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How To Get The Support You Need Over The Holidays

The winter holidays can be a joyful time. Family comes from near and far, and there are plenty of opportunities to gather with friends. Food from many traditions graces the table, and games and gifts are plentiful. For many people, there is nothing quite like the beauty and fellowship of the holidays. For others, though, the holidays represent a special challenge. Chronic pain does not always understand that this is the supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. There are several things that can be challenging for chronic pain patients, but there are ways to deal with them. Here’s how.

Raised expectations

Shopping, presents, elaborate dinners, holiday decorating: these are all a part of the holidays. When the temperatures drop, expectations rise. This can be challenging on the most painful days.

Keep in mind that holidays can be celebrated in different ways. You don’t have to have the most elaborate house, the most packed schedule, or the fanciest dinner. The only expectations you need to meet are yours, and they may change from day to day. Focus on the most important part of the holiday for you, whether that’s hosting an open house or going caroling, and enjoy it.

Parties and gatherings

There is a natural increase in family gatherings and parties. While these can be fun, there are times when a chronic pain patient has a flare-up and can’t face another party. On days where it’s too painful, it is okay to say no.

On other days, it’s important to spend time with loved ones and good friends. Keep in mind, though, that your friends and family will understand when you are not able to attend a party and do what works for you.

Weather

Pain can flare-up when the mercury heads south. Joints stiffen and muscles seize. Shorter winter days mean more time indoors, and exercise can fall by the wayside. Take care of yourself during the holidays by committing to regular, gentle exercise to combat stress and keep muscles and joints moving.

Combine family gatherings with exercise. Talk a walk to see the neighborhood lights, or take a long, leisurely bike ride. Get to know the youngest members of your family by playing fun video games that get you up and moving.

Depression and stress

Especially post-holiday when the wrapping paper is put away and the family goes back to its regular routine, it is entirely normal to feel a little down. For chronic pain patients, that blue feeling can evolve into depression. There is a strong link between chronic pain and depression, with one feeding off the other. Sometimes it helps to schedule a treat for the family, a special day or a special dinner, after the holidays.

You can also prepare for this possible low period by taking a moment every now and then during the holidays to stop, take a breath, and reflect. A quiet moment with a cup of tea can go a long way to reset during the holidays. It is important to stop and enjoy everything that comes with the holiday season, but it can be difficult to do that when overwhelmed by stress.

It is important to ask for what you need over the holidays. If you need a quiet moment, a different type of pain-friendly meal, or a walk around the block, it is okay to ask for these things.

How To Reduce Pain At Work With Ergonomic Equipment

Long days spent in an office chair can intensify the effects of chronic pain for some people. Fortunately, awareness around the issue of helping employees manage chronic pain is growing, and so are the possible remedies available. Chronic pain results in an estimated $61.2 billion in lost productivity annually, estimates the American Chronic Pain Association. Conditions associated with that lost productive time include back pain, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and arthritis. With numbers like these, many employers are more than happy to invest in special ergonomic equipment to support on-the-job success. Here are a few ways to reduce pain at work.

Create an ergonomic desk and chair setup

Ergonomic office equipment is enjoying immense popularity with many people looking to manage pain while working. Special equipment includes ergonomic keyboards, which have resting places for the wrist. Also, the letters are situated in a way that makes for healthy hand posturing. Proper finger and wrist alignment is essential to prevent or manage pain related to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Document holders are useful for those who must look at papers for a good portion of the day. These standing clipboards allow people to glance back and forth from the paper to the computer while keeping the eyes and neck at a healthy, even level.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that documents placed too far away from the monitor may result in awkward head posture or unhealthy, frequent movements in the neck that could lead to muscle fatigue or pain.

Keyboard drawers may help people whose desks are not at the appropriate height for optimal wrist orientation while typing. The drawers hinge onto the bottom of the desk, making a surface that’s slightly too high into one that works well ergonomically. OSHA recommends that the keyboard be in a position that allows the arms to rest at about 90 degrees.

