2010-01-15 / Columnists

Rockaway Walks Fitness Column

Pain Management: Listen To Your Body
Commentary By Steven McCartney, IPO, HSW, MS

Everyone strives for homeostasis (the maintenance of internal stability) as lifelong learners. The sensation of pain can explain the feeling or result from physical stimulation (internal or external). Pain teaches you to make modifications and helps in the transfer of information depending on previously learned information (reflecting on intellectual maturity and competency). Pain is how your body communicates to the mind that you need to stop, make adjustments, figure out what is causing the pain and understand that your environment (unhealthy lifestyle) might be the cause of your pain. Pain is the body’s mechanism or regulator that protects you when something is not working (immune deficiency), injury, overload or the pain cycle (disease, tense muscles, stress/anxiety, difficult emotions, depression, inactivity, poor nutrition, medication side effects, underactive thyroid and fatigue).

Insensitivity to pain puts you at constant risk of unrecognized injury or illness and carelessness to repeated injuries which promote shortened life expectancy in adults. In addition, some types of mental or emotional problems can cause, increase or prolong pain (psychogenic pain known to occur when a person with pain complains of pain that does not match the person’s symptoms). There are over 100 types of arthritis and your support team of health professionals is often most helpful! Communicating changes in pain helps aid in diagnosis. Best practice for pain management: Listen to your body. Remember you are not alone!

Pain is a symptom of arthritis (that affects bone, articular cartilage, synovial membrane, joint capsule, ligaments, muscles and tendons). Knowing the time of onset, location, intensity, pattern of occurrence (continuous, intermittent …), exacerbating and relieving factors, and quality (burning, sharpness …) of pain will help your health professional accurately diagnose the underlying trauma or pathology (nature of disease). Keep a log or journal (simply mark calendar to see trend in your activities). Acute pains lasts less than 30 days, chronic pains last more than six months, and sub acute pain lasts from one to six months (simply, pains that extend beyond the expected period of healing).

The paradigm (model) of Western medicine (traditional forms include medication, exercise, joint protection, energy conservation and, as needed, surgery) has a growing interest in Eastern methods of treatment and cures that offer more involvement in the healing process (organic foods and practices such as tai chi and yoga balancing opposite forces in the body, and increasing body awareness). Remember everyone is at different fitness levels so consult your health professionals.

Practicing these 5 methods of Self Talk “yes I can”will help you with moods associated with pain: (1) Writing down self-defeating thoughts (or irrational beliefs). (2) Change them to be rational and helpful. (3) Rehearse (mentally). (4) Practice (in real situations). (5) Be patient (It takes time for new patterns of thinking to become automatic; this is about the quality of life.). Self talk keeps you actively engaged in a better life.

Other ways of using your mind to help manage such things as pain, discomfort and fatigue; distraction (attention refocusing, using the mind to think of something else), muscle relaxation (combining physical and mental techniques), guided imagery (imagining being in a story told by someone else, daydream), self talk (mentioned above looking at the way you talk to yourselves and then changing the conversation), Visualization (you tell yourselves a story or picture yourselves achieving a goal), and prayer (or meditation, mindfulness or body scan). Repetition is the only way to benefit from relaxation techniques.

Heat and cold are effective, inexpensive ways to achieve temporary relief from muscle and joint pain. For heat use, pads, hot water bottle, hot towels, hot packs or heating lamps, warm baths, showers, hot tub, sauna, or electric mattress (increase blood flow). Cold stops muscle spasms and numbs the nerves. (It’s important when using ice pack to wrap in towel to avoid skin burn.) Hot or cold, do not apply more than 15-20 minutes. Independent of hot or cold the method of creams or liniments starts by warming skin then cooling.

Massage is the oldest form of pain management (stroking, kneading, and deep friction can be helpful).

Despite medical treatment advances, which relieve pain, prevent damage, and preserve function, none is without a downside. Relying on medication to the exclusion of other therapies and healthy lifestyle habits is a mistake. Avoid overreliance on any one form of relief.

Warning signs of arthritis are swelling in one or more joints, early morning stiffness, recurring pain and tenderness in one or more joints, inability to move a joint normally (limited range of motion), redness (warmth in a joint), unexplained weight loss, fever, weakness, combined with joint pain and symptoms lasting more than two weeks.

Best practice for pain management: Listen to your body. Start with this body awareness technique. Relax your throat … relax your tongue … now place the tips of your tongue behind your lower front teeth … part your teeth a fraction … close your lips … and let your eyelids gently drop … (1) Listen to the silence around you … (2) Listen to the silence within you … (3) Listen to the softness of your breath … (4) Listen to your heartbeat … steady and calm ...(5) Listen to the calmness in your whole body … Take 3 deep breaths. Communicate any changes.

I’m happy to announce that I will be instructing at York College Continuing Education, spring 2010, “Walking Class – Introduction to Walk Zone 1 Mile Syn chronize Walking Protocol,” Saturdays April 10 – June 19, 8:30-9:30 a.m. (must preregister). Also, I am presently presenting Arthritis Yoga Workshop a Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater Senior League (2716 Healy Avenue), every Tuesday at 11 a.m. This is being co-sponsored by Healthy Lifestyle Changes, Inc. For questions or concerns, e-mail me at steven_mccart ney@walkprograms.com.

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