Did you say you’re in pain? Have stiffness or numbness? Pain or tingling? Discomfort, particularly at the lower back?
I’m sorry to tell you I’m not surprised. Time and again, patients and coaching clients have turned to me looking for relief from pain. And if back pain happens to be your particular trouble, you have quite a bit of company. Research shows that as much as 80 percent of the population at some point suffers from back pain characterized as severe.
Back, neck, or any other pain can take different forms, but all pain can be categorized as acute or chronic. Identifying which is among the first steps of treatment.
Acute pain tends to come on suddenly. With care and rest, this kind of pain usually resolves within a few days’ to a few weeks’ time. Treatment for these injuries is focused on decreasing pain and allowing the patient to maintain or regain a full range of motion as the body heals.
While acute pain is often the result of a fall or other clearly identifiable trauma, it sometimes occurs for the first time with a new activity or movement, such as lifting a heavy object incorrectly or beginning an unfamiliar sport. Acute pain can be a valuable signal. Prevent serious injury by listening to what your body is saying: Slow down. Move less intensely. Take care.
Chronic pain—pain that doesn’t subside within 3 months—can be a little tougher to pinpoint and treat. The source of chronic pain may be clear, as with a serious injury, or the cause may be less obvious. For example, extended periods of inaction can put increasing pressure on nerves, triggering aches and stiffness that grow more intense over time. (Hint: Are you reading this while sitting still, hunched over your old, familiar computer desk?) Other chronic pain may reveal an underlying condition that has been simmering quietly for some time. For example, a lifelong spinal problem may not be identified until degeneration progresses to the point of causing pain.
Chronic pain requires the attention of a medical professional. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis of cause to identify the right treatments, which sometimes include medication or surgery.
Acute or chronic, however, don’t let pain make you feel hopeless. Most pain comes with inflammation, your body’s response to injury and stress. But many holistic strategies work to control inflammation—and quite a few come down to just two simple steps.
1. De-stress, de-stress, de-stress!
In fact, stress is what lies beneath many cases of back and neck pain. Add to that inflammation, which can be triggered or aggravated by constant stress, and you’ve got a recipe for serious discomfort. You owe it to yourself to find out what works to lower your anxiety and make that part of your daily (or more often!) routine. Acupuncture, journaling, art, exploring new places with friends, massage, yoga, an intense workout, music… What’s your thing to do? What releases your tension and leaves you feeling refreshed and whole?
2. Deny inflammation the foods it loves best.
Alcohol, caffeine, sugars, and other highly refined carbohydrates are known inflammatory triggers. Please, rethink that stop at Starbucks for coffee and a scone every morning (and afternoon and evening). Avoiding these inflammatory substances is an important step toward easing the pain—big time.
…and fill your plate with delicious inflammation fighters instead.
Think better food is boring? No, there’s nothing dull about the broad variety of colors, flavors, and textures you’ll find on a healthful plate! And many foods that are good for you in general actually help your body combat inflammation, too. Among these fighters are mushrooms, grass-fed organic beef, walnuts, flax, avocados, wild salmon, ginger, and many fresh fruits and vegetables.
Regardless where it came from, your pain deserves a second, holistic look. You have a good chance that simple steps can decrease or even completely relieve your discomfort. At the very least, you’ll regain a sense of control instead of letting pain continue to dictate how you feel. Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-686-0939. I’d be happy to guide and support your progress toward a pain-free life!