Many office supply stores also stock a variety of backrests and footrests. Ideally, the back of a chair should conform to the natural curve of the spine, according to OSHA, while providing lumbar support. Unfortunately, not all chairs do this. Some have completely straight backs with little support. Chairs without proper back support can be easily modified with a backrest.

Seat rests can also give a less than ideal desk setup the help it needs to support a healthy day at work. If a seat is too high, a seat rest can help remedy the situation. A footrest may be helpful, too. It provides a stable base for the feet to rest if the chair’s seat is too high off the floor.

Employers wanting to go the extra mile for employees may want to investigate adjustable desks. These desks allow employees to work either sitting down or standing up.

Finally, if you speak on the phone a lot, wearing a headset can reduce the awkward positioning that comes from talking on the phone and typing. A headset also makes answering the phone simple and reduces the number of repetitive movements you must make while at work. There are also special shoulder rests available for telephones. These fit onto the back of the phone and make hands-free talking more ergonomic.

Use a heating pad

If a heat pad is an indispensable part of your chronic pain management, this piece of equipment is easy to bring into work. Some companies even make heating pads specifically for the office.

For example, some chair heating pads are powered by a USB cord that connects to the computer. That way, you can power up the heating pad even if there’s not an extra outlet available by your desk. Other heating pads are designed to cover the entire length of a chair, both back and seat. This provides a soothing, warm sensation to ease any muscle stiffness and provide a little relaxation, right at your desk.

If you don’t wish to bring a heating pad into work with you, you could always bring in a warm, toasty blanket or shoulder wrap. These can help you fend off icy air conditioning or stay warm on a cold day.

Take breaks

Frequent breaks at work are essential for stretching the muscles, keeping the blood flowing, and avoiding any cramps. Rest is important for productivity and keeping the musculoskeletal system in optimal health while reducing the risk of an injury, according to Stanford University.

When sitting still for long periods of time, it’s all too easy to hold awkward positions without realizing it, which can be potentially harmful for people managing chronic pain. Stanford suggests taking microbreaks that last about two minutes at least every 30 minutes.

Place the printer in an area where you have to rise from the desk and walk to retrieve printouts. Walking to get a glass of water is always a good idea. You could also take a stroll down the hall to talk to a coworker or walk outside for a breath of fresh air.

At lunch, consider going for a walk after eating to get the blood flowing and also reduce stress.

Stanford also recommends repeating simple exercises throughout the day. Keep the shoulders fresh by moving them in circles or up and down. Roll the neck around if that feels good to you, and flex the hands and wrists to release any muscle strain.

How To Get Better Sleep

Good sleep is important to our physical health and mental well-being, and can actually decrease your pain levels. Here are a few ideas for you to implement in your daily routine to have get better sleep.

Try supplements

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally and is typically produced throughout the day to help us sleep better at night. If your body is not making enough, your sleep cycle can be affected.

Likewise, valerian root is a natural herb that helps calm your body’s nervous system and allows your mind to stop racing before bed. It lowers anxiety in the body and helps you get to sleep.

Before trying any supplements, talk to your doctor to make sure there are no risks.

Drink chamomile tea before bed

This herb, perfect for steeping as a tea, helps reduce insomnia and can boost your immune system. It is a perfect replacement for coffee or other caffeine laden drinks right before bedtime.

Practice yoga and meditation

Beginning a regular yoga practice can help boost your energy during the day in the right ways and establish a pattern that can lead to more restful sleep at night. Yoga lowers stress which can affect sleep patterns. Try a couple of relaxing yoga positions before bed.

A regular meditation routine can also help establish a sense of well-being that can help you sleep better at night. Create a safe and quiet sanctuary in your home where you can spend up to 30 minutes a day being mindful.

Create a routine

One of the best solutions to encourage proper sleep habits is to establish a nightly routine. Engage in relaxing behaviors for the half hour before bed. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time each day.

Did you know that camping can also get you back in balance? It’s true. Spending a few nights sleeping in nature without the constant stimulation of technology can reset your body’s internal clock and help you sleep better once you return home. Give it a try!

What kind of routines do you have for a good night’s sleep?

