When You’re Pain Free the Livin’ is Easy

By on October 11, 2016

The beauty of fall is offset with the pains and strains that come from autumn yardwork: the raking, trimming, pulling and ladder climbing can all exact a toll on joints and muscles. 

Coupled with such varied and painful conditions as arthritis, nerve pain, back pain, and work or sport related injuries, pain is the most common reason that people visit a health care professional. 
 
Pain is also the leading cause of disability, and a major health care expenditure (National Institute of Nursing Research).

No Pain, No Gain?
Pain isn't all bad. In the short-term, pain tells you to pull your hand away from the fire or reminds you to rest an injury, so it can properly heal. Pain that lasts more than three months, however, is known as chronic pain. Chronic pain is more common in women, and it increases with age to peak between 45 and 65 years (Medline).

Because chronic pain often involves inflammation, the go-to remedy has been over-the-counter medications including aspirin and ibuprofen, or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs. While these options can offer relief, reliance on these medications can lead to liver damage, ulcers, an increased risk of heart attack and kidney trouble (WebMD). We're left to wonder if the side effects are worth the risk. Fortunately, you don't have to suffer. There are many dietary and lifestyle choices you can make to ease your pain symptoms. If inflammation is a factor in pain, for example, it certainly makes sense that reducing inflammation in your body will take pressure off painful areas. Simply making a few dietary switches will do wonders for turning down the dial on pain. 

You Feel What You Eat
Research shows that a diet high in omega 6 fats like corn oil, sunflower oil and soy (found in most processed foods) promotes inflammation and increases sensitivity to painful stimuli (Ramsden, et al., 2010). On the other hand, omega-3 fats EPA and DHA from fish have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and are very helpful in reducing pain and inflammation associated with joints (Proudman, et al, 2008)

When it comes to food, it's also important to remember that problems don't always show themselves with digestive upset. Often, food allergies and sensitivities trigger inflammation that can exacerbate pain far away from your tummy, so be sure to work with a health care professional to isolate any food triggers.

Easy, Breezy Living
What you do between meals is just as important in managing how you feel. Moderate exercise, like yoga, walking, and swimming can reduce your experience of pain, along with boosting your fitness. But when you’re not moving, think about correcting your posture and identify some painful triggers in your day-to-day life, like in your workplace. For example, office workers who are often hunched over key-boards can benefit from gently stretching their neck and shoulders to reduce neck pain (Tunwattanap-ong, et al, 2016). And be sure to honour when your body feels tired by having a nap. Research shows that napping reduces pain sensitivity caused by sleep restriction, so drift off to dream land guilt-free!

Extra, Extra!
If you don’t notice significant improvement with diet and lifestyle changes, you may consider taking supplements for pain relief that are natural alternatives to NSAID drugs like ibuprofen. For joint pain, stiffness and inflammation, look for a formula which includes anti-inflammatory compounds like curcumin, devil’s claw, and pine bark extract. These reduce the body’s chemicals that cause inflammation, as a way to minimize pain. Also, try a supplement that solves the root cause of the problem by rebuilding the joints with cartilage. Look for ingredients like collagen, bamboo silica, glucosamine sulfate, MSM and vitamin C, which work together to rebuild the joint structure. 

If you experience pain from arthritis, swelling from injuries, or sinusitis, consider taking serrapeptase. This enzyme breaks down scar tissue and inflammation, which is involved in many conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to carpal tunnel syndrome and fibrocystic breasts. Also try taking serrapeptase after a surgery to help with painful post-operative swelling and to encourage a speedy healing process. As always, visit your healthcare provider to find out what’s best for you, so you can spend your days happily and healthily.

References:
1. Faraut, B., Léger, D., Medkour, T., Dubois, A., Bayon, V., Chennaoui, M., & Perrot, S. (2015). Napping Re-verses Increased Pain Sensitivity Due to Sleep Restriction. Plos ONE, 10(2), 1-16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117425

2. Ramsden, C., Gagnon, C., Graciosa, J., Faurot, K., David, R., Bralley, J. A., & Harden, R. N. (2010). Do Omega-6 and Trans Fatty Acids Play a Role in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? A Pilot Study. Pain Med-icine, 11(7), 1115-1125. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2010.00882.x

3. Proudman, S. M., Cleland, L. G., & James, M. J. (2008). Dietary Omega-3 Fats for Treatment of Inflamma-tory Joint Disease: Efficacy and Utility. Rheumatic Disease Clinics Of North America, 34(Pain Mechanisms and Management in the Rheumatic Diseases), 469-479. doi:10.1016/j.rdc.2008.03.003
4. Tunwattanapong, P., Kongkasuwan, R., & Kuptniratsaikul, V. (2016). The effectiveness of a neck and shoulder stretching exercise program among office workers with neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, 30(1), 64-72.

5. National Institute of Nursing Research (2016). Pain Management. 
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=57.

Cassie Irwin is a lifelong nutrition junkie and healing foods writer. Visit her blog at thekitchndoctor.com, where food is medicine.

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