Beating Chronic Pain with Adequate Sleep

Sleep is when your body recovers from the current day and prepares for the next. Without it, the never-eneding process in your body of destroying and rebuilding cells will become out of balance in favor of destruction. Sleep is when the body does it’s healing, and when a lot of important processes happen that are needed to stay healthy and to grow occur. If you’re not getting restful, recuperative sleep, then you are missing out on your body’s preferred time set aside for housekeeping and maintenance.

According to the Chronic Pain Foundation, 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers also experience sleep problems.

Pain interferes with normal sleep and interrupts the body’s sleep-wake cycle, causing fatigue and stops your body from healing quickly and fully.

Chronic pain is associated with depression, which also often causes sleep disturbances.

Let’s look at some important aspect of good sleep hygiene:

  • No eating in bed
  • No watching TV in bed
  • Do not use the bed for any activities not made for the bed
  • Do not consume caffeine late in the day
  • Avoid medications that cause insomnia – pain Medications often interfere with sleep, and can cause fatigue or irritability.
  • Avoid napping too much.
  • Avoid bright light prior to going to bed – this activates the brain via the retina and the altered circadian rhythms then interrupt sleep.
  • Do something relaxing before bedtime.
  • Go to bed at night and wake up in the morning on a regular schedule.
  • Exercise regularly, BUT do not exercise right before bed.

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Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street. He has an interest in the science of pain and it’s relationship to chiropractic. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are available to speak to groups about pain, sleep, the importance of a healthy nervous system, and other health topics.

Beating Chronic Pain with Proper Nutrition

Q. How Can the Foods We Eat Cause Pain?

A. In three ways:

Physical – Heartburn, Disability due to Obesity, Feeling So “Full” You Can’t Move

Chemical – Inflammation (Omega-3’s), Ulcers

Emotional – Pain leads to Overeating leads to Fatigue & Inactivity leads to Depression leads to Overeating

The foods you eat can actually cause pain. Typically, the kind of pain food is known to cause is pain from maybe having gas, or from eating really spicy food. Other ways food can physically cause you pain include from heartburn, getting acid coming out of your stomach into your esophagus. If you are overweight so that you can’t exercise or get adequate activity, then a sedentary lifestyle will lead to many health problems, all of which can lead to painful conditions [ex. osteoporosis can lead to a compression fracture or a hip fracture].

Pain can also be caused chemically, and by this I am talking about inflammation, which is a biochemical process in the body that is characterized by pain. You can have an ulcer, where a physical problem is caused by overly acidic stomach juices, or by chemical things like NSAID’s and aspirin use. You can have generally high inflammation levels in the entire body, as well, if you have an unhealthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids.

So, just like the wrong type of diet can CAUSE pain, the right kind of diet can DECREASE pain. One of the main ways pain is caused is by inflammation, which is a natural process in the body that occurs whenever something happens that the body senses as some sort of insult – like bumping into something, an allergic reaction, a germ getting into the body, or a paper cut. Blood flow increases to bring repairative substances to the injured area, and the swelling and even some of those repairative substances actually stimulate the nerve endings that cause pain.  In many cases, if not most of them, inflammation is a good thing and the proper reaction to whatever the body is responding to. But, when inflammation is not the being triggered by a less-than-adequate diet this is not a good thing.

Well, that same inflammatory process that happens in specific injured areas of the body, and that lead to a whole body rash when you eat something you are allergic to, will cause low-level chronic inflammation throughout the entire body when the things you eat throw you out of balance and feed into this inflammatory process.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, when part of your healthy diet, can change the inflammatory balance in your body and therefore decrease pain. In fact, Omega-3 Fatty Acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, to help combat depression.

Inflammation causes pain

Omega-3 Fatty Acids vs. Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Both are essential to health, neither are made by the body naturally – they must come from your diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are natural anti-inflammatory agents, while Omega-6 FA’s are pro-inflammatory agents.

The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that the current ratio of Omega-6 Fatty Acids to Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the average American diet is about 15-to-1.

An ideal ratio would be 4-to-1.

Omega-3’s are found in:

  • Flaxseed or flaxseed oil
  • Cold water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and trout
  • Fish oil
  • Other seeds and oils.

OMEGA-6’s are found in:

  • Red meat
  • Pork
  • Dairy products
  • Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids such as soybean oil, canola oil and corn oil (often found in processed snacks, baked products and commercial salad dressings).

Pain can even be caused by emotional factors. We’ve likely all seen the anti-depressant commercial that says “depression hurts”.

Well, then. What is a good diet that will promote a pain-free lifestyle?

  • Fruits – fruits are tasty and healthy. Don’t eat too many, though, because they are very high in sugar
  • Vegetables – you should have plenty of vegetables, including leafy greens.
  • Fish & Poultry – these are healthy protein sources and are low in fat.
  • 5+ Small Meals – eating numerous small meals help your body smooth out blood sugar levels and prevents overeating.
  • Eat Slowly – if you eat too fast you can miss the body’s signals that you have eaten enough.
  • Not Too Strict – strict diets are hard to follow and are more punishment than strategy.