Celebrating Thanksgiving And Gratitude Every Day

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to relax with family and friends, eat delicious food, and express gratitude for all the good things life sends our way. Gratitude comes into the spotlight on Thanksgiving, but the habit of being grateful for life’s abundance has been shown to improve people’s health all year long.

What do we mean by gratitude?

Gratitude is a mindset that focuses on the good things in life and recognizes that many of them come from the grace of others or a higher power.

Beyond focusing on what life offers instead of what it does not, gratitude is a social feeling, one that acknowledges goodness often comes from somewhere outside the self. According to Harvard Health:

“Gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals—whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

Over the years, Thanksgiving has lost much of its religious significance, and now focuses more on eating a good meal. As Thanksgiving has become increasingly connected with Black Friday and retailer’s deep discounts, the excitement to start Christmas shopping sometimes overshadows ideas of giving thanks for the abundance already present. However, celebrating Thanksgiving is a good reminder of the power of gratitude and the importance of taking time to recognize the good things in life.

How to practice gratitude every day

Gratitude can become a daily practice, not just on Thanksgiving. Here’s how.

1. Stay in the present moment

Often, thoughts turn to lack when the mind is mired in the future or the past. We think about what we don’t have or things that might go wrong or those that have gone wrong. But in the present moment, with food in front of us, or loved ones, or a good book, it’s easier to focus on the good things in life.

2. Try not to complain

Focusing on worries can make them loom larger in the mind. This can be a tricky step for people with chronic pain to navigate. If you’re in pain and need help, by all means, ask for it.

Complaining, on the other hand, does nothing to alleviate pain or improve a situation. Instead, it tends to magnify issues and makes you feel powerless over them. If you’re having a particularly bad pain day, try accepting that reality totally. Then, see if there’s something that can be done.

Focusing on the good things in life and developing feelings of gratitude may, over time, help improve the health, according to Harvard Health Publications. This takes practice, so try the best you can.

Every time you recognize your thoughts lingering over things that aren’t going well, try to change them to think about things that are going well. Irritation about standing in the line at the grocery store might change into, “I’m so thankful for all the food I’m about to buy.”

3. End each day with thoughts about the things that went well

Sometimes, it’s easy to think about all the bad things that happened during the day, or the ways we messed up or could have done better. While it’s good to evaluate our lives and selves to identify areas of improvement, it’s better to end the day on a positive note.

Recognize small victories, like completing an exercise program or eating a healthy meal instead of junk food. Express gratitude for animals and people who love you and sunshine or rain.

How do you practice being grateful?

What Are The Links Between Substance Abuse And Pain?

Medical professionals are understandably worried about the direct mental effects of substance abuse and overuse on our mental health. However, there can be long-term effects, some of which can lead to higher levels of pain.

What are the links between substance abuse and pain?

There are several concerns when it comes to substance abuse and pain treatment. In the case of painkiller abuse, a chronic pain condition can lead to increased dependency on medications, especially opioids. In other cases, pain can occur during attempts at withdrawal or even as a result of an accident.

But, does substance abuse in and of itself cause pain? While it is commonly linked to psychological symptoms, we should also understand the ways in which it can manifest as physical pain.

Physical effects of substance abuse 

The most common physical manifestation of substance abuse is sleeplessness or insomnia. Not having a proper sleep schedule can lead to specific pain conditions such as low back pain and migraine headaches. Thus, the cycle continues as addicted individuals will continue to use the substance to feel better physically while they are awake.

Long-term use of some substances can also cause permanent changes or damage in the brain. This can lead to a variety of pain conditions, seizures, and even death. Some drugs cause problems with the digestive system leading to abdominal pain.

When this type of abuse manifests in physical pain symptoms it may often go unnoticed because of the psychological effects. Many specialists today understand that if they do not treat all related conditions the probability of relapse is significantly higher. For instance, an abuser who is experiencing chronic back pain is likely to revert back to using drugs to find relief rather than seeking proper medical attention.

Another possible cause of chronic pain in relation to substance abuse is the potential for accidents. For example, driving a car while intoxicated can lead to an automobile accident that results in long term chronic pain conditions, such as back or neck pain.

Are you concerned about substance abuse and pain in your life or with someone you care about?

