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The Great 8: Tips for Pain-Free Living

The Great 8: Tips for Pain-Free Living

January 31, 2022
By Next Level Physical Therapy

Being in pain is... well, PAINFUL!  Here, we discuss our top 8 tips for pain-free living. 

Your Quick List:

  1. Posture UP!
  2. Watch Your Mouth
  3. Reduce Stress
  4. Stay Calm
  1. Work Out So You Don’t Rust Out
  2. Limit The Sit
  3. Dress For The Occasion
  4. Sleep On It

Let's dive deeper - shall we?

POSTURE UP!

Little kids LOVE getting their height measured.  They stand as tall as they can in the doorframe as you draw a line at the top of their heads.  If the line is even a little bit higher, they look at you with pride - they accomplished something.  They grew!

Somewhere along the line, we lose that excitement, either due to feeling socially awkward, developing early, a slowing in growth, or feeling like it’s just not that important to us anymore.  Whelp, it should be important to you.  

Being pain-free has a height requirement = you must be exactly as tall as you are, whether you are sitting, standing or picking something up off the floor.  Maintaining our height keeps our spine aligned, our muscles engaged and limits that slouching posture that is a MAJOR culprit in a painful body.

Try This:

  1. ACT like a child.  Get excited about your height. Do regular height checks throughout your day and straighten up that slouch!
  2. Driving: Set your rear-view mirror in the morning as you sit with good posture in your car.  Do not adjust it when you get back in the car to go home after your work day.  Adjust your posture to your mirror - it is, after all, set for your height and your best posture. 

WATCH YOUR MOUTH - well, at least what you put in it

Eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, caffeine, and sugars can improve function and reduce pain. Don’t get me wrong, I love my coffee, and the occasional cheeseburger or cupcake… but these are foods I may want to actively avoid when suffering from pain caused by inflammation. 

  1. Caffeinated beverages. Caffeine can alter your body’s pH balance, resulting in an increase in acidity. This increases inflammation by changing your body’s natural chemical processes.
  2. Sugar and artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame): These foods cause spikes in your body’s insulin levels making you more sensitive to pain. 
  3. Believe it or not, some vegetables made the list! Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes are known to increase the inflammatory response in a person’s body. 
  4. Foods high in saturated fat: these foods can raise levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and over time create a problem for your arteries, triggering immune cells to produce a chemical that causes bone loss, upping your risk for fractures and pain. 
  5. Other food and drink to avoid = white bread, coffee creamer and alcohol

Try This: Eat plenty of fresh produce (accept nightshade vegetables), lean proteins (such as chicken and fish), and fiber (found in whole-grain bread and pasta).  Eat that good-for-soul food in moderation.  Consider taking a probiotic to help with your gut health, and opt for water over sodas and juices. 

REDUCE STRESS

The correlation of stress and pain has been demonstrated throughout scientific study. Stress and pain influence each other - the same brain regions that play a role in mood also process pain signals, so feelings of stress and pain influence each other.  Migraine sufferers point to stress as their top head-pain trigger and stress is a major factor in all-over aches and pains.

Ways to wind down:  Some proven relaxation techniques include deep breathing, targeted stretching, meditating, dietary changes, microcurrent (alpha stimulation), Biofeedback, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

STAY CALM IN AN ARGUMENT

Arguing is stressful and in times of stress cytokine levels increase.  What are cytokines? They are pro-inflammatory proteins linked to arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain conditions. 

Try This: 

  1. Speak mindfully with the goal of trying to make sense of the issue.  This will help dampen stress and keep cytokine levels lower.  Use words like “consider” and “understand.”  Take a slow breath before you speak. 
  2. Know that in any negotiation or disagreement, it is not a “me against them” situation, but it is two people working out a solution to a common issue. 

WORK OUT SO YOU DON’T RUST OUT

Studies also show that sedentary people are more prone to low back and neck pain than their active counterparts. A study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that exercise may also raise levels of beta-endorphins, brain chemicals that increase our pain threshold.

Activity is key to maintaining healthy muscles, connective tissue bones and joints. The more you feel that “good pain” (or soreness) from exercise, the less likely you are to experience that bad pain from injury. Remember even light movement will lubricate your joints, keeping them pain-free and functioning well.  

Try This: add some light cardio at least 3 days a week. This can include walking, biking, swimming or even working out with a personal trainer.

LIMIT THE SIT

Most people have terrible sitting posture - especially at the computer, which leads to muscle cramps and degeneration in spinal disks, and joint irritation. 

Try this

  1. Prevent alignment issues by raising your computer screen to eye level, wear glasses as needed, keep your feet flat on the floor, keep your elbows at a 90 deg angle, balance your head on your neck.
  2. Give yourself a BREAK! Get up from prolonged sitting every 45 min.  Do this at your desk, on your couch, while gaming.  Walk around for a minute or two. This will reset your spine, give your postural muscles the much-needed rest they crave, and lubricate your joints.

DRESS FOR THE OCCASION

Let’s start with your feet, the foundation in which your entire body stands.  Your toes do not come to a point, so why put them in a shoe that does?

Try a Shoe Switch: Opt for a wider toe box to allow your feet to function properly and take the stress off your toes, knees, hips, and low back.  Decrease spine stress by getting out of high heels.  Offer support - if the muscles of your feet are not strong enough to maintain proper alignment, flat shoes with little to no arch support should be avoided as they may lead to arch collapse and result in foot, knee and hip pain. 

Try This: Wear clothing that allows your body to move fully and freely. 

SLEEP ON IT!

Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, weight gain, stress and anxiety (which increase those pesky inflammatory cytokines). Experts in a recent study in Arthritis and Rheumatology state that maintaining a routine of high-quality sleep may be one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of experiencing physical pain as you grow older.

Try this: Set the stage for a more restful night’s sleep by:

  1. Sleeping in a dark and quiet room. This will allow your body to produce melatonin, a hormone critical for regulating sleep cycles.  Melatonin production is influenced by the detection of light and dark by the retina of the eye. Light from a TV, computer, phone, or lamp will inhibit your body’s ability to produce melatonin, making it more difficult to sleep. 
  2. Screen for screens - if you find one in your room, turn it off or get rid of it!  You should stop staring at the screen 30 min before you go to bed.  This will calm your neurological system, preparing it for sleep and kick-starting your body’s production and release of melatonin. 
  1. Wake up and go to bed around the same time every day/night to get your body used to a routine.   
  2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and fatty food before bed.
  3. Have a relaxing routine to do before you sleep (ie, take a shower, meditate or practice light yoga.

Try these lifestyle and habit tweaks to accelerate toward your pain-free life!

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