When it comes to managing pain, whether it’s acute or chronic, there is a ton of information and advice out there. With so many different sources of information, it can sometimes get confusing, and it may even be hard to know where to start. You may have already looked into medications, treatments and therapies that can reduce pain for a while.
But the simplest and most effective way to reduce pain in ways that can lead to long-term relief is by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
We know, you’ve probably heard something like this before, and people have plenty of different ideas about what a constitutes a healthy lifestyle, how strict you need to be about it, etc. So here are some simple and easy tips for things that are easy to start doing.
Tip #1 Improve the quality of your sleep
Getting a proper amount and the right kind of sleep is one of the keys to better health and reducing your pain. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not only going to feel fatigued, you’re going to improve your mood – and believe it or not, it can help also change the way you feel pain.
How do you do it?
Start by turning down the temperature. When we sleep, our body temperature drops, and you can help accelerate that by keeping your bedroom cooler at night (most recommend about 65 degrees, give or take a few degrees). You’ll need some extra blankets to compensate, but that’s also ideal. The weight of the blankets helps to promote better sleep.
Eat foods that promote sleep. There are certain foods you can eat (especially for your evening meal) that can increase the level of proteins like Tryptophan your body needs to produce the sleep-regulating hormone, serotonin. Increased tryptophan levels have been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, promote better sleep, and improve alertness in the morning.
Examples of sleep-promoting foods include:
- Certain fruits, such as bananas, cherries and kiwis.
- Whole foods, such as milk, pulses (beans, legumes, lentils, etc.), fatty fish, and shellfish.
It’s just as important to avoid foods and drinks that can keep you awake, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate. These foods contain caffeine and theobromine that may disrupt your sleep cycle.
Put down the phone and turn off the lights. This may sound obvious, but for many it can be harder than you think. Your body produces melatonin, a hormone that helps you feel tired, when the sun goes down. And lights, TVs, phones and more produce light that can decrease the amount of melatonin in the body. They also cause stimulation, which negatively affects sleep.
Check out the rest of our tips to improve sleep when you’re in pain.
Tip #2 Improve your diet
Eating healthy has a wide range of benefits. As we mentioned, it can help with sleep, but it has so many other health benefits. From losing weight to reducing your chances for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, it can be the single most important change you make. And it’s also an amazing way to reduce pain, especially pain that’s the result of inflammation.
The good news is that adopting a diet targeted specifically to reducing inflammation is one of the easiest ways to start managing pain and other adverse conditions.
Some of the basic guidelines of an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Reduce the amount of carbohydrates, especially processed carbs
- Try to include healthy, clean sources of protein when you choose meats
- Good fats are important, especially the omega-3 fatty acids
- Add a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to your meals
- Consume things like dairy in moderation, as it contains unhealthy fats
Check out more information about starting an anti-inflammatory diet.
Tip #3 Get more exercise
This is another one that you’ve probably heard a million times, but it wouldn’t be a list about healthy lifestyle choices without it. And we’re not trying to advocate a strenuous workout, especially for those who are in pain.
Some small incremental changes you can start working in throughout your day include things like:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator if you’re going up one or two stories
- Taking short walks on breaks or when you need to speak to coworkers or family members
- Walking around the office or home while you’re on the phone
- Simple stretches
- Doing push-ups, lunges, and squats during television commercial breaks
- If you have a dog, taking them on short walks is great – and they’ll love you for it!
Physical activity has tangible benefits. There’s weight loss, lower blood pressure, better cardiovascular, etc. But in the immediate term, exercise stimulates our bodies to release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that can improve mood and decrease the amount of pain we feel.
Tip #4 Drink more water
There is a lot of conflicting information about how much water to drink ever day, but one thing is for sure: most people simply don’t drink enough. Water is critical for our health, it keeps your body and organs functioning as they should, and not having enough can increase your pain.
So, how much is enough?
You may have heard that eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is the recommendation. And that’s great! For most people, this provides an adequate amount of water to keep them hydrated. However, The Mayo Clinic recommends the following numbers if you really want to get the maximum benefits:
- Around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- Around 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
You also need to take into accounts things like where you live (hotter, dryer climates mean you need more water throughout the day), how much activity you get throughout the day (more activity, more water needed), and your overall health.
It’s important to note that while it’s difficult, you can drink too much water. Just remember to stick to the guidelines above and space out your intake throughout the day.
Quantum Pain and Sports Medicine can help
If you want to start making positive, healthy lifestyle choices to improve your pain, or you just want to improve your overall health and wellness, these are some solid tips to get you on the right path. And if you need help – whether that’s putting together a healthy low-impact exercise plan, starting an anti-inflammatory diet, or figuring how to get better sleep when you’re in pain, Quantum Pain & Sports Medicine can help.
Call 469.913.6136 or contact us to learn more.