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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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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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Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

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Have you ever been extremely overwhelmed with everyday components of life? Maybe work is starting to feel too stressful? Or do personal relationships seem too much to handle? Here are some easy ways to combat your stress and feel in control of your life. Following these tips will help you lead a more peaceful yet productive lifestyle.

1. Set goals based off of how much time it would take to fulfill a task

Before starting on any task, be sure to plan out how much time the task will take. Consider jotting down a schedule for the day, and try to stick to those allocated times for each of your tasks. Even if you cannot commit to all of the fixed times, tell yourself that you will get through at least 25% of what you had originally planned. Once you accomplish that consistently, then try to accomplish 50% of your tasks. By following this, you will avoid burnout and will feel in control of the tasks at hand.

2. Go outside

While this may seem simplistic, going outside and getting exposure to fresh air have been proven to reduce stress. In particular, there is a technique called forest ‘bathing’ that is defined as the practice of spending time in a wooded area is good for one’s mind, body and spirit. Participants of this technique were found to have lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol. Even if you are not near a forest, going outside and being present in nature will help you establish tranquility in your life.

3. Stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system by partaking in breathing exercises

The autonomic nervous system is sometimes known as the involuntary nervous system. It controls several bodily systems even without any conscious direction, and two of its 2 branches are the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it releases a feeling of calmness and relaxation in your mind as well as body. On the other hand, the sympathetic nervous system is known to trigger the “fight or flight” response when there is a potential threat.

These two systems work together, but in times of intense stress, they can get out of balance. When one feels anxious or stressed for long periods of times, the sympathetic nervous system overpowers the parasympathetic.

Therefore, by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, the balance will be restored. You can do this by breathing through your diaphragm, practicing mindfulness, and surrounding yourself in a positive environment.

4. No multitasking.

Though multitasking may create an illusion of getting things done faster, it actually drains the glucose fuel needed by the brain. This decreases the efficiency of brain activity and makes us feel more tired in the long run. Instead of multitasking, try to really focus on one activity and space it out with breaks or snacks. This will help the mind feel calm, productive, and at its best.

Sources:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/turning-straw-gold/201109/4-tips-slowing-down-reduce-stress
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/how-nature-can-solve-life-s-most-challenging-problems-ncna749361

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The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Explained

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The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is unknown to many people. As a result,  they are used interchangeably during everyday understanding and conversation. So what is the difference between these two terms? According to a report from National Institute on Aging, dementia is a brain-related disorder that negatively impacts the performance and communication of routine activities. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that impacts brain parts, particularly those parts that control language, memory, and thoughts. Here are some specifics on each of the terms.

What is dementia?

A big misconception is that dementia is a disease; in fact, it is considered a syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that do not have a definitive diagnosis. Therefore, we can think of dementia as an umbrella term used for a set of different symptoms. Some of these symptoms include loss of memory and impaired thinking, which is connected with the cognitive decline of the phenomenon of aging. A range of screening tests is used by doctors to find out the root cause of dementia such as brain scans, mental status assessments, and blood tests. There are many types of dementia symptoms including the following.

  1. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: CJD occurs when a protein is folded into an abnormal shape, thus resulting in brain damage and rapid mental decline. Some of the common symptoms of CJD are mood changes, movements composed of twitching, and issues with walking properly.
  2. Frontotemporal Dementia: FTD is a form of dementia symptoms in which the nerve cells located in the front and side of the brain are lost. This leads to personality and behavior changes that are quite pronounced.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

According to the statement of the Center for Disease Control, the common cause behind dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in around 70% of all the cases of dementia. In reality, Alzheimer is regarded as a progressive disease of the brain leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.  The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease comprise of confusion, impaired speech, and impaired thought. These symptoms start to appear around the age of 60.

Additional differences between the two diseases

Whenever a patient is diagnosed with dementia, they are also being diagnosed with a number of different symptoms. This can be compared to diagnosing a sore throat. The throat is sore but the actual reason for this cause is not known. It could be a common cold, strep throat, or allergies. Likewise, when a person is suffering from dementia, they are encountering symptoms without knowing what the reason is behind these symptoms.

An additional difference between these two diseases is that Alzheimer’s disease is not reversible. It is incurable and degenerative at this time. However, some types of dementia, such as vitamin deficiency or drug interaction, are actually temporary or reversible.

More research and public awareness is needed

While families experiencing Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases have a clear understanding of the respective diseases, more public awareness is needed for these diseases. Additional understanding of what are the factors causing Alzheimer disease will assist in clearing any ambiguity, thus resulting in better treatment plans.

Sources:

  1. https://www.alzheimers.net/difference-between-alzheimers-and-dementia/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-and-dementia-whats-the-difference#1
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease/difference-dementia-alzheimers#alzheimers-disease

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