We all know chronic pain is usually accompanied by chronic inflammation because the two share such a close relationship. Doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals’ approach is to figure out which one came first. The pain or the inflammation? Did you suffer an injury or get sick, then have inflammation set in and decide not to leave? Or did you already have chronic inflammation when you got sick or injured and the pain decided it wanted to stay for good?
Know what? From a relief standpoint, it doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is that we need to break them up, and—luckily—working to get rid of one will usually cause the other to follow. But first, let’s look at what causes both of these pesky conditions.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is something “that has been consistent for 3-6 months or more” (Merskey H, Bogduk N. Classification of Chronic Pain. 2nd ed. Seattle: IASP Press, 1994. p. 1). There are many causes, like an acute injury that doesn’t adequately heal, different types of viruses and bacteria that you may contract, or even something as simple as a reaction to a medication or supplement. Whatever the cause of your chronic pain, there are numerous ways to reduce it.
What Is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a little different. For one, it’s not something that you catch or contract. Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury or illness (hence its BFF status with pain). We sometimes actually want inflammation because it helps us heal. In the proper course of the healing cycle, inflammation will kick the bad guy’s butt right out of the body. Then it is supposed to go away entirely because its job is done and our bodies return to homeostasis.
However, inflammation can sometimes decide it kind of likes pain, and then we have a real problem. This leads to both pain and inflammation living side by side having a wonderful time, all while you are footing the bill by feeling miserable. This can worsen the issue your body is already dealing with and even limit the effects of treatment.
The good news is that chronic inflammation is mostly a product of lifestyle choices. This means you can throw a much bigger punch when looking for ways to fight back against chronic inflammation because it is the weak link between these two.
Breaking Up Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Now comes the hard part. Just like having to say goodbye to your favorite streaming shows, you may have to say goodbye to some of the lifestyle choices that you love. For instance, sugar…yes I just said the “s” word. Here are two simple steps you can take to break up the chronic pain and chronic inflammation duo!
Step 1: Reduce Your Sugar Intake
One of the easiest ways to battle your chronic inflammation is to reduce your sugar intake. However, reducing the amount of sugar you eat doesn’t mean you can never eat sugar again. That would be impossible! It is more about being aware of how much sugar is in the foods you eat and how it can affect your chronic inflammation. For example, some foods that are high in sugar include sweets and baked goods like candy, cakes, doughnuts, chocolate, cookies, and soft drinks. For the best results, you will have to cut out huge amounts of sugar or severely limit it for a long time. But that is something to build up to. That is why it is crucial to start slow and be consistent, doing what you can when you can. Every step in the right direction is a win.
An important first step is to track what you eat, then look up how much sugar you are actually consuming. It might surprise you. Then, pick one or two items to just stop eating. For instance, diet or regular soda, lemonade, fruit juice, and most white bread is full of simple carbohydrates (stuff that ramps up inflammation). Remember, you don’t have to give up everything. You can weigh the pros and cons for yourself and make your own decisions of what to cut back on, but reducing your sugar intake will help to hit back at your inflammation and limit the effect it is having on your chronic pain.
Step 2: Get More Consistent Sleep
Another simple step to kick chronic pain and inflammation’s butts is to get more consistent sleep. When we sleep, our bodies recover and repair themselves, helping to put everything back in order. That’s why it’s important to consistently go to sleep at a decent time every night and make sure we are getting the proper amount of rest. In fact, every hour of sleep you get before midnight counts as two hours of physical repair/recovery to your body.
Chronic pain and inflammation can be both causes and consequences of sleep deficiency. This means they can cause you to lose sleep because of the pain you are dealing with or they can pop up as a result of you not getting enough rest. That’s why it’s essential for you to consistently get to bed at a reasonable time every night, so your body can fight the bad guys off and help you feel better. Plus, a little more sleep would do us all some good anyway!
At the Life Energy Foundation, we know that living with chronic pain and inflammation can be a difficult burden. However, we can assist you on your journey by providing you with valuable resources and tools. We have over 25 years of experience transforming lives and, when you are ready, we are here to help you transform yours as well. Take the first step today with our free 30 Days to Better program, which includes exercises, meditation, and other tools!