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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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The Benefits of Art Therapy

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When we think back to some of our earliest days in school, often some of the most memorable experiences we have come with crafting. As children, many of us enjoy coloring, painting, drawing and other crafts and it turns out that getting back to this childhood activity can have some powerful results in therapy. Art therapy has been used as a therapeutic tool for adults in pain management. This is a form of psychotherapy that can help you to modify responses to physical and emotional problems that are related to pain.

Art therapy is used in conjunction with pain medication, but it can work as a combined effect reducing pain experiences and prescription doses. Through better symptom management it’s possible to reduce the occurrence of anxiety and stress as well as lead to a faster recovery. Art therapy is working to reduce recovery times and manage symptoms appropriately.

Art therapy works by helping people that suffer from regular chronic pain. Art therapy can be used to lower pain medication prescriptions and move mental focus away from any painful stimulus through a distraction. Art therapy also alters mood so that pain does not directly control and emotional state through stress or anxiety.

The exercise works by helping people focused in the present moment and identify their emotional responses. The expressions that people get to relate in art can help them to identify a strength and self-image as well as recognize conflicting emotions by visualizing them. A behavioral change can also occur as a result of the confidence boost from the artistic expression and creation process.

In a study conducted by The Arts of Psychotherapy over 200 people were hospitalized for medical issues after surgery. Having these individuals participate in art therapy for 50 minutes drastically improves the moods of patients as well as their levels of anxiety and pain.

Art therapy is different from a traditional art class, an art therapist manages the creative process and explores the way that art relates to pain. Therapy can consist of individuals focusing on making a piece of art that relates to how their pain looks on that day. Creating and then processing this art can help individuals to explore their symptoms and encourage them to share more about their mood.

You don’t need to have any artistic talent in order to see benefits from art therapy. Many forms of artistic expression including woodworking, ceramics, mixed-media and more can help you to access the same results. Sessions in art therapy typically last 30 to 60 minutes. These sessions are often one-on-one in the early stages and can eventually become a group support activity for people to relate their experiences to others.

If you are interested in finding an art therapist in your area, there is an extensive directory of art therapists through the American Art Therapy Association. Board-certified art therapists have achieved a Masters degree approved by this association and completed a qualifier of clinical experience in the field.

The sources for this article are:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201608/why-art-therapy-works
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/art-therapy-another-way-to-help-manage-pain-2018071214243

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A1c Test May Not Detect Diabetes Properly

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A hemoglobin A1c test is widely considered a standardized test for diagnosing diabetes. A1c levels are measured in this test and a level of 5.7% higher than average showcases a high blood glucose level. The average baseline in this test is 117 mg/dl, and the A1c diagnostic area of 5.7 to 6.4 is considered prediabetes. Anything higher than this range often results in a diabetes diagnosis.

In a new study published in ENDO, scientists have discovered that the A1c test is lacking in evidence for accurately diagnosing diabetes. The A1c test misclassified the diagnosis of diabetes in more than 70% of cases.  A study was recently conducted by researchers at the City of Hope National Medical Center located in California and The University of Kansas Medical Center in which the diagnostic specificity and sensitivity of the A1c and oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) were compared. The A1c test is a test of averages in blood glucose levels over several months for participants. On the other hand, OGTT is a test that delivers real-time blood glucose response after a glucose challenge in testing. This test can provide a far more direct measure of a person’s glucose tolerance.

The researchers examined data collected from the year 2005 up to 2014 from samples of over 9000 case logs. Pre-existing diabetes diagnosis files were not considered in this study. The participants had their BMI, fasting plasma glucose levels, post glucose blood sugar levels, and A1c levels all cross-examined. The researchers identified that 73% of the diabetes cases that they tested were not picked up by an initial A1c test. The OGTT test was far more accurate in producing an accurate diabetes diagnosis.

The A1c test showed that the participants were experiencing normal glucose levels even when they were not. The A1c is particularly useful in identifying patients that have prediabetes or an increased risk factor, but it may not be the best basis for diagnosis. While it can be particularly valuable for managing diabetic complications or preventing diabetes through early diagnosis, the best way to monitor diabetes accurately is through the oral glucose tests.

According to current statistics by the American Diabetes Association, 20% of the US population that has diabetes currently remains undiagnosed. As the prevalence of diabetes continues to increase, there needs to be an ongoing awareness to improve the standard of protocols and to deliver a more accurate diagnosis for those that need assistance in managing the condition.

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Common Signs of Low-Grade Inflammation and Why You Should Care

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What is inflammation? Inflammation is defined as a biological response to remove dangerous stimuli and begin the healing process as fast as possible. Inflammation, in its acute form such as injury and infection, is quite noticeable. However, low-grade inflammation is crucial to watch out for. Low-grade inflammation can manifest itself through chronic pain. Even if there are smaller signs of low-grade inflammation, treating these symptoms will secure your body from confronting the long-term and harmful effects of this health problem. Here are a few signs of low-grade inflammation that you may want to watch out for.

1. You Notice Swelling

If you feel swelling after some injury or for no particular reason, then this is an alarming situation. This is important to consider even if you feel minimal swelling. People generally acknowledge this symptom when some part of body is extremely swollen or sore. However, medical advice says that it is important to check up even the most minute swellings to prevent problems in the long run.

2. You Feel Tired Without any Reason

Low-grade chronic inflammation can make you tired even if there is no physical activity. Although, this particular symptom might not jump out to you instantly, it is necessary to watch if it continues on for long. Moreover, if you have iron deficiency or constant fatigue, then this may be pointing out a sign of mild inflammation.

3. You Have Unexplained Pains and Aches

Another highly vague, yet common symptom of low-grade inflammation is pains and aches. If you are not doing any hectic or stressful activity and your body hurts, then it shows that there is something that needs serious attention.

4. You Have A Very Low Mood

A possible cause for depression or mood swings can indeed be be inflammation. The way in which inflammation affects brain function can result in depressive brain episodes. Appropriate care by doctors, nurses, and therapists should be administered if this continues to happen for a long period of time.

5. You Feel Foggy

Inflammation also causes the problem of brain fog. This is a genuine medical issue that is confronted by people who have chronic health conditions. Brain fog can result in cognitive impairment, depression, anhedonia, fatigue, and fever.

6. Your Joints Feel Tender

Long-term low-grade inflammation can cause severe damage to tissues of your body. So, if you feel that your joints are getting tender or raw, then this is a condition that needs serious attention by a medical professional.

Even if the aforementioned symptoms are not bothering you much at start, they should be treated sooner so that they do not become extremely serious. Since the symptoms of low-grade inflammation are extremely widespread, it may require hard work to diagnose the root cause of such health issues.

Sources:

  1. https://www.bustle.com/p/7-signs-you-have-low-grade-inflammation-why-you-should-pay-attention-to-it-16102033
  2. https://bodyinmind.org/low-grade-inflammation-brain/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php

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