In 2014, 39 million Americans were found to suffer from chronic pain. That is certainly a staggeringly high number. Most likely, you know someone who struggles daily with chronic pain. There are multiple ways to address this unfortunately common problem, and many of them do not involve taking pain medication. Here are 5 things that I address with any chronic pain patients.
1. Get your vitamin D level checked
Checking your Vitamin D level is a simple blood test that can be requested in New York State by any physician or health care worker who can prescribe medication. Research has shown that a Vitamin D level lower than 50ng/mL can contribute to an increased pain level. People who live in the Capital District are frequently low in Vitamin D because we live at a latitude that is less conducive for absorbing the sun’s rays in a way that will help make this vitamin in our bodies. One very positive point about having a low Vitamin D level is that it can be helped simply by taking a daily Vitamin D3 supplement until your levels have improved. Consult with your family physician to determine how much Vitamin D to take, as it does vary by age.
2. Drink enough water
Chronic pain often has an inflammatory component to it and that inflammation of the tissues is part of what causes constant irritation and pain. Making sure that you drink enough water will help to move along the inflammatory fluid that can be so painful if it is stagnant in the body. A good rule of thumb is to drink an ounce of water for every pound that you weigh. For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds should try to drink about 150 ounces of water per day. And remember, soda does not count!
3. Consider emotional components
If there is an emotional component to how your pain started, seek out a mental health professional to help you work through any emotional trauma. Or if seeing a mental health professional is not possible, try to take comfort in the fact that you have the power to focus on positive aspects in your life. You can begin with something as simple as the fact that you are alive, and that the sun is shining, or that you have someone in your life who you love and care for, and who loves and cares for you. Human beings have a remarkable resiliency that allows us to change the wiring in our brains and make it more positive with nothing but the power of positive thought.
4. Keep moving
I cannot fully describe how many patients I have met who have suffered from chronic pain for decades and have stopped moving their bodies. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to continue to be physically active. As an osteopathic physician, I constantly recall what our founder touted—that disease is due to the want of supply and the burden of dead deposits. He was referring to several different processes that occur in the body, but one of the best ways to keep things active in your body is to keep moving it. I remind my patients that something is always better than nothing, and that walking counts. Walking is a wonderful way to move lymphatic fluid (the waste products of the body) so that it gets recycled, and to help the blood move up the legs and back to the lungs to get more oxygen.
5. Seek out a bodyworker
There are a number of different types of bodyworkers out there. Physical therapists, manual physical therapists, craniosacral therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and osteopathic physicians who specialize in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine are just some of the professionals who can assist in treating chronic pain. They are all trained to view and treat the body as a whole. That is important because, as anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows, it affects your whole person.
Final words to remember
Try to be gentle with yourself. If you suffer from chronic pain, then you have a system that is more sensitive to pain in general. When things start to improve, it will most likely occur gradually, but there is always hope that it can get better.
Dr. Thea Bordenave-Sande’s practice is Saratoga Osteopathy. A board-certified specialist in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine/ Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine, she is a graduate of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and received her postgraduate training at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx specializing in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. Dr. Bordenave-Sande has extensive experience treating infants, children and adults. Saratoga Osteopathy is located at 77 Van Dam St. Suite 12, Saratoga Springs; 587.0801; www.saratogaosteopathy.com.