Going Back to Nature: A Guide Towards Better Health

Did you know that Mother Nature is the most inexpensive therapist you can see? Going back to nature and spending time outdoors can help reduce stress and instill calm in your life. This doesn’t even have to mean a week-long camping trip without electricity or running water. Just five minutes a day outdoors can reduce your stress levels enough to allow you to manage your response to stressful stimuli. Here are just a few ideas for using the great outdoors to reduce your stress.

Meditate

You may already have an established meditation practice. Try changing things up by meditating outdoors. 20 minutes in the sun, allowing the quiet sounds of nature to guide you, can have significant benefits.

Stop to smell the roses

This isn’t just a nice platitude about living life to the fullest. Literally stop to smell the flowers, see trees sway in the wind, listen to birds, or watch bees flit between flowers. Just being more mindful of your surroundings can help you leave your stress behind.

Start a garden

Get your hands dirty. Select plants or foods that bring you joy to grow. Wouldn’t it be amazing to make a healthy salad out of your own lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots? Enjoy beautiful annual or perennial flowers that make you smile any time you look out your window or walk in your yard.

Care for indoor plants

If you can’t get outside as much as you want, bring the outdoors in. Houseplants can help clean your air and can bring you joy when you care for them. Just like gardening, this is a soothing activity.

Volunteer in your community

Check with your local community to see if there are any events or volunteer activities you can participate in. Use this as a launching pad to spend more time outdoors and participate in your community.

How much time do you spend outdoors each week?

How To Stay Safe While Exercising In The Cold

As the cold winter winds begin again around Vegas, staying safe while exercising in chillier weather is very important. Here are a few tips to stay safe while exercising in the cold.

Talk with your doctor

Before you add cold weather exercise to your routine you may wish to discuss your overall health with a doctor. Cold temperatures can trigger problems in individuals with asthma, heart conditions, or other medical issues.

Your doctor can tell you whether or not it is safe for you to exercise in temperatures below freezing or if you should use caution before deciding on outdoor activities in the cold.

Watch for severe weather

Always keep the weather in mind before you embark on a cold weather exercise excursion. Blizzards, ice storms, or other wintertime challenges can throw you off course, especially if you’re in the mountain communities around the city. This can make it difficult to find shelter if you become concerned about frost bite or hypothermia.

Personal safety should always be your first concern and if the weather doesn’t seem favorable for outdoor activities, it may be wiser to stay at home.

Dress for the weather

The most significant tip when it comes to dressing for the cold is to dress in layers. You want to layer up because dressing too warm can actually be more dangerous.

While exercising you’re also generating heat and will begin to sweat. The moisture in your clothes can cause your body temperature to drop when you least expect it. Also be conscious of exposed skin in super cold temperatures so you can avoid frostbite.

Know the signs of danger

Frostbite and hypothermia are not subjects to take lightly. Before you go outdoors in cold weather learn about the signs of both conditions and how they will affect your body.

If, during your workout, you feel any of the early symptoms, stop exercising and seek warmth and shelter.

What kind of cold weather activities do you enjoy? How do you stay safe while exercising in the cold? 

Is Poor Sleep And Depression Related?

The American Academy of Sleep Science reported an interesting study they conducted of adult twins regarding sleep patterns and depression. The results are important for chronic pain patients who generally suffer from sleep issues and mental health concerns. Here’s what you should know.

Poor sleep and depression 

They studied 1,788 adult twins to determine if there was a gene related to self-reported sleep durations and symptoms of depression. The results suggested sleep that did not fall into normal, healthy ranges led to an increase in the genetic risk for depression.

Twins who had a normal sleep schedule of seven to nine hours per night only had a 27% increase in depressive symptoms. However, this increased to 53% among twins who only received five hours of sleep per night. Interestingly, it also increased to 49% for subjects who reported ten or more hours of sleep at night.

“We were surprised that the heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with very short sleep was nearly twice the heritability in twins sleeping normal amounts of time,” said principal investigator Dr. Nathaniel Watson, associate professor of neurology and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle, Wash. “Both short and excessively long sleep durations appear to activate genes related to depressive symptoms.”

