3 Modifiable Lifestyle Factors to Soothe Inflammation and Manage Pain
Pain is a common condition, with a broad spectrum of sensations and emotions, that can significantly affect quality of life. Pain can be described as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Persistent pain can result in day-to-day activities becoming difficult, feelings of isolation and reduced socialisation, and emotional distress. It is therefore incredibly important to identify the root cause/s of pain and inflammation in the body, and find safe and effective solutions to pain management, so you can keep doing the things you love.
Pain is the body’s highly sophisticated protective mechanism, designed to alert you to actual or potential damage from harmful stimuli or perceived dangers, such as heat from a hot stove. When the body is exposed to tissue injury, infection or allergy, inflammatory processors are activated. This generates the red, hot, swollen and sore area around wounds or injuries. The body attempts to protect itself from further damage, through an influx of pro-inflammatory immune cells. You can imagine inflammation like a small, controlled fire in the body, initially, a necessary part of the body’s natural healing process.
In the second phase of this healing process, immune cells switch into anti-inflammatory mode, to remove cellular debris and promote tissue healing. This second phase is the body’s way of putting out the fire. However, if the threat continues, inflammation becomes perpetual, spreading like a bush fire to other parts of the body.
Pain occurs when sensory receptors detect pockets of inflammation and tissue damage in the body. The release of pain signals, communicate with the central nervous system, traveling from the peripheral nerves, through the spinal cord and into the brain. Pain is classified as acute or chronic in nature. Biological, psychological, and lifestyle risk factors can all contribute to its development and resolution.
3 modifiable lifestyle factors to soothe inflammation and manage pain:
Ensure that your diet has an abundance of colourful (phytonutrient rich) fruit and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds, and fish, lean protein, whole-grains, legumes and herbs and spices. Research suggests that following a typical Mediterranean style diet significantly lowers inflammation and pain scores. Western style diets that are typically of poor nutritional value, with low intake of fruits and vegetables, excessive amounts of processed meat, refined grain products containing starches and trans fatty acids (e.g., commercially baked foods), sweet sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol, increase the production of pro-inflammatory mediators and can exacerbate pain symptoms.
Sleep deprivation is associated with immune dysregulation, increased markers of inflammation, and sensitivity of pain. Develop healthy sleeping habits by minimising caffeine intake, avoid large meals at night, follow a regular sleep-wake schedule, and minimise light exposure before bed (avoid phones, computers and bright lights). Herbal and nutritional therapeutics can be used to aid sleep, relaxation and pain further. These may include:
- A high quality, bioavailable magnesium may assist in reducing several key drivers of acute and/or chronic pain, including regulating nerve transmission, neuromuscular conduction, muscular contraction, vasomotor tone and blood pressure. Magnesium encourages smooth muscle relaxation, while blocking the excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain that stimulate pain signals. It also helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle, by reducing stress hormones, and supporting the production of our sleep hormone, melatonin.
- Synergistic herbal medicines for anti-inflammatory support, pain relief and relaxation: Californian poppy, Jamaica dogwood, corydalis, ginger, Boswellia, skullcap, ziziphus, passionflower, turmeric, withania, saffron.
Exercise can make chronic pain more manageable, helping with symptoms by improving muscle tone and strength, increasing range of motion, reducing stiffness, and reduce systemic inflammation. Exercise releases endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals that enhance mood and relaxation, reduce stress and may restore sleep. It is important to identify individual aerobic, strengthening or stretching exercises that work best for your individual pain management plan.
Taking a multi-disciplinary approach to pain treatment and building a pain management team of healthcare professionals can help to provide optimal support for healing.
If you or someone you know would like personalised support to manage your health goals with a naturopathic and functional medicine approach, book an appointment online with Naturopath Sarah or call the clinic on 03 5977 0117.
This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.