September is Pain Awareness Month

Chronic Pain in St. CloudSeptember is Pain Awareness Month, and as the name implies, the goal of the month is to help raise awareness and spread the word about chronic pain. As we’ve stated before, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. We want to help share their stories and explain what they go through on a regular basis, so here’s more information about one of the leading causes of disability in America.

Chronic Pain Problems

Chronic pain can affect any part of your body. Below is a closer look at some areas that are commonly affected by chronic pain, and some of the symptoms that accompany those painful areas.

Chronic Arthritis – Arthritis pain is caused by inflammation in your joints, and millions of Americans suffer from chronic arthritis in their fingers, knees and toes. Most people associate arthritis pain with older individuals, but nearly 300,000 children suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic Headaches – Headaches and migraines are another chronic condition that can make it hard to go about your daily routine. Crippling or shooting pain in your head can be caused by a chemical imbalance or a poor diet. If exercise and diet modifications don’t stop the headaches, pain injections or other treatment options can provide temporary relief.

Chronic Back PainChronic back pain is probably the condition I treat most at my clinic. Whether chronic pain develops from overuse or acute injury, it can make life extremely painful for the patient. Luckily, modern medicine continues to improve how we diagnose and treat back injuries. Through physical therapy, injections or even surgery, most people find some sort of pain relief.

Chronic Leg Pain – Chronic leg pain typically occurs when there is an issue with nerves in your legs and feet. Nerve issues in your leg can cause shooting pain in your legs and spine. Again, physical therapy and injections can help treat the issue, as well as surgery to remove the damaged nerves.

Chronic Neck PainChronic neck pain typically sets in after an acute injury, like whiplash from a car accident or a sports injury. Neck pain can make it extremely painful to turn your head or preform routine activities. Treatment of whiplash typically involves rest, physical therapy, injections and strengthening exercises.

If you or someone you know deals with chronic pain on a regular basis, encourage them to seek out professional help. You shouldn’t have to live life in pain, so speak to a pain specialist today.

Chronic Pain Makes It Hard To Fall And Stay Asleep

Chronic pain makes it hard for patients to fall and stay asleep, and studies show pain sufferers are getting almost an hour less of sleep each night because of their discomfort.

According to the “2015 Sleep in America” poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, chronic pain plays a big role in how much and the quality of sleep people get. According to the study:

  • Chronic pain caused 57 percent of Americans a “significant loss of sleep.”
  • People with chronic pain said they got 42 fewer minutes of sleep than they needed each night.
  • People with chronic pain were more likely to blame their difficulty on other sleeping factors, like noise, light, temperature and mattress problems.

The biggest issue facing people with chronic pain was that it’s a cyclical battle. Pain makes it harder to fall and stay of sleep, and lack of sleep exacerbates chronic pain symptoms.

Chronic Pain Sleep

Tips For Falling Asleep With Chronic Pain

Falling asleep with chronic pain is no easy task, but there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of falling and staying asleep. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Stick to a Routine – Going to bed at 8:30 one night, 10:00 the next night and 11:45 on the weekend is a good way to throw your sleep rhythm out of whack. We know you might stay up later on the weekend, by strive for consistency during the work week.
  • Remove Distractions – The bedroom should be a place for sleeping, not a place you go to watch Netflix and read your Kindle for an hour before bed. Do those activities in another room so your body gets used to falling asleep faster when you’re in bed.
  • Keep it Dark – Similar to the above point, iPads, Kindles and televisions are bright objects that signal to your brain that you’re not yet ready to fall asleep for the night. Remove those electronics, close shades and turn off all lights, because it’s easier to stay asleep and fall back asleep in a dark environment.

Chronic Pain in the Summer

The summer is here and it’s time to be outdoors. Summer heat and the change of seasons can have a variable effect on pain, as medical conditions react differently to weather changes. Most pain conditions often do better during the summer, since the warmth allows muscles and joints to move more comfortably. Summer also allows for more time to use the outdoors as a place to exercise.

The warmth of summer is often a blessing for those with painful conditions. Muscles in the warmth often do not tighten up, and thus hurt less. Joints are less stiff since they are not cold. Now is the time to get some exercise. Start exercising slowly, warm up and stretch your muscles as you get going. Remember, if you have not been exercising, do not over do it initially. Walking is good exercise, and gradually increase your pace, distance and time as you build up strength. Go for 30 minutes a day and meet the American Heart Association goals for cardiac conditioning. If walking is too slow, bicycling is another low impact activity that can easily get the heart moving. Exercise stimulates the body’s endorphins, improves the brain function and decreases pain. Get a fitness tracker and monitor whether you are meeting your goals.

Pain in the Summer

Pace, Hydration and Sun Protection

Once the weather turns nice, many of us forget common sense. We need to pace our selves especially with activities that we have not done or which are repetitive. Spending a weekend doing extensive landscaping is likely to cause injury. Heavy lifting and highly repetitive jobs or sports may damage the back or muscles, tendons and ligaments. Be reasonable and break up the tasks that need to be done to prevent problems.