According to the CDC, 9% of adults in the United States meet the criteria for clinical depression. The National Institute for Mental health suggests 11% of teens also suffer from depression. Undoubtedly, many cases of depression go undiagnosed and untreated.

This study shows that sleep deprivation can be a major contributor to the occurrences of depression.

Getting healthier sleep

We know how difficult it can be to get good quality sleep when you’re in pain. Here are a few tips for healthier sleep:

  • Before bed, write a list of things to remember for the next day
  • Establish a relaxing nighttime routine
  • Don’t eat too late or right before you go to bed
  • Don’t consume caffeine within four hours of your bedtime
  • Sleep in a comfortable bed
  • Keep the room dark and cool
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day

If you believe that depression is affecting your sleep cycle or your lack of sleep is causing depressive symptoms, talk with your doctor about the right treatment and solutions.

Does your quality of sleep affect your mood?

Is There A Genetic Link Between Migraine Sufferers?

Researchers have discovered several shared traits among migraine sufferers that seem to indicate a genetic link. They found five separate segments of the genetic code that may link those suffering from migraine headaches. Some of these genes were linked to brain circuitry and others were responsible for keeping brain tissues healthy.

Understanding the genetic link between migraine sufferers

For years researchers have been trying to identify genetic codes that may be responsible for debilitating headache pain. Migraines have long been difficult to control but advancements in medicine and studies like these are advancing our understanding.

There may even be a link between migraines and epilepsy, another misunderstood diagnosis that can be difficult to treat.

A study conducted by Columbia University in New York appears to have linked migraine headaches in individuals with those who have one or more family members suffering from seizure disorders. Their study indicated that migraine sufferers who experienced auras along with their pain were likely to have a genetic link with epilepsy. 25% of the patients monitored who had at least two relatives with a seizure disorder experienced migraine headaches with auras.

Review your family history 

Reviewing your family history can unlock some of the mysteries of migraines. Regardless of the discovery of genes responsible for this pain, doctors have long seen a link in patients who have a family history of chronic migraines.

Medical professionals currently believe that patients have up to a 50% chance of developing migraine headaches if one parent also suffers from the condition. If both parents experience these headaches, the likelihood increases.

With these advancements, doctors may be more able to pinpoint the cause of migraine pain. This can help them design more effective treatment plans for their patients.

Do your parents suffer from migraine headaches as well? To learn more about managing your head pain, get in touch today!

What Are Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks?

Nerve blocks are one type of treatment for chronic pain conditions. Depending on the specific pain and region of the body, your doctor can help you determine what type of nerve block is right for you. Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks may be a great option for managing your pain. Here’s what you should know.

What are sphenopalatine ganglion blocks?

Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks can help manage head pain conditions, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Cluster headaches
  • Atypical facial pain
  • Neuralgias of the face

Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks target a cluster of nerves located just below the nose. These nerves tie into our sympathetic and sensory nervous systems.

This is a minimally invasive treatment that allows the specialist to inject anesthetic and other medications directly into the nerves. This can be done directly to the nasal cavity or with a very small dental needle.

Patients will typically begin to feel relief within 30 minutes of the treatment. Most patients experience long-term relief of frustrating facial pain or headaches. There are minimal risks with this treatment. However, always discuss the risks with your physician before undergoing a sphenopalatine ganglion block.

How many do I need? 

If pain does not subside after the first treatment, doctors may perform subsequent treatments to achieve relief from head or facial pain. This treatment has been most effective for patients who have had adverse reactions to medications or for whom medications did not provide an adequate amount of relief.

Because cluster headaches and migraines can be difficult to treat with other conventional methods, sphenopalatine ganglion blocks are a non-invasive alternative to more drastic treatments. Cluster headaches, for instance, are not triggered by food or stress. Because of this, it is difficult to determine and eliminate their trigger. This type of procedure can provide relief.

If you are experiencing migraines, cluster headaches, or other atypical facial pain you may wish to speak with your pain specialist about the possibility of using sphenogalatine ganglion blocks in your treatment plan.

Have severe headaches affected your quality of life?