Let me start off by saying that I love helping people get to the bottom of what is causing their pain, but too often I see people overlook their general health. At some point in my physical therapy evaluation, I will discuss sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-care strategies when trying to eliminate pain. More often than not, at least two or three of these items are non-existent. With the amount of information available on the Internet today it can be difficult to sort through what’s relevant and what is not. Before we start talking calculus let’s go back to algebra.
The goal of this blog is to help people get back to the basics. We want you to understand what thousands of years of literature and clinical expertise have actually agreed upon when it comes treating chronic pain. We want to make your lives easier! KISS: keep it simple stupid. My dad loved saying this to me when I was growing up, along with a lot of other interesting comments that I will save for a later date!
Let’s get back to the basic questions I when treating pain. OK, so first and foremost:
- How is the quality of your sleep?
- How about your nutrition?
- How often and what kind of exercise are you performing?
- What techniques do you have to treat pain and get yourself to relax or decompress?
What if we stopped looking at sleep, nutrition, exercise and self-care as grueling tasks and thought of them as the “secret” ingredients to having a fulfilling life?
Boring!!! What if we stopped looking at sleep, nutrition, exercise and self-care as grueling tasks and thought of them as the “secret” ingredients to having a fulfilling life? Free from pain, depression, anxiety and poor relationships. Now it has meaning! To quote Allen Iverson, “We talkin’ bout pain?!?!” (I may have altered that a smidge). We can’t talk about pain if we aren’t addressing the key ingredients to life.
Being hurt, especially for a lengthy period of time (chronic pain), can be scary and it can cause a lot of anxiety. The thing that makes me continuously scratch my head and provokes my own anxiety is how quickly people will run to the doctor or just try to avoid the issue altogether and hope that a magic fairy, or better yet Advil, saves the day. If we treat the problem rather than the symptom we can make pain almost completely disappear! Trust me – it will return, but if you have the tools to treat the problem, regardless of the site of pain, it will not stick around long. Before you decide to get the whole transmission replaced or seek out some 100-point inspection from your local mechanic, check the spark plugs yourself.
More than 50% of asymptomatic 30-39 year olds will have spine pathology present on imaging
We are so quick to consider surgery and our dying need for certainty fuels the desire for an MRI or X-ray so we can see what our discs and arthritis look like. Trust me, regardless of who you are, the imaging of your spine and other joints is far from what you would expect, often times scary… for nearly everyone! More than 50% of asymptomatic 30-39 year olds will have spine pathology present on imaging, including disc bulging, loss of disc height and degenerative changes. In a systematic study that reviewed medical imaging, more than 90% of imaging in people over 60 years old showed degenerative changes of the spine.
We are a system, meaning that it’s rarely ever one thing that’s the issue. Rather, it’s a cluster of things that contribute to the problem. Fix just one of the problems and it could make a MASSIVE impact on how you feel. Start fixing them all and see your life transform into a place that you have never been before, physical and emotionally.
Before you decide to take a precious day off from work to be told a generic diagnosis by your primary care physician, i.e. lumbago or osteoarthritis, please pull out your pain checklist and make sure you’ve checked all the boxes.
Michael Infantino, DPT