4 Key Daily Changes to Help Manage Pain
I often find myself speaking to patients about their daily routines, looking for indicators that may be causing their pain. After years of experience, I have narrowed down the 4 most common daily occurrences that contribute to pain. Please note I use the term contribute as making these changes may not resolve all the pain but they are changes that will assist with the recovery process.
Moving often is the key to keeping muscles and joints happy.
For seated workers – good posture is the key to reducing pain and dysfunction. Moving often enhances good posture. Moving your body regularly generates blood flow through the muscles and joints thereby reducing the opportunity for pain to settle in. An obvious example is when you are sitting and have neck pain – the immediate response is to move the neck. That is the key. If you are on the phone or reading stand up, shrug your shoulders or move your hips from side to side. Just move!
For active workers – you already move often which is great, however the key to managing your pain is to move well. All your movements must start with good posture. By doing this your muscles and joints will be in their strongest position to achieve whatever it is you need to do.
Try imagining a straight line from your ear through your shoulder and down to your hips. If you can maintain this line while working, you will reduce the stress on your body.
Recommended reading: A guide to Better movement: The Science and Practice of moving with More Skill and Less pain.
We spend about one third of our life sleeping and sleeping is key to our daily lives. This area of our functioning is often under appreciated when it comes to contributing to pain. So how should we sleep properly?
Sleep Position Sleeping in a neutral position is vital. This means keeping the spine as straight as possible. The most stable position to sleep is on the back.
Second to this is on the side with ankles and knees on top of each other (not twisted).
Sleeping on the stomach is not ideal for anybody. It places unnecessary stress on the muscles and joints and contributes to pain and stiffness in the morning. Do not spend big bucks on a mattress and then sleep on your stomach.
Sleep quality is vital for our functioning. I often think of going to sleep like shutting down a nuclear power plant. It is not as simple as an on/off switch. We don’t have such a switch. We need to inform our brain that we are shutting down. The key is to have a routine.
Set an alarm one hour before you want to go to sleep, dim the lights, dispose of all electronics and drink a herbal tea. It is important not to have bright lights shining at us before going to sleep, as they brain will think it is still daylight. If stress keeps you awake, try having a pen and paper next to the bed and write down what is on your mind before going to sleep.
Recommended reading: A scientific Guide: How Too Sleep Optimally
Drinking water has many benefits and is both key and essential to muscle health. Consistently drinking 2 – 3 liters of water per day is vital to maintaining a well-hydrated body. If you exercise through the day it is important to drink water throughout and after your exercise regime.
A good diet is essential and key to maintaining the body in a low inflammatory state. Some level of inflammation generates a substantial amount of musculoskeletal pain and poor diet contributes greatly to this.
I like to talk (a lot) about good nutrition – it should not be complicated – keeping it simple is best. Don’t get caught up in the media hyped diets and fads. Simply eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, good quality meat, fish and poultry and try limit processed foods. Ensure that each meal has a variety of colours so that you will be eating a wide range of nutrients.
Pain management is vital for all of us. If you are able to make some changes to these 4 areas of your daily routine, you will notice improvements to your quality of life.