time for the mat? There are simple ways to bring the posture of yoga into your life. Whether in front of the TV or using your computer at work, maintaining correct posture is essential in fighting pain.
Many of us fall prey to the C-slump (a rounded back, and head in front of the spine) which can impair nerve and blood flow, according to findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Keep your head directly above a tall, straight spine to prevent strain on your back and neck muscles.
Talk About Your Pain
Talking about your pain may help reduce its effects. The American Psychological Association speaks to the benefits of psychotherapy—talk therapy—for chronic pain. Commonly utilized methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and guided imagery.
These techniques teach stress management and real-life coping skills. The goal for patients is to improve their quality of life by getting better sleep, and reducing stress. Psychotherapy alone may not eliminate your chronic pain, but it can be effective in managing it.
More Ways to Manage Your Pain
When diet and lifestyle changes aren’t enough, you may need to seek additional methods to treat your pain. Always check with your doctor to decide which alternatives are best for you. Additional methods to treat chronic pain include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), acetaminophen (Tylenol), localized anesthetic, physical therapy, hypnosis, or surgery.