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Painful JointsAbout Pain

Many different conditions can lead to painful muscles and joints, including strains, sprains, and other injuries. Joint pain is extremely common. In a national survey, about one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days. Knee pain was the most common complaint, followed by shoulder and hip pain, but joint pain can affect any part of the body, from the ankles to the shoulders. As you get older, painful joints become increasingly common. Joints form the connections between bones. They provide support and help the body move. Any damage to the joints from disease, injury or even aging can interfere with movement and cause pain. Joint pain can range from mildly irritating to debilitating. It may dissipate after a few weeks (acute), or last for several weeks or months (chronic). Muscle pain may develop from a muscle injury or from excessive strain on a particular muscle or muscle group, ligament or tendon. Other causes include:

• Back injuries
• General fatigue
• Repetitive motions
• Health conditions including fibromyalgia, myofascial pain or rheumatoid arthritis

Knee X-rayWhat is Pain

Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. Pain can be concentrated in one area of the body, such as the back, abdomen or chest. Pain may also be felt in many areas of the body, such as when muscles ache from the flu. Pain can be helpful in diagnosing a problem. Without pain, you might seriously hurt yourself without knowing it, or you may not realize you have a medical problem that needs treatment. 

There are 2 types of pain: acute and persistent. Acute pain is usually caused by overuse or injury, doesn’t last very long and generally goes away as your body heals. Persistent pain can go on for weeks, months or even years and is due to an ongoing cause such as arthritis or as a result of a serious injury. Sometimes the cause is unknown. Persistent pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 6 months after your body has healed. Persistent pain can also interfere with the ability to perform and enjoy daily activities.

Full body nerve pathwaysUnderstanding the Beginnings of Pain

Pain in the body usually starts out with inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response within the body to injury or infection. The purpose of inflammation is to provide protection for injured or infected areas and allow them to heal. But when the immune system gets confused and tries to protect areas that haven’t been injured, or overprotect injured or infected areas of the body, it begins to injure itself. At times like this, it is important to try to restore a normal inflammation response within the body. 

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Celsus (ca 25 BC – 50 AD) a Roman encyclopaedist, documented the first 4 signs of inflammation which he described in Latin as dolar (pain), calor (heat), rubor (redness) and tumor (swelling). The fifth sign, functio laesa (loss of function) was added to the list sometime later. Even today, any of these cardinal characteristics remain a good indication of the body’s inflammation response.Precursors to Pain

Life Style Suggestions

When you have joint or muscle pain, you may be tempted to pass up activities with family and friends and just want to ‘curl up in bed.’ Actually, moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for your pain and your muscles and joints. Joints need to move to stay lubricated, flexible and to get nutrition. Regular moderate exercise helps manage pain and maintain strong muscles and bones.

Learning relaxation and methods for reducing stress will also help to improve your coping skills.

It is also important to cultivate a positive outlook and stay in contact with friends and others with recurring pain because this may be helpful. Monitor pain symptoms and progress, seek out enjoyable and rewarding activities and set limits to prevent overexertion and the worsening of symptoms. 

Exercise Ideas

Improvement of recurring pain and the relief of symptoms often can be supported by implementing several pain management tips:

• Gentle Movement — Yoga and tai chi both provide excellent exercise opportunities which are slow and gentle and at the same time stretch and tone muscles while increasing balance. Keep in mind that muscle pain that comes on quickly and feels intense is a sign that you’ve injured yourself. Call your doctor if your pain is severe or lasts for more than a few days.

• Stretching — Stretching is important to health because it increases your flexibility. This flexibility makes it more comfortable to perform daily physical activity and allows the force of the muscle to be more effective. Stretching improves blood flow and increases range of motion.

• Moderate Exercise — Walking is one of the best exercises because it helps to keep muscles toned and moving along with helping to lubricate joints. Start walking only 10 or 20 minutes at a time and increase gradually. Breaking exercise into two sessions per day can reduce muscle and joint pain and fatigue.

• Improve fitness through short sessions of just a few minutes of gentle, low-impact exercises such as walking and swimming.

Healthy Fruit ChoicesHealthy Diet Choices for Pain Management

A healthy diet, proper body weight and moderate exercise are very helpful in managing pain. Maintain a healthy body weight and if overweight start a program that will assist you in losing weight. Reducing body fat levels can assist in reducing inflammation and pain.

Healthy diet recommendations for pain management include eating:

• Fruits and nuts: oranges, grapes, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocados, grapefruits, apples, watermelons, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, apples, pears, peaches 

• All green vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce; other vegetables including carrots, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, garlic

• Fish, seafood, soy products, tofu and soy milk; and if you eat other meats and dairy, eat in moderation and only organic.

• Green tea, olive oils, spices (turmeric, thyme, rosemary, parsley oregano, mint, licorice, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne and chili peppers, basis), dark chocolate.

Foods to Avoid When Experiencing Recurring Pain

• Aspartame (NutraSweet) — Aspartame is classified as an excitotoxin, which can affect pain receptors, making them more susceptible to stimulation.

• Food additives including MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nitrates — MSG is an additive or flavor enhancer found in many processed and frozen foods and in some Asian cuisines. Experts say it can intensify pain symptoms in many individuals.

• Sugar, fructose, and simple carbohydrates — There is no clear evidence that eliminating simple carbohydrates will have an impact on pain. What it can do, though, is reduce symptoms of chronic yeast infection — a fungus that thrives on sugars and may be a secondary condition contributing to pain.

• Avoid gluten 

• Caffeine, including coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Caffeine is considered a stimulant, and can actually exacerbate fatigue.

• Dairy — Some experts say dairy products — particularly milk — have been known to exacerbate some pain symptoms. Avoiding dairy products may help some people. 

• Nightshade Plants (tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant) — These foods comprise a group that may trigger flares of various types of arthritis, and some inflamation-related pain.

References

1. “Chronic Pain.” FamilyDoctor.org. Last updated November 2010. Accessed March 14. 2012. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic- pain.printerview.all.html.

Reference Books

2. Griffin, R.M. “Broelain (Bromelin).” WebMD.com Last updated November 24, 2010. Accessed March 14, 2012.
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyleguide-11/supplement-guide-bromelain-bromelin.

3. “Pain.” MedlinePlus. Last updated March 6, 2012. Accessed March 14, 2012.
http://www.nlm,nih.gov/medlineplus/pain.html.

4. Vogel, W. H. and A. Berke. Brief History of Ocular Medicine. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Kugler Publications, 2009, p. 97.

5. Werner, R. A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer, 2009.

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