The older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from some form of chronic pain. Whether it be back pain, arthritis, headaches, something else, or even a combination of several different kinds of pain, it’s incredibly difficult to live with on a day to day basis. But are you doing all you can to alleviate the problem? Are you inadvertently making things worse? Here are a few things you might not know about chronic pain—that you really should.
- It Can Get Expensive. According to the Institute of Medicine, around 100 million Americans suffer from some sort of chronic pain—defined as pain lasting for more than 12 weeks. It costs the country around $600 billion per year—or $6,000 per person. Of course, not all of that is medical treatments. Some of it is the loss of productivity suffered by employers of people who have chronic pain.
- Fish and Olive Oil Can Help. Studies show that certain foods can help reduce chronic pain in a number of different ways. Fatty fish, for instance, such as tuna, salmon, trout, and even sardines, have Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good at helping to fight inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. Something else that can be helpful, which you might not expect, is cherry juice. A study of patients with knee pain found that consuming eight ounces of tart cherry juice, twice a day helped reduce pain and improve overall functioning over time.
- Red Meat and Soda Can Hurt. Unfortunately, there are other foods that may be making the problem worse. If you like red meat, such as steak and hamburger, this can lead to more inflammation and increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The same has been found to be true of soda and other sugary drinks, along with refined grains like white bread.
- Be Careful of Opioids. For certain severe types of chronic pain, your doctor may prescribe something stronger than Ibuprofen. They may give you opioids, such as oxycodone, codeine, Vicodin, or even morphine. Be very careful, though. While they can be effective at reducing pain, they can also be highly addictive in some cases. If your doctor does prescribe you an opioid, they’ll want to monitor your use very carefully. Follow their instructions exactly and never take more than directed.
- Look at Non-Medicinal Treatments. There are other things that can help alleviate the pain besides pills. Acupuncture, for instance, can help with back pain, knee pain, headaches, and more. Massage is good in this regard as well, along with yoga. And if you’re having back pain, in particular, it might behoove you to pay regular visits to a chiropractor. Of course, talk to your doctor before exploring any of these options, and see if they can recommend someone who specializes in the treatment of chronic pain.
- Rest Can Make Things Worse. Logic says that if something hurts, you should rest it, avoiding strain until the pain goes away, and then continuing that rest even longer, just to make sure. But science and medicine say differently. Today, most doctors recommend that you return to your normal activities as soon as you’re able. Furthermore, movement has been found to be more helpful in aiding your recovery than rest. For more severe cases, you might look into strength training and physical therapy to help you get better.
These are just a few things you should keep in mind when dealing with chronic pain. It’s a terrible thing for anyone to endure, but with a little knowledge and a little planning, you can hopefully alleviate the pain and get yourself on the road to recovery.