Most of us have experienced musculoskeletal pain in some form or another.
Myself- I had severe hip/ tailbone pain in my first trimester when I was pregnant back in 2015 which thankfully went with treatment and then during my 3rd trimester had hip pain at night time as soon as I hit the bed. This time around, I have had some knee troubles, just last week I could hardly bend my right knee to a 90 degree angle and when it straightened I’d hear a crunch and feel pain. This week, the hip pain at sleep time has returned. I’ve also had a period of time where I had carpal tunnel.
So, when I’m writing this blog post I do most certainly have empathy for all of you who live in pain whether it be constantly or occasionally because I, like most people know what it’s like. Whether it has been pain that’s lasted a couple of weeks or pain that’s been ongoing for years- we know the feeling, and let’s face it, it does suck! It can be difficult to perform everyday tasks, or it might just be one certain type of movement that triggers the pain and it’s extremely frustrating, painful and annoying!
One thing is certain though and that is the fact that there is so much available to us for pain management and I’d like to share with you all of the various ways in which we can significantly help to reduce the pain and inflammation in our bodies. Remember- where there is pain there is inflammation!
So what can we do about it?
Firstly, get a diagnosis. If you feel like something isn’t as it should be, ask for scans, referrals, whatever is required to get that diagnosis. Otherwise you could be doing yourself a real disservice by not acknowledging what is going on and perhaps doing yourself further, unnecessary damage. Had you of known what was wrong, you may have avoided certain things.
Next, after you’ve found out the diagnosis if there is one- whether that may be; arthritis, muscle strain, ligament/ tendon damage, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, gout, loss of cartilage etc- get a treatment management plan from your healthcare professional.
Afterwards if you haven’t already done so these are some professionals you could see to help assist in pain management and relief:
• Bowen therapist
• Massage therapist
• Craniosacral therapist
These are just some professionals that may be able to assist in pain relief and management.
What else can we do?
Change our diet. Diet plays a massive role in how and what we feel, and foods can trigger inflammation (Remember how pain and inflammation go hand in hand?), or they can help to reduce inflammation.
Some foods you can remove or reduce if wanting to reduce inflammation include; Gluten, dairy (casein), sugar, alcohol, artificial flavours and colours. Yes, they’ll pop up in our diet from time to time and that’s ok, however if we can do what we can to ensure they are limited, you’d expect to see improvement in pain. There are many studies available that help to provide evidence in how foods can affect pain- a couple of them are mentioned below.
If you suffer with gout, avoiding high purine foods can make a massive positive difference to your life.
Food was created to be enjoyed you say?! How can we enjoy life to the fullest potential when we are suffering the negative consequences from those foods- are they really worth it?
A study in 2014, found fibromyalgia patients significantly improved symptoms with a gluten free diet even though coeliac disease was ruled out. (Isasi, C., Colmenero, I., Casco, F. et al. Rheumatol Int (2014) 34: 1607. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00296-014-2990-6).
An article from the Practical Pain management Journal looked at several studies and discussed how exactly diet affects perpetuates inflammation and pain;
“Despite the relationships discussed in the previous section, it can be somewhat difficult to envision how diet can specifically drive inflammation. There appears to be 2 mechanisms by which this occurs, one being anatomical in nature and the other metabolic.
An example of an anatomical problem involves the overconsumption of n-6 fatty acids, which leads to a change in cell membrane anatomy as described earlier in the case of osteoarthritis. Arachidonic acid levels steadily increase with age, and chronic joint pain is the diet-derived outcome. This anatomical scenario is not unique to joint tissues.
A metabolic mechanism of diet-driven pain and inflammation is best illustrated by NF-κB signaling. NF-κB is the most comprehensively researched cell-signaling molecule, and it has been directly linked to pain expression.”
(Seaman, D. 2017Practical Pain Management Journal, Volume 12, Issue 10, An Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Pain Patients).
Herbs that have proven to be effective in pain management include:
Devils claw: This herb has been used to treat pain and arthritis. A “study published in the journal Joint Bone Spine reported that a devil’s claw extract containing 60 milligrams of harpagoside was able to relieve pain, improve mobility, and reduce the need for backup drugs in 61 people with knee or hip arthritis.” (Wong, 2019).
Turmeric: Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic properties but is full of health benefits. It has been suggested that curcumin may have similar effects to those of analgesic medications.
Cat’s Claw: Cat’s claw is an anti-inflammatory herb, most commonly used in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as in digestive tract disorders and to support immune function.
Boswellia: Boswellia is commonly used in treatment management for; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and IBD. It has been shown to prevent the release of inflammatory markers called leukotrienes. A 2003 study concluded that all 30 people with osteoarthritis knee pain who received Boswellia, seen reduced knee pain and an increase in range of motion. (Moncivaiz, 2017).
White willow bark: Powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and analgesic. It is often used in treating fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, headaches, migraine and musculoskeletal pain.
Ginger: Ginger is a peripheral circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic herb often used to relieve; pain, nausea and vomiting as well as in treating arthritis.
Disclaimer: Do not take herbal medicines or nutritional supplements without the advice from your healthcare professional. Some nutrients, minerals and herbs can interact with medical conditions and medications. If they are not prescribed to your individual needs without a full medical history, you may experience adverse reactions or even fatalities if not taken appropriately and for your individual requirements.
Nutrients effective in helping to reduce pain:
• Magnesium: Your no.1 muscle relaxant nutrient. Helps to relieve muscular tension and spasm.
• B Vitamins: Shown to reduce pain, especially of a neuropathic form (such as; carpal tunnel, sciatica etc).
• Glucosamine: Helps to relieve pain by producing synovial hyaluronic acid.
• Essential fatty acids/ fish oils: A systemic review reported “A significant, beneficial effect on pain was found for marine oil with an EPA/DHA ratio >1.5, suggesting that EPA is more beneficial than DHA, which could be due to a more potent effect mechanism for EPA than for DHA.” (Senftleber NK, Nielsen SM, Andersen JR, et al. Marine Oil Supplements for Arthritis Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Nutrients. 2017;9(1):42. Published 2017 Jan 6. doi:10.3390/nu9010042). Fish oils have been found to be most beneficial in rheumatic pain. That said it’s important to look at the EPA/DHA ratio’s in your fish oil supplements.
• Epsom salt baths- contain magnesium.
• Exercise- Some pain can form from muscle weakness- strengthening and correcting muscular imbalances can make a huge difference.
• Yoga/ stretching- Yoga has been shown to be beneficial in many patients with musculoskeletal pain.
• Foam rolling
• Weight loss
• Seeing one or more of the health professionals mentioned above consistently and regularly
This post was created with the intention to inform people with pain that there are various ways in which we can help in reducing and managing pain, however you need to speak to a qualified healthcare practitioner (GP, naturopath, herbalist, your specialist), before supplementing or taking any herbal or nutritional medicines.
I hope that this helps you in finding the right pain management plan for you. There is a lot out there for pain, but it’s more about what is right for your individual requirements and what works best for you.
To have the best quality of life that you can, it’s important you do what you can to live the life you dream of. Pain can keep us back from achieving that.