Managing Chronic Pain

Pain is one of the most frequently talked about problems I see in my clinic. My clients often tell me when it comes to their pain people lack understanding.

It can be quite difficult to explain to your boss that you can’t sit down all day because you have a constant pain in your lower back and its bad for your health. It’s not like losing a leg or an arm and its not something others can physically see!

Unfortunately this type of attitude also adds to the stress and can contribute to depression, anxiety, anger and resentment.

50% of patients with Lupus will develop painful inflamed joints at some stage of their disease. Painful joints is one of the diagnosis criteria for SLE as defined by the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinic Index 20123 (SLICC’12). So it could have been a diagnostic factor for you.

There is no doubt pain can affect both physical and mental health, hampering your ability to work and earn an income. About 65 percent of people with chronic pain report interference with daily activities including sleep, work, exercise and routine self-care, which can have a negative effect on personal relationships, social interactions and lifestyle.

In a nutshell it impacts ALL areas of your life.

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So what can we do about it?

There are many ways to approach pain. A few methods to help reduce it, manage it or even eliminate it all together are as follows:

Diet– what you eat and drink can have an effect on the inflammatory responses in your body. I recommend a diet based on small amounts of protein, lots of fresh vegetables, healthy oils (olive oil, oily fish, avocados and coconut oil) and no grains, nightshade foods, caffeine or alcohol. Bone broths are a great addition to the diet for nurturing and healing our connective tissue. Also try to make sure your meat is grass fed as this has higher amounts of omega 3 in it. Omega 3 reduces inflammation. Use anti inflammatory herbs in your cooking such as garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chilli, black pepper and cloves.

Drink herbal teas, which are known to reduce inflammation- meadowsweet, chamomile, peppermint, marshmallow, licorice. Nettle leaf is of particular benefit to those with arthritic type pain and it’s a great herb for people with Lupus because it is also very good for the blood and kidneys. Research has shown that being hydrated is particularly important and people will often be more sensitive to pain when they are dehydrated.

The humble pineapple contains bromelian an enzyme which has analgesic and anti inflammatory effects. This can be effective in soft tissue trauma. It can even be found in supplement form now and may be worth a trial for a month or so.

An alkaline body– A high level of acidity in the body creates more pain! Pain and local tissue acidosis are closely related. This type of pain is normally in the joints (muscles and bones) and the skin can be tender to touch. The key to this type of pain is to alkalise the body. This often results in pain reduction.

Some things which can help to make the body more alkaline include- half a lemon squeezed in boiling water and drunk first thing in the morning. Reducing your red meat intake, caffeine and alcohol. Drinking dandelion leaf tea.

Supplements– fish oils between 6-8 grams per day can reduce inflammation. Magnesium can also help with muscular pain and cramps, including restless legs syndrome. There has been much research on the use of Turmeric and it is a herb I would highly recommend. Using it in cooking is a great start but in order for it to have a therapeutic effect you probably need to be taking it in a supplement form.

In the latest study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility, whereas the control group, which received no curcumin, had no significant improvements.

Sleep– sleep would have to be one of the best ways to lessen inflammation in the body and therefore pain. It gives your body a chance to recharge and is important for cell renewal. Sleep is often difficult to achieve when you are in pain, taking a herbal sleeping supplement such as valerian may help.

Weight– if you suffer from lower limb joint pain and you are overweight without doubt losing a few Kilo’s will reduce the stress on your joints and ultimately your level of pain.

Stress– this makes your body release higher amounts of cortisol from the adrenal glands and in turn has a detrimental effect on connective tissue. Stress can also make you ‘feel’ pain more. Something always hurts more if you are not in the right frame of mind (stressed).

Know your triggers – learn what exacerbates your pain; you can try using a pain diary to help you work out if it is relating to something in your lifestyle such as foods, stress or workload. Knowing these triggers can help you to work around them and manage them better.

Other therapies– The Feldenkrais method has been used successfully for people to help improve movement and movement patterns. Some people have also noted a great improvement in pain following hypnosis, acupuncture, floatation tanks and soft tissue massage.

Most definitely trialing these things is worth it. A one-month course or a few sessions will tell you if it’s beneficial for you. At the end of the day we are all individuals and what works for one may not work for another.

Note: Always check with your doctor before using supplements if you are on any medications.