We are surrounded by all sorts of bells, whistle, beeps, and chimes and their sole purpose is to get our attention. They notify us of the next appointment, the presence of someone at the door, that coffee is ready, or a battery needs changing. Some are certainly more useful than others. I consider those low to no reaction signals. On the other hand there are more strident alarms that demand our total and immediate response. There will be significantly more reaction from us if our house alarm reported an intruder or our smoke alarm alerted us of a fire in the microwave. We are grateful for the forewarning since we are able to react accordingly.
Think of pain as the body’s own built-in alarm system. When the knee, shoulder, back or other body part is hurt or damaged the siren is activated. The siren may not be shrill or clamorous but pain is very persuasive. Pain is an effective method the body uses to protect these joints and their associated muscle and nerves from further injury.
It is reported that more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain at a cost of around $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 4 years ago. Those figures are staggering and don’t take into account Europe, Asia or the rest of the industrialized world where I would guess the problem is just as significant.
Know your pain!
You are about to hit a line drive on your return back hand, your tennis racquet is poised and ready but as you step into your swing you feel a sharp twinge in your calf muscle. That is an example of acute pain. Acute pain gets a persons’ immediate attention and prompts that person to take whatever measures to prevent that pain or reduce its severity. Grabbing a hot saucepan cover will get the same immediate reaction.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for an extended period of time ranging 3 months or more. It can vary in degrees of unpleasantness fluctuating from mild discomfort to severe and debilitating. It can be sporadic or continuous.
There is a wide variety of common sources of chronic pain from migraine headaches, arthritis, backaches, neck pain, tendonitis, joint pain or overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel. Some chronic pain can find its origin in old injuries that have not been properly rehabilitated. Others can be residual effects of major operations or illnesses such as cancer. Some chronic pain cannot be reversed only managed and lessened through pain medication. Fortunately, much can be corrected through changing our habits depending on the source origin.
How can we co-exist with chronic pain?
Sometimes chronic pain can become self-imposed from following poor practices and bad habits. I remember a number of years ago experiencing lower back discomfort. I ignored it for a while until it became a nagging and constantly aching, which I noticed had grown progressively worse over time. After months of living with this, I had an extensive talk with my doctor. In short, my car seat was angled back in such a way that it was the cause of my back pain and once I corrected that bad habit my back pain vanished almost overnight. Many people set their car seat at the wrong angle or too far back and, depending on which, can suffer from either back or neck pain.
Here are a few solutions to a handful of common problems we may all deal with in our daily lives:
Solution: You can adjust your seat to an upright position and make sure your steering wheel is within easy reach. Your arms should be slightly flexed and relaxed .
Solution: Your wallet can be the cause of discomfort especially if it is thick and sitting in your back pocket. It can become the cause of muscle tension which can cause hip alignment issues due to compression and over time can cause sciatic nerve irritation. Get in the habit of reducing your wallet size as well as removing your wallet from your pocket before you get into your car.
Solution: Carrying your computer case can likely add strain to your shoulder, back or neck or add strain and tension to your wrist . Carry a lighter model or invest in a back pack laptop carrying case or a wheeled equivalent.
Solution: Certain foods and drink can be the cause of your headaches. Spicy foods, aged cheeses, certain alcoholic beverages, or just not eating regular meals, can bring on headaches.
Solution: “Knowing your pain” is recognizing what things cause your body to react and to what stimulus and practicing either avoidance or moderation. Otherwise, taking a look at your environment and making wiser decisions and choices regarding your habits and practicing new ones if need be .
Chronic pain cannot always be avoided but it is possible at times if you look for the alarms your body provides you, and then work through those problems to find a solution that will ward off the pain. Most importantly, listen to what your body is telling you!