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Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street. He has an interest in the science of pain and it’s relationship to chiropractic. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are available to speak to groups about pain, nutrition, the importance of a healthy nervous system, and other health topics.

Beating Chronic Pain with Routine Exercise

Routine exercise is the first on the list because it is the lowest cost and it helps the greatest variety of health problems.

All you really need is about 20-30 minutes each day, and at a high enough activity level that you get your heart pumping and your body moving. Preferably, you should be doing something you enjoy doing – walking, jogging, swimming, riding a bike, hiking in the woods, running with your dog, anything will do. The more body parts you can get moving, the better.

“The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise.”
Frank Hu, epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

?Perhaps the most immediate benefits are reaped by people with joint and neuromuscular disorders. Without exercise, those at risk of osteoarthritis become crippled by stiff, deteriorated joints. But exercise that increases strength and aerobic capacity can reduce pain, depression and anxiety and improve function, balance and quality of life.

“The less they do, the worse things get. The more their joints move, the better.”
Dr. Moffat, professor of Physical Therapy at New York University.

Routine exercise really is the cure-all for a wide variety of painful conditions. You name it, exercise can help it.

Even when it comes to mental health, exercise can help. Endorphins released during exercise improve mood and decrease pain. They just make your feel better, and this lets you work through your health problem with a positive attitude.

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Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street. He has an interest in the science of pain and it’s relationship to chiropractic. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are available to speak to groups about pain, the importance of a healthy nervous system, and other health topics.

The Science Behind Chronic Pain

This is the first in a series of articles on how to beat chronic pain naturally and inexpensively. We could all just decide to go get a prescription for some strong painkiller, add on a muscle relaxer, and throw in a sleeping pill…and we would feel no pain, we would be relaxed as a wet noodle, and we would sleep 12 hours every night. But we wouldn’t feel healthy, that’s for sure. We wouldn’t feel healthy because you can’t find health in a bottle of pills.

A lot of people deal with chronic pain during their lives. This first article will provide some scientific background on why some pain becomes chronic – why it lingers well past it’s usefulness. The latest science provides a lot of insight into why some of us are unable to get past our pain and get on with our lives.

Specifically we are going to go over why chronic pain is not the same as temporary pain.

Now, I know that no one really wants to sit through a science class, and I don’t really want to teach one, but I think it’s important to “know your enemy”. Temporary pain is short-term, and it’s the body’s response to an injury, and it serves a purpose: to warn you when bad things are happening to your body. It doesn’t create a lasting impression on your nervous system like chronic pain does.

All the latest science is confirming that chronic pain actually causes real changes in the brain, and these changes cause that pain to perpetuate.

To become an excellent bowler, golfer, or singer, you need to practice, practice, practice. Like the old sayings go: “practice makes perfect”, or “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice”. This involves repetition, and this is required because the body needs to be trained to throw that perfect strike or hit that perfect drive down the fairway. This involves coordinating all the muscles involved, and THAT requires a nervous system free from interference. Most of the elite athletes we know about, Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods for example, have chiropractors that go with them as they travel for tours and races because they know that they spent years training their nervous systems and if they want to compete at 100% they need to show up to play with healthy spines.

When you learn to play an instrument, your ears get in tune with subtle differences in pitch or tone and you can develop “an ear for music”. When you draw a lot, your hands become finely-controlled so you can draw a smooth line. When you first start drinking and enjoying a nice glass of wine or craft beer, you start developing an appreciation of the flavor and aroma of different types or reds, white, lagers and ales. An expert chef can tell exactly how much spice to add to a dish to make it taste just right. This is all the result of a nervous system that is finely tuned and very sensitive because of repetition – practice, practice, practice!

For another example, a skilled chiropractor spends countless hours palpating spines and looking for misalignments, and is able to feel fixations and locate tender segments in a way untrained people cannot.

These are all examples of the way our brains and bodies get better at what it repeatedly does, and all this repetition strengthens the neural pathways involved in those activities. The sensing of pain is no different. Just like your palate, your ears, and your sense of touch – your sensitivity to pain can become sharper and the neural pain pathways can be strengthened. You become GOOD at feeling pain. This is not a good thing to be good at! No one wants to be a pain connoisseur, an expert at feeling and identifying pain!!

Recent studies have shown that the central nervous system physically remodels due to chronic pain. When you have long-standing pain this actually strengthens the neural pain pathways just like practicing your golf swing will strengthen those pathways involved with gripping the golf club and swinging it smoothly. Any time a nerve is stimulated that nerve is strengthened. Pain nerves are, unfortunately, able to be trained just like the nerves that perfect your swing or control your taste buds. When you had your first beer or glass of wine you might have thought it wasn’t exactly delicious, to put it mildly. But after repeated exposure to different styles and tastes you develop an ability to tell good wine from bad wine, and a pale ale from a wheat beer. Soon you can even tell when a wine hasn’t aged enough, or when a beer has gone bad.

