It’s the New Year! 2022 has begun and that means it’s resolution season; a season of renewal and fresh starts. This time of year, many people make a commitment to better themselves somehow in the months to come.
It’s a noble goal for sure, but it’s not always easy to actually see it through. Life has a way of interfering with our resolutions. This certainly holds true for those suffering from chronic pain. Chronic pain can make even the most common everyday tasks a challenge. Going a step further to achieve a New Year’s resolution must be extra daunting, no?
It doesn’t have to be! Here we take some of the most common New Year’s resolutions and investigate how they relate to some of the most common chronic pain beliefs.
Year after year, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Many of us tend to put on a few pounds while celebrating the holiday season, and the New Year always feels like the perfect time to shed that extra weight and then some. It’s no secret that losing excess weight is good for your health, and that brings us to our firsts chronic pain belief:
LOSING WEIGHT IS GOOD FOR CHRONIC PAIN: TRUE
Losing weight is one of the best things you can do if you suffer from chronic pain! Carrying excess weight puts extra strain on your spine, joints, and ligaments as they work to support and move your body. Those extra pounds can make already vulnerable tissue deteriorate even faster, while pinched nerves may become even more aggravated.
But, by maintaining a healthy weight, you can relieve a lot of that added stress on your body. Not only can this reduce the symptoms of chronic pain, but it can also improve mobility and bodily function.
This is another common resolution and often goes hand in hand with losing weight. What better way to start the new year than by committing to get in shape?! Whether it’s joining a gym or watching aerobics videos in the living room, getting regular exercise not only help you lose weight, but improves your body’s overall stability and function. And the same things goes for those of you with chronic pain, which segues into chronic pain belief #2:
EXERCISING WILL MAKE MY CHRONIC PAIN WORSE: FALSE
As long as you do it correctly, regular exercise may actually improve or prevent your chronic pain symptoms. Keeping your body active prevents atrophy and weakening of the muscles and joints while promoting flexibility. Strong, flexible muscles and tissue do a better job supporting the spine and improving mobility.
Collectively, this requires you to strain less while performing everyday activities, and as a result, your body is less prone to new injuries or exacerbating existing conditions.
Keep in mind, the key to a successful exercise routine while suffering from chronic pain is being patient and doing it right. Speak with a pain management specialist first, as they can prescribe the best exercises for your condition and provide tips on how to perform them safely. Then, take is slow and steady. Trying to go too hard too fast could result in further injury and pain.
Check out some more information on exercising to help chronic pain>>
Stress Less, Live More
This is another common New Year’s resolution, especially after the last couple of years. Whether it’s from work, parenting, money troubles, etcetera, stress can often play far too large a role in our lives. So we resolve to get rid of that stress and live a happier, fuller life! This is an excellent strategy, as stress can have harmful effects beyond just frustration and sadness. Stress can be particularly problematic for those with chronic pain, leading to chronic pain belief #3:
STRESS AND ANXIETY CAN MAKE CHRONIC PAIN WORSE: TRUE
Chronic pain and stress are often joined at the hip, so to speak. They feed off each other and can create a vicious downward spiral that may be hard to recover from. People with chronic pain conditions often stress about the physical pain they are feeling as well as the ways it limits their lifestyle.
In response to this growing anxiety, the body produces surplus amounts of certain chemicals that can trigger inflammation. This inflammation, in turn, can cause chronic pain to flare up. Stress can also cause muscles to tense and the nervous system to become overstimulated, which may result in even more pain.
Resolving to reduce stress levels is a great idea for the new year and there are many ways to do it. Consider taking up yoga, learning the ins and outs of meditation, or more proactively carving out more “me time.” Not only will this be good for your emotional wellbeing, but it may also help with your chronic pain.
Learn more about anxiety and chronic pain>>
Many people who smoke resolve to try quitting in the New Year. It’s no secret that smoking is detrimental to your health and quitting can go a long way toward a longer, healthier life. But it is also easier said than done, as many who have tried will no doubt tell you. But putting in the time and effort to succeed in quitting would be doing your body a huge favor. This is especially true if you suffer from chronic pain. Presenting chronic pain fact #4:
SMOKING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CHRONIC PAIN: FALSE
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do if you have chronic pain. Cigarettes are addictive because the nicotine in them triggers “feel good” chemicals in the body. As a result, the body gets a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But it doesn’t last, so more cigarettes are needed to keep that feeling. Unfortunately, the consequences of smoking are often not so temporary.
The chemicals in cigarettes inhibit your blood’s ability to carry oxygen to your bones, muscles, and tissues. This lack of oxygen can cause tissues to deteriorate faster which can cause chronic pain conditions to worsen, or allow new ones to develop. Cigarettes can also hinder immune response and slow the body’s healing process, which may make chronic pain harder to manage.
Quitting smoking can be a challenge. Habits are hard to break, after all. But quitting could be a literal and significant breath of fresh air for your body, no matter who you are. But if you are also a chronic pain sufferer, putting down cigarettes could change the entire way you experience and enjoy life.
Learn more about smoking and chronic pain>>
Look Forward to a Year with Less Pain
It’s a new year, and a perfect time to get a new perspective and a fresh start. If you suffer from chronic pain, this can be the year to pursue some changes that could change your life. But whatever you choose to do this year, stay healthy, stay safe, and have a phenomenal 2022!