Make a Pain Resolution! 12 months in 2017 means 12 steps towards less pain by next year.
Coping with chronic pain or other painful conditions is tough, especially around holidays when a lot of responsibility is placed on a person. Christmas shopping, family gatherings, new years parties it might seem overwhelming at times, and next year feels like it’s right around the corner. But if you take the time now to make your new year’s resolution a Pain Resolution, you might find that the next holiday season will be a whole lot easier. Try reducing your pain with some of these monthly resolutions that are easy to follow and have great benefits to your health.
January: Ask family/friends for support.
You want to reduce your pain this year? Best to talk to family and friends. Chat with them about how you are feeling and what you want to accomplish this year. Ask for help with keeping up your resolution. Having a solid support system will help you complete any pain-reducing goals you may have. You might reduce some stress as well.
February: Talk to your doctor.
Before going off and completing your resolution, talk to your doctor before doing anything drastic such and running or any strenuous activities. It might not be the best activity for your body right now, and they’ll have some advice on how to start slow. This is a great time to talk about any concerns you may have, and to get started down any paths of testing or seeking second opinions, to ensure you have the right diagnosis, the right medication, and the right schedule of treatment.
March: Stretch, stretch, stretch.
Stretching is a great start for reducing pain, especially those with fibromyalgia or chronic back/neck pain. Stretching helps increase the circulation in your joints and relieve stiffness by reducing tension. Now would be a wonderful time to consider starting yoga, which will help you learn healthy stretches, and increase mobility & blood flow in your joints.
April: Start walking, biking, or enjoying the outdoors.
Spring has sprung, which usually means the weather is beautiful, and worth experiencing! Get out there and enjoy it! Walking is a great aerobic exercise to help manage chronic pain. According to this research study, most people who walked regularly had reduced pain and less joint limitations. Biking is another simple, low-impact exercise that’s inexpensive and easy (just get on and ride around your neighborhood, to start!). Exercise has been shown, time and again, to reduce chronic pain, reduce fatigue, increase heart health, and reduce any anxiety.
A lot of people go overboard with weight-loss resolutions, hit the gym too hard a few times, and give up. Don’t go down that road this year. Take it slow, and simple. Start with just 30 minutes of simple exercise, a few times per week, and work your way up from there. It’s far easier to stick to an exercise regimen that doesn’t leave you aching and exhausted all in the beginning.
May: Really start to shift your diet to be more health-conscious.
Changing your diet is a great way to reduce chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia symptoms, and much more. Once May rolls around, all the “big holidays” are over, where you might have trouble starting a healthy diet, which makes it a perfect time to begin! There are a bunch of little things you can do, such as replacing that bowl of ice cream with a bowl of fresh fruit. Or, skip some of the carbs in your meals, and replace them with lean protein or fiber. Not only will a healthy shift in your diet you help manage your pain, it’ll start you managing your weight as well, which, in turn, will make you start to feel better! Don’t forget to keep exercising and keeping up with each of the prior months’ steps!
June: Take your vitamins & supplements.
Taking vitamins, minerals, and supplements are a simple addition to your increasingly healthy regimen. Many people do not get their daily recommended intake of essential vitamins and minerals from food alone. If you’re in chronic pain, it becomes even more important to keep up with your nutritional balance. Evidence shows that Omega-3, found in fish oil, can be a great supplement to reduce inflammation (check out our article on Omega-3s and antioxidants for more information; it’s helpful even if you don’t have arthritis!). Vitamin D deficiency might also be linked in chronic pain as well, according to this report. Make sure to get a complete blood panel analysis from your doctor so you can monitor which nutrients you may be deficient in.
July: Start swimming.
Swimming is a great, low-impact aerobic exercise, perfect especially for those suffering from back pain and joint pain. And the height of summer is a perfect time to hop into a pool! As your body floats in the water, the joints in your spine and limbs expand and relax, reducing pain. When added to your ever-increasing regimen of walking or biking, you’ll notice that swimming really puts some “oomph” into your energy levels and mobility.
August: Keep going; keep hydrated.
Water is essential, and most people don’t drink enough of it. Drinking water has many positive side effects such as weight loss and better overall sleep. Dehydration leads only to headaches, fatigue, aching joints, and stressed muscles. When you’re outside in hot months like August, even if you’re not relaxing, make sure you’ve always got a full bottle of water with you.
Try buying a portable, refillable bottle, which has a handle or clip that you can use to keep it with you. Leave it by the sink or refrigerator when you’re home, fill it just before you leave, and walk out the door with it. Make it a habit when you really need it, and you’ll find that you keep remembering it even during milder months.
September: Kick up the activity level!
Some misinformed people believe that rest is the best way to treat chronic pain It is actually quite the opposite, and too much rest weakens the muscles in your body. Instead of nursing your aches on the couch, get up and follow through with plans your might have for the day. This can range from simple house chores to volunteering in your local community, which will make you feel much better about yourself, as well. Remember that the more time you spend out, moving around, staying busy, the more time you’re not paying attention to the pains that may drag you down.
October: Skip the candy.
Despite the temptation, you might want to avoid the sugar this year. Sugar increases your insulin level, which in turn, makes for more dramatic pain. According to this article:”Excess sugar in the blood leads to a pathological process called glycation. One of the effects of glycation is the binding of sugar molecules to fascial proteins, causing them to thicken and become stiff. The body then treats these tangled up molecules as foreign bodies and initiates an inflammatory response in an attempt to get rid of them. Over time this state of inflammation may cause painful symptoms.”
Basically, sugar is linked to the stiffening of the connective tissue in your body, which causes painful swelling. When you take in an excess of it, you’re only hurting yourself. Instead of candy, calm your sweet tooth with fruits, sugar-free gum, and dessert recipes that don’t rely on added sugars. You can do some amazing things with peanut butter, coconuts, ice, and creativity!
November: Keep the stress level low.
Chronic pain is stressful; the last thing you want to do is cause additional pain by piling too many chores onto yourself. Stress and anxiety only tend to make your body weaker and more prone to aches. Chill out, as the holidays ramp up, by doing some breathing or mediation techniques.
All too often, people feel compelled to lump excessive burdens on themselves to provide a “perfect” holiday experience to their families. Remember that holidays like Thanksgiving are about being thankful for what you already have! Instead of inviting over a dozen or more people, make this year’s festivities smaller, and quieter. Let your family know that you are trying to improve yourself, and how you feel, and that you will need their help to make everything happen. Don’t be afraid to delegate, and don’t worry if things aren’t “perfect”. There’s no such thing as perfection, anyway!
December: Relax for the holidays, keep it up, and make a new Pain Resolution!
With the holidays back in full swing again, your list of things to do before the next year is probably growing at an exponential rate. Keep November’s resolution in mind, and make sure not to push yourself too hard.
This month, focus on keeping your 2016 resolution going. Modify your holiday recipes to cut out sugars, and include the healthy foods you’ve been working into your diet all year. Take regular walks with the family. Find an outdoor activity you all can enjoy. Keep it simple, and stay motivated to feel better, and you may save yourself a year’s worth of pain and stress!
Instead of living with pain as a burden, reduce it, little-by-little, month-by-month, with your Pain Resolution. Taking small steps over time towards a healthier and happier life is easy to follow, you just have to keep it up! How are you going to reduce your pain by next year?
A randomized trial of walking versus physical methods for chronic pain management: PubMed.gov.
Vitamin D supplementation for patients with chronic pain: PMC.
Sugar and chronic pain is there a connection?: Kinetic Health.