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5 Ways to Treat Chronic Pain at Home

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Chronic pain affects 1 in 3 Americans6, and is the number one reason that people go to the doctor. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three months. It can be very disruptive and often takes a well-rounded approach to manage. Trips to multiple doctors can be hard to fit into busy schedules, and can get quite costly! Keep reading to learn more about 5 pain management options that can be done at home. Remember, always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new treatment.

1. Better nutrition. 

Even after an injury heals, pain may still be present. A large factor in chronic pain is inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause increased pain and more tissue damage over time. Our diets can make inflammation better (or worse!) and making a few simple changes can make a big difference. Common inflammatory foods are: refined sugar, artificial sweetener, dairy, processed meat and alcohol. 1  Food sensitivities to things such as gluten and soy can also cause inflammation. Try removing these from your diet for a few weeks and then see if your pain levels change once you reintroduce them.

2. Retrain your brain.

Chronic pain trains our brain to feel like our bodies are under constant attack. This activates our sympathetic nervous system (also known as the “fight or flight” mode for our brain). The good news is that we can switch to the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as “rest and digest” mode) with a bit of practice. Slowing things down and taking time to rest, calming the mind, and meditating can allow the brain to turn off the alarm system to let the body relax, lessening the perception of pain over time. 2

3. Warm it up.

Using heat in the form of a heat pack, warm bath, or spa, can be a great way to relax tense or spasmed muscles. Heat is best used as a “warm-up” prior to doing exercise or stretching. Avoid using heat on a new injury as this can make swelling worse. For chronic stiffness or spasms, apply a heat pack for no longer than 30 minutes to avoid injury to the skin. Also, never use a heat pack on broken skin or areas with infection.3 Check with your healthcare provider to see if it is ok to use a heat pack on your painful areas if you are diabetic. 3

4. Cool it down. 

Using ice or cooling agents can help to reduce inflammation, especially after exercise or stretching. When starting a new activity, the painful area can become sore or inflamed, even with gentle exercise. Chronically painful areas can get aggravated after work due to prolonged sitting or standing. Because ice constricts blood vessels, use an ice pack for no longer than 10-15 minutes to avoid injury to the skin and sensitive surrounding areas. Never use an ice pack on the front of the neck.4  You can use an ice pack several times a day if needed, just make sure to rest for at least 40 minutes in between icing sessions.

5. Get moving.

Exercise and movement are vital for our health. Without daily activity, our muscles (including the heart) and bones become weak and our exercise tolerance decreases. This is called deconditioning. When the body becomes deconditioned, we are more prone to injury, and existing pain can increase since weak muscles cannot support the body well. Stiffness and spasms tend to get worse without some form of exercise. Gentle movement, even a few extra minutes per day, can improve circulation and reduce pain. Set small goals, like a walk to the corner and back, and slowly increase activity as tolerated. 5

By incorporating the steps mentioned above, chronic pain can become more manageable. While nothing can replace a licensed healthcare professional’s help, these small steps at home can add up to big improvements in pain control over time. You deserve to feel your very best!


References:
1-https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/food-ingredients-and-inflammation-11.php
2-https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201501/can-mindfulness-meditation-really-reduce-pain-and-suffering
3- https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/heat-therapy-cold-therapy/how-apply-heat-therapy
4- https://www.scoi.com/patient-resources/education/articles/should-you-ice-or-heat-injury
5- http://medicine.jrank.org/pages/429/Deconditioning-Prevention-treatment-deconditioning.html   Deconditioning – Prevention And Treatment Of Deconditioning
6-http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx

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Alzheimers

Is Bad Oral Hygiene Connected with Alzheimer’s Disease?

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Alzheimer’s a neuronal disease that progressively forms plaques and tangles to healthy brain cells and eventually dies. This unfortunate disease affects 47 million people worldwide and there is currently no cure. However, research findings have presented that there is hope.

A new study in the Journal Science Advances found a correlation between the high amounts of bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalism, and the effect on brain deterioration. This bacteria is associated with gum disease and researchers found toxic enzymes produced by it.

Experiments were done on mice that showed early- stage Amnesia had a significantly higher infection of P.gingivalis and amyloid plaques in their brains compared to normal brains. Note that this evidence is only a lead of how gum disease and Alzheimer’s are correlated, but not a matter of causation.

