Is Your Lifestyle Causing Chronic Pain?

Is Your Lifestyle Causing Chronic Pain?

A short-term cause of pain is often easy to identify. You slept wrong, sprained an ankle, or have minor back strain after picking up one of the kids without properly bending your knees. In most cases, this type of acute pain will resolve itself over the next few days or weeks. While chronic pain can be caused by accident or injury, it can also be caused by your daily lifestyle habits. Some habits are easy to identify, such as sore thumbs, fingers, and wrists caused by texting, typing, or gaming. However, some sources of chronic pain are more difficult to identify.

Poor Posture

There are a variety of factors that can lead to poor posture, with slouching, head-down electronics use, a heavy purse or laptop bag, and excess weight being primary contributing factors. The worse your posture gets the more strain you place on your body. Over time this strain can lead to chronic pain.

Sitting up straight, elevating your mobile electronics, and upgrading to an ergonomic laptop bag will all help, but they may not resolve your chronic pain. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia may need to be retrained back into proper alignment. There are a variety of corrective posture stretches and exercises you can perform daily to address your individual cause of strain. Retraining your body for proper alignment takes time and is something Dr. Ormond can assist with.

You’ve Become Sedentary

You may consider yourself to be an active person, but if you sit for 6 or more hours a day then you are more sedentary than you think. Sitting for extended periods of time puts strain on your spine. Combined sitting for extended periods of time with poor posture and improper office ergonomics and pain accelerates. Even more so if you aren’t physically active during the week.

Upgrade your office ergonomics, including a convertible workstation that allows you to sit or stand. Also, stand at least 5 minutes every hour and perform a few office-friendly back stretches throughout the day. When working out, mix in targeted exercises that strategically stretch and strengthen your troubled areas. 

Weight Gain

From adulthood to middle age, the average American gains 1 or 2 pounds per year. The physical impact of this weight gain can gradually lead to chronic pain. If you gain weight at a more rapid pace the strain on your body will be less gradual.  

Excess weight can lead to chronic joint, neck, back, knee, and hip problems. It can also have a ripple effect of poor posture which further accelerates your pain. Obesity also increases your risk of osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage between your joints to break down, causing bones to grind together leading to pain and stiffness.  

Injection therapy can help to ease your chronic pain, as well as targeted physical therapy and stretching. However, weight loss and strengthening core muscles are required to eliminate or significantly minimize chronic pain caused by weight gain.

Chronic Stress

The lifestyle habits above may not come as much of a surprise, but the remaining habits may be a bit surprising. Let’s begin with chronic stress.

Stress contributes to pain in two primary ways:

  1. It causes your muscles to tense or spasm, which can increase existing pain or create new pain. For example, tense shoulder muscles can contribute to frequent headaches.
  2. It turns on your body’s fight or flight response, increasing the stress hormone cortisol. An increase in cortisol can lead to whole-body inflammation that increases pain.

There are a variety of ways to rapidly minimize stress, so you must find what works for you. From massage to exercise, delegating tasks, yoga, meditation, eliminating stressors, talk therapy, making more “me time”, and more.

Nutrition

Even if you exercise regularly and are at a healthy weight and BMI, your nutritional choices can create or minimize the inflammation in your body. The more inflammation you have, the more physical pain you experience.

Think beyond dieting to keeping inflammatory foods such as processed sugar, processed foods, gluten, saturated fats, and alcohol to a minimum. Instead, eat a diet rich in whole foods including anti-inflammatory foods such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Green tea
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

Sleep

If you wake up feeling an increase in pain or toss and turn at night trying to find a comfortable position, it’s time to consider if you have the correct mattress and pillows to support your physical needs. Consider a mattress that allows you to adjust the firmness on your side of the bed, and maybe even elevate your head and feet. This one adjustment can significantly reduce your pain because it improves the quality of your sleep.

Sleep is when our bodies naturally heal and repair. So, if you can’t get comfortable or aren’t getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night—you may feel an increase in day-to-day physical pain.

Talk to your physician to discuss how to improve the quality of your sleep, which may include:

  • Upgrading your mattress and pillows.
  • Using a cooling or heated mattress pad.
  • Investing in room darkening window treatments.
  • Sleeping with earplugs to minimize noise.
  • Gently stretching before you head to bed.
  • Creating a soothing nighttime routine.
  • Using a sound machine or listening to a sleep app in bed.
  • Using aromatherapy or a lavender essential oil pillow spray.
  • Drinking chamomile tea before bedtime.
  • Unplugging at least an hour before bed.
  • Eliminating electronics from the bedroom.

Physical Fitness

We’ve mentioned physical factors such as office ergonomics, stretching, and posture, but let’s get a bit more specific. Physical fitness goes beyond working out 4 or 5 days a week. Your daily and weekly physical routine should be personalized to your individual needs. Your choice of cardio and strength training must strategically address your individual daily repetitive motions, chronic pain, past injuries, range of motion, and flexibility.

Working with a personal trainer can help you personalize your physical fitness and physical therapy can help you stretch and strengthen your problem areas. You must also provide your body with supportive tools such as a back brace if you lift heavy items at work, bracing your wrist while you sleep for carpal tunnel, comfortable shoes or supportive insoles if you stand or walk much of the day, and job or activity-specific ergonomics. 

Finally, you must maintain proper form when working out and playing sports, or your improper form can lead to injury or chronic pain.

Resolving Chronic Pain Takes Time

There are a variety of helpful tips above, many of which can have a rapid positive impact. After identifying the root cause of your chronic pain, a personalized pain management plan must be created. This plan requires you to play an active role in your health, by adjusting your daily habits to support your body’s healing process. Reach out to Dr. Ormond today to discuss targeted injection therapy for both acute and chronic pain.