“Pain is what the patient says it is!” This was drilled into our heads in nursing school. And the statement still rings true. Hopefully, nursing schools are still teaching Pain as the 5th vital sign (temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, PAIN).
Pain affects every aspect of your life. A headache…it hurts to read (or sit up). Back pain…can’t sit, stand, walk, or drive. Knee pain…can’t walk. Shoulder pain…can’t get dressed. Abdominal pain…ankle pain…You get the point.
Pain, like the other vital signs, tells a story. Unfortunately, many Americans live their daily lives in pain. According to painmed.org, over 100 million people suffer in pain worldwide. Adults have a general understanding of pain, but what affects pain. And more importantly, how do we lessen the pain?
What Affects Your Pain? How Do You Stop It?
Many things can affect those with chronic pain. Some things we can control, others are totally out of our hands. Weight gain can greatly affect those with chronic pain due to the increased stress placed on bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Excess weight can cause decreased flexibility and because of the increased pain, it can cause a decrease in activity (do you see the trap here?) Exercise and weight maintenance are important for everyone, especially those with pain. Do what you can. The endorphins released during exercise are like a natural pain reliever.
Sleep, well the lack thereof, can also affect those with chronic pain. Improper rest can wreak havoc on an already tired body. Our bodies heal during our time of rest. More injuries occur due to tired muscles. It is imperative to get adequate rest. Prepare your mind and room for a great nights rest. Soft music, no music, hot bath etc can help you relax prior to sleeping. Some people have to replace furniture or sleep in a recliner (back pain) in order to get a full nights rest (not advocated for long-term). Seek medical help if you have continued difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Proper body mechanics are imperative to eliminating and/or preventing an increase in pain. Sit, lift, and turn correctly. Improper body mechanics cause things to be misaligned, stressing the muscles and tendons and ligaments causing pain. I know a lady that tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) while lifting a small child. So, even small improper movements can cause a great deal of damage.
Yoga, physical therapy and other forms of exercise help with body mechanics. For office workers, an ergonomic keyboard, computer screen lifted to the proper height, chair and table height as well, can all affect levels of pain.
A previous injury can certainly affect pain. Often, a minor injury leaves scar tissue behind which can cause a decrease in flexibility, range of motion, and strength. That dreaded exercise rears its ugly head again! Exercise helps to strengthen weakened areas and therefore prevent injury and pain.
One thing that we can’t control is our age. As we age and things wear out, lubrication decreases in the joints causing pain. This too is worse for those that do not exercise. Although weight-lifting may not be an option, water aerobics and yoga are options.
All of the above situations have one thing in common. They all cause stress on the body, either physical or mental (emotional). We know that stress just makes things worse. Perhaps the first step in decreasing or eliminating pain should begin with de-stressing… relaxing and taking these small steps to avoid an increase in pain.
The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.