Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
We are all familiar with inflammation. You twist your ankle and it becomes red, hot and swollen. Or you have a virus and run a fever. That’s the body’s immune system at work. It is our defense against injurious forces and is a normal, healthy healing response.
When inflammation persists after the event has passed, it can become problematic and turn into chronic, invisible inflammation. Chronic inflammation is when the immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues . This type of inflammation is rarely visible, unlike when you sprain your ankle and you see the red, swollen area. With chronic inflammation, you feel rather than see the effect.
Some signs of invisible inflammation are the following:
pain that moves from one area to another
joint pain and stiffness
inability to lose/gain weight
bloating, excessive gas,
small memory losses.
Inflammation can effect the brain, skin, organs and muscles - every part of us. It can lead to a general feeling of malaise. It does not show up on a CAT scan or other medical tests. You may visit your doctor because you know something is not right and be told nothing is wrong, that your tests are all negative. This can be very frustrating and you may start to think it’s all in your head. There is help, and no, it is not all in your head. What you are feeling is, in fact, very real.
Microbial invasions, trauma (physical or emotional), injury, diet and stress can all “turn on” the inflammatory response. Inflammation can attack muscles, joints, and organs. It will attack the body where we have a weak spot - and we all have them. Stress, be it physical or emotional, creates an oxidation of our cells. Think of an apple. When you cut an apple open and leave it on the counter, it turns brown and begins to rot. This is an example of oxidative stress, a mutation of cells. This can be the start of disease. All diseases start with inflammation. For example, heart disease, chronic pain, insomnia, arthritis, autoimmune issues, etc all have an inflammatory start.
Some common symptom breakdowns of chronic, invisible inflammation:
Pain - Often worst in the morning, with weather changes or when under great stress
Pain felt mostly in the joints and along nerve pathways
Multiple pains that move around the body
Muscle or joint pain and stiffness
Fatigue - even upon waking. Having insomnia or sleeping 10 hours a night and wake feeling tired.
Lack of concentration, small memory lapses
Frequently getting sick
Difficulty losing or gaining weight
Emotional, physical or mental stress can cause inflammation. Stress increases the production of cortisol (a stress hormone) and the body reacts as if it is under attack. Mutations occur to fight the invader. If left unchecked, injuries and disease follow. Cellular inflammation can stay in the body for years. It spreads through our central nervous system and affects our daily life. It can take up to 10-20 years before muscles start to break down and we feel symptoms. Lifestyle and diet can play a role in conditions brought about by chronic inflammation. Things such as RA, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, other autoimmune issue are all a result of chronic, invisible inflammation. So, now that we know a little about chronic inflammation, what can we do?
There are many facets under our control. Often it is not a matter of one particular thing, but a combination of things. The more steps we take in the positive column, the better we feel. This can include our diet and managing our stressors. Stress is a part of life and we will never be stress free. It’s all about how we deal and manage our stress.
Some things in our control:
Diet can turn on and off inflammatory genes. Saturated