When the pain is there for a while, the constant stimulation of pain nerve fibers can cause changes to the nervous system that lead to the perception of pain persisting even after removing the original cause of the pain. So, even when the thing that is causing the pain has disappeared, the pain is still there!

This is called “central sensitization” – essentially pain receptors in the body become hypersensitive, and at the same time the brain becomes more receptive to even minor pain sensations. When that happens it starts to feel like everything hurts.

Every one is better off with a healthy nervous system. Pain doesn’t need to become chronic, and something can be done, naturally, to get past that pain. In order to maintain or re-gain a healthy nervous system you should have your spine checked by a chiropractor. At Park Bench Chiropractic we focus on helping our patients maintain healthy nervous systems and active lifestyles. Call us at (301) 378-0334 or stop by today to see if we can help.

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Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street with Dr. Matt Schooley.  Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are also available to speak to groups about different health-related topics and about the importance of a healthy nervous system.

Age & Balance – One Going Up Shouldn’t Mean the Other Goes Down

A number of important factors affect our sense of balance as we grow older.

“As we age, our sight, hearing, muscle strength, coordination and reflexes change, weakening our balance. Also, some health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and circulation problems, affect balance. Even some medications have been known to make people dizzy.
“Unfortunately, all of these factors make falls more likely. One of every three persons aged 65 years and older falls each year. But take heart, you do not have to be one of them! You can take simple steps to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling.”

-AARP Website (American Association of Retired People)

Drugs & Dizziness

* If you are on medication(s) that make you dizzy, talk to your doctor so that he or she can review your situation and perhaps adjust your dosage or prescriptions.

* A fall, and the consequences of that fall, should be considered and weighed carefully when considering the possible side-effects of medication you are taking.

* All decisions about medications you might be taking should only be made after consulting your doctor.

Practice Preventing Dizziness

* Get up from sitting, or from bed, slowly. Take your time.

* When walking, look forward – NOT at your feet. If you are unsteady, hold onto something.

* Ask your doctor if any medicine you are on can cause dizziness.

* Dizziness is not light-headedness is not vertigo.

Is the Problem My Eyes, My Inner Ears, or My Joints?

* If closing your eyes causes you to lose your balance, then your inner ears might be a problem. They pick up the slack when your eyes take some time off.

* If you experience dizziness while still, your inner ear is probably the problem.

* If you have dizziness when you move or sit up then you might have an inner ear problem or a circulation problem.

* Tingling or numbness in your arms or legs can be a result of diabetes or other medical conditions which interfere with your body’s ability to recognize the position of your bones and joints. Some medications also can cause tingling.

* If you feel weak or clumsy or have joint pain, the problem might be in your joints and the ability of those joints and your brain to properly communicate with each other about position.

Research has shown that poor vision in one eye alone is almost as good a predictor of falls due to vision problems as is poor vision in two eyes, and this is because the depth perception that two good eyes affords us is compromised when only one eye is adequately functioning. When that occurs, we cannot accurately gauge the distance between two objects. Go ahead and cover your right eye right now and look around at some different things in the room with your left eye only, and then after about 5 or 10 seconds of that try the same thing with your left eye covered and your right eye doing the work. Sure, the eyes might take a second or two to adapt after being covered, but they should both function equally. If they don’t, you are at risk for a fall due to lack of optimal depth perception.

Vertigo is the sensation of movement when there is not any actual movement. Vertigo is vestibular. That means it is associated with a problem in your inner ear. Vertigo can be egocentric or geocentric. With egocentric the world appears to be spinning around you (like being drunk), with geocentric you feel as if you are spinning while the world according to your vision appears normal.

A note about that feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness you sometimes get when you stand up:
Orthostatic hypotension is a sharp decrease in blood pressure due to the effect of gravity on the blood when your rise. Your body cannot adapt quickly enough, and you experience a light-headedness as the blood pools in your lower body and you have a shortage of blood in the brain. This can cause fainting. Your venous leg pump can be assisted by performing isotonic leg contractions while sitting or standing. So, when you are waiting on line make your leg muscles tighten without bending your knees. That’s an exercise for the veins in your legs.

In order to avoid a fall you need to focus on maintaining a healthy nervous system and maintaining an active lifestyle as safely as you can. At Park Bench Chiropractic we focus on helping our patients maintain healthy nervous systems and active lifestyles. Call us at (301) 378-0334 or stop by today.

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Dr. Romano is a board certified and licensed chiropractor in Maryland. He practices in Frederick, Md at 1780 North Market Street. He has worked with the older population in practice as a chiropractor as well as at numerous nursing homes and facilities. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic. Dr. Romano and Dr. Schooley are also available to speak to groups, including seniors, about fall prevention and recovery and the importance of a healthy nervous system.