The summer is a great time to be outdoors. However, do not forget to hydrate and protect against the sun. Dehydration is easy if it is hot and humid outside. Drink plenty of water, and if you are sweating excessively, drink liquids that replace nutrients. Avoid drinking alcohol when its hot outside since this tends to lead to dehydration. Remember the sunscreen when outdoors, as new studies show men ignore using sunscreen and have a higher incidence of skin cancer.

Summer is a good time to have some fun. Relax, exercise and enjoy the outdoors. There are many benefits of being outside and taking advantage of the good weather. Use a little common sense and your pain may greatly improve.

The Importance of Regular Summer Exercise

The unofficial start of summer has come and gone as the Memorial Day weekend is in the rearview mirror, and that means we are in full swing of the outdoor season. Spring cleaning and all the summer chores also have come. It is now the time to become a weekend warrior, and using a bit of wisdom is necessary to prevent injuries. None of us are immune to injury, but using some common sense may go a long way to prevent injury.

One way to prevent injuries during the summer is to stay fit. Fitness involves two aspects – cardiovascular aerobic strength and muscle power strength. Both parts of conditioning are equally important, but many people want to do just one of the two. Without both aspects, injury is more likely.

Summer Workout

Aerobic and Muscle Training

Aerobic conditioning is exercise that stresses the endurance strength of the body. It allows us to continue activities for a prolonged time. The classic aerobic exercise is running. It increases the heart rate and promotes the efficient use of energy. Any activity that increases the heart rate qualifies for aerobic conditioning. This can be fast walking, swimming, bicycling, tennis, or any sport that requires continuous movement. The goal is for most people is at least 30 minutes of day, and this should be outside of “work” so that the brain gets the benefit of relaxation. To further promote this, obtain a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit and log 10,000 steps a day. Hitting an aerobic goal of 30 minutes of exercise and 10,000 steps will help maintain overall fitness and help with other things such as weight control.

As a pain specialist, strength conditioning has two parts. The first is overall muscle strength throughout the body. The second part is core strength, the muscles that stabilize the spine. Working out at a gym or lifting weights generally works on the large muscles in the body, the arms and legs. Good general strength allows us to do many activities and not hurt later. Core strength is much harder and targets more specific muscles. To strengthen these muscles, one needs to concentrate on working these specific muscles with very targeted exercises. The workout for the core does not require much equipment, often just gravity and body positioning is sufficient to work these muscles. Good resources for core strengthening are available on the web, use the Google search term, “lumbar core strengthening”. A good starter site is available via Princeton. Additionally, many smartphones have good apps for general muscle strengthening exercises.

A good exercise program will help prevent injury. It will give a person more ability to do the jobs around the house and not be to sore afterward. It is okay to be sore for a day or two, but if one is sore longer than that, then one is likely doing too much repetitive work on a single occasion. It is time to become more active, work on both strength and endurance, and spend some time having fun.

Another NASCAR Driver Dealing With Problematic Pain

Denny Hamlin is the latest NASCAR driver to have his season impacted by debilitating pain, as he needed to withdraw from Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway with neck pain.

Hamlin told reporters that he pulled something in his neck during the 12th lap, and he didn’t feel want to compete if he thought he was a danger to others.

“I can’t move my head or neck like I need to, and I’m not doing this team any justice if I go out there like this,” Hamlin said after withdrawing from the race. “I have no idea what happened. I think it’s just a pull, something where you jerk your head around and you feel a pain. Almost like you slept on it wrong.”

It’s surprising that the injury occurred so early in the race. We’ve shared ideas for avoiding pain and injuries while driving in the past, but NASCAR drivers don’t typically have the luxury of getting out of their car and stretching to break up the drive.

Denny Hamlin

Despite pulling out of Sunday’s race, Hamlin said he plans to compete in three races this week, which seems a little aggressive for a driver who only completed 22 of 500 laps last week. He added that he’s received treatment early this week, and he’s excited to compete this week at a track 20 miles from where he grew up.

“After treatment this week, I feel close to 100 percent, and I’m confident that I’ll be good to go this weekend in Richmond,” Hamlin said. “It’s a great track for our team, and one that means a lot to me personally. Hopefully we can go out there and compete for the win.”

Another NASCAR Injury

Hamlin’s neck pain is the one of the first NASCAR injuries we’ve heard about this year, but last season the injury news centered around Jeff Gordon, who claimed that chronic back pain could force him into retirement. Over the course of his career, Gordon has undergone professional treatment, strengthening exercises and received anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone injections to manage his back pain.

Although he hasn’t publicly stated that it’s due in part to his back, Gordon has already announced that this season would be his last full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series.

I’ll keep tabs on Gordon and Hamlin as the NASCAR season progresses, but under the playoff structure, Hamlin has already qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he missed some races to ensure he enters the Chase as healthy as possible.