Pain is a normal, even necessary, human experience but living with chronic pain is not normal. Chronic pain is increasing because we focus on the tissues and muscles when we should really be focusing on the root of the pain: sensitivity in the nervous system. Our modern lifestyle and high levels of stress are driving chronic paid to become a significant issue. Opioid abuse is even in crisis because, amongst other things, chronic pain.
The nerves in our bodies work like an alarm system. Nerves send signals to our brains and alert us to “wake up.” This “wake up” may dissipate slowly or remain elevated. If it remains elevated, nerves become extra sensitive. This is a normal short-term response. However, if hypersensitivity lingers it may cause restriction of motion and pain. Maybe you are familiar with the phrase “fight or flight”. Fight or flight is when your body is stuck in the protection side of your nervous system. When this happens, the “rest and digest” or parasympathetic side of our nervous system is not working effectively.
A number of factors may cause pain sensitivity to remain high. For some individuals, stress at their job or family situations can keep sensitivity to pain elevated. Poor nutrition decisions can significantly impact chronic pain. Low immunity strains our nervous system. Having a high level of sensitivity to pain may negatively affect day-to-day life by altering our mood, appetite, weight gain, sleep disturbances, lack of concentration and depression. But do not fear, there are many ways to combat pain sensitivity and its side effects.
Let’s focus on 5 strategies to cope and overcome persistent pain.
- Knowledge:Education is therapy. Understanding that pain is complex and having awareness in regards to where its root are helps facilitate recovery.
- Aerobic Exercise: Raising your heart rate via exercise gets oxygenated blood throughout the body. This movement of blood can help calm nerves. Significant research indicates the benefit of breaking a sweat and how it can interrupt the pain cycle, not to mention release endorphins.
- Medicine:When directed by a doctor, low-dosage medication can supply relief in addition to these other strategies.
- Sleep Hygiene: Sleep is extremely important for recovery. Set a routine for each night and avoid electronics in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Goals and Pacing: Make goals that can be broken down into manageable pieces and pick things that you actually enjoy doing.
Bonus: Nutrition is medicine. If you are dealing with chronic pain you must take a hard look at your nutrition habits.
Agape Therapy is opening a new location, gentleGYM in July, that is designed specifically for those dealing with chronic pain and disease. We want to get a community of people together, who can build trust in a space and program, so that lifestyle changes can start to happen. As changes start happening, improvements will begin to be apparent. Improvements encourage our motivation and hope. These elements equal a healthier, happier life.
The gentleGYM features include: a gym space with strength and cardio equipment, heart rate monitoring, exercise tracking, physical therapy services, and a therapy pool. Additionally, gentleGYM will have self care amenities such as an infrared sauna, meditation corner and a massage chair. These will further help with releasing anxiety and stress. Lastly, gentleGYM offers support groups and education sessions for all members.
Check out the gentleGYM website (https://www.thegentlegym.org) for more information and to get signed up for a membership!
A great resource to learn more about chronic pain and how to manage is the “Why I Hurt Workbook”. Agape carries them for you at cost. $5.