Photo by Amauri Acosta Montiel on Unsplash

This is the first time in research that showed these enzymes can kill neurons, and now there is clinical research ongoing to develop a drug that could clear this bacterial infection. However, there are multiple other factors such as genetics and lifestyle that need to be considered before confirming the true diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

In other words, there is still ambiguity on knowing whether gum disease increases the risk of Alzheimer’s or if people with dementia incur gum disease because of poor oral care. Hopefully, the discovery of a new therapy could one day be the cure to treat humans as the brain and human bacterium plays a central role in development.  

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Did You Hear About the Woman Who Cannot Hear Men’s Voices?

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Remember all the times your parents might have told you not to blast the music so loud? Well, they are right. Surrounding yourself in a noisy environment could eventually lead to a loss of hearing over time, and can increase the possibility for other auditory loss symptoms.

Last week, a woman named Ms. Chen from China was diagnosed with a rare disease called reverse-slope hearing loss. As mentioned first on Daily Mail, she woke up one morning and was unable to hear her own boyfriend’s voice.

This condition affects only about 3,000 people in the U.S. and Canada and is a genetic condition that is unfortunately untreatable. This disease affected the fluid surrounding inner hair cells and was potentially triggered by a sudden viral infection.

The patient is unable to hear low-pitched voices and can only listen to women’s voices that are naturally higher pitched. Also, these patients are unable to hear vowels, which have a low pitch energy that our eardrums cannot perceive.

There is a slight hope if the ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist could catch the condition overnight and provide a steroid injection, but most conditions are permanent. The patient revealed that she has been under large amounts of stress which may have caused it.

More Information on Reverse- Slope Hearing Loss (RSHL)

This hearing loss mostly affects low-frequency audible noises. It is caused by a dominant gene that affects the inner hair cells, which send messages from outside sounds to the brain.  

Some symptoms include difficulty understanding speech and men’s volume. It is difficult to hear low tuned environmental noises such as the refrigerator humming. Many people who use a hearing aid utilize it to hear higher frequency noises, so it would not be an effective tool for people diagnosed with RSHL. People with this disorder require a different amplification so that they would need different settings.

Photo from Pexels

This rare disease is difficult to treat because not many physicians have encountered this disorder. Although the symptoms are not severe, it is critical to hear low environmental noises, such as a car heading towards you.

There are some starting points to treat RSHL, such as using a digital, multichannel, nonlinear hearing aid. This would amplify lower frequency settings at a level that is comfortable for the patient.

Reference: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6574093/Woman-unable-hear-voices-men-pick-higher-frequency-tones-females.html

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Stress

What is evening stress and why should we beware of it?

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When we experience stress, it can often lead to a series of hormones being released in the body. New studies have suggested that we actually have a vulnerability to stress as the day progresses. Our body may actually react more strongly to acute psychological stress in the evening compared to stress that we might experience in the morning.

Studies conducted by Japan’s Hokkaido University are suggesting that even with normal work hours and sleeping habits, we react differently to acute psychological stress later on into the evening. In a study conducted on 27 healthy young volunteers as they went about their normal routine, it was determined that hypersonic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis changes occurred, leading to different responses for acute stress as the day progressed.

The HPA axis connects directly to the central nervous system and endocrine system in the body. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that gets released every few hours when the HPA gets activated due to a stressful event. Stressful events will directly provide us with energy and activate a fight-or-flight response. The circadian clock within our body can actually work to maximize these responses and make sure that a fight-or-flight response can get supercharged during specific hours of the day.

Throughout the experience, the research team worked to measure the cortisol levels in volunteers at their baseline when they first woke up. Volunteers were divided into two groups where one group was exposed to stress in the morning and another group was exposed to stress in the evening, around 10 hours after they’d been awake.

Volunteers that were taking the test in the evening continued to experience a much higher heart rate than individuals that were taking the test in the morning. It seemed as though the participants that were exposed to stress in the morning had a much easier time activating their HPA axis within the sympathetic nervous system. Individuals that were exposed to stress in the evening experienced a vulnerability in preventing extreme stress within their system.

The largest issue with evening stress now that we know we are susceptible to it and that it can prevent sleep. When we get worked up before it’s time for our bodies to go to sleep, it often leads to fits of insomnia and issues when it comes to sleeping. As we know that our biological clock can have a large effect on our ability to manage stress, the more time that we continue to change our city and rhythm and go without sleep, the worse our reaction to stress can be.

If you have ever felt extremely frazzled as a result of several days of not sleeping, you have likely experienced this connection in action yourself. Recognizing that we can be more susceptible to stress in the evening can help us prepare our schedules accordingly. If you have some stressful activities planned for the day, it could be a wise idea to schedule these actions for the morning where your body can be better equipped to handle the extra stress.

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