Almost everyone has some painful areas somewhere. Whether it’s a knee that is aggravated by skiing or chronic back pain or arthritis, virtually all of us have pain of some sort by the time we are 30-40 years old.
Pain is usually a symptom of overall inflammation in the body, a process that under the correct circumstances can assist with healing. For example, when you sprain an ankle. Very quickly the ankle will swell with fluid, increase temperature and blood flow and also cause pain. Under normal circumstances this will last a matter of days and then subside while tissue healing and organization occurs. Under systemic inflammation, the injury has difficulty healing and re-organizing the tissues that re-stabilize the joint, causing chronic or long-standing pain.
Fortunately there are a number of things everyone can do very easily to decrease pain and inflammation, regardless of the cause:
- Drink more water: Water is essential to all bodily processes including removal of inflammatory mediators from an injury. It also is the most important aspect of all joints, including discs of the spine. The fluid helps to cushion the weight of our bodies that is placed on our joints every day. If you are consuming less than 2 liters of water every day (not juice, pop, coffee, or tea) you are not getting enough.
- Eliminate sugars: Sugar, especially in refined forms but also in any concentrated form such as maple syrups, cane syrups, honey, corn syrup, or large amounts of dried fruits have inflammatory effects in our bodies. These easily digested sugars cause problems with liver function including fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and damage to blood vessels. They also prevent normal healing inflammation while contributing to chronic systemic inflammation.
- Consume more omega 3s: Omega 3 fatty acids are important in producing anti-inflammatory reactions in the body. Omegas 3s are best found in cold-water fish or can be taken in a supplement form. When looking for a supplement, be sure to look for the EPA and DHA contents, as these are the most important anti-inflammatory components of omega 3 oils. Dosage should be at least 1500mg EPA + DHA per day for anti-inflammatory effects. Do not supplement omega 6 fatty acids unless specifically advised by a professional.
- Reduce inflammatory foods: Many foods that we consume regularly can contribute to inflammation for a variety of reasons. This may be due to food sensitivities, food additives, chemicals, hormones or a product of the actual food. Some of the most common foods to avoid include: dairy products, feedlot raised red meat (non-grass fed red meat has far more omega 6 fatty acids which are inflammatory in nature), processed foods, coffee and alcohol.
- Consider turmeric: Turmeric contains an amazing constituent called curcumin, which is one of the best herbal anti-inflammatories available in nature. Unfortunately it is not as easy as adding extra turmeric to your food. Curcumin in it's natural form or as a powder is very difficult to extract and absorb. It requires a fat-soluble carrier and addition of substances such as black pepper to increase absorption. High quality products may be pricey but are far better than not getting anything out of the less expensive ones!
- Epsom salt baths: A great way to finish your day is with an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are based from magnesium, which is relaxing to muscles and nerves. It is absorbed quite well through the skin and can relieve pain, especially from muscle tension or strain. The heat is a wonderful addition to your healing protocol as well.
Of course this is just the basics, but if everyone with chronic pain made a few of these changes their pain and inflammation would be decreased, leading to faster healing times and more effective treatments from acupuncturists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other practitioners.
If you wish to get a more customized plan for your individual concerns please contact the clinic that is most convenient to you and ask for a naturopathic assessment with Dr. Coombs.
Westbrook Momentum Health 403-454-1600
Creekside Momentum Health 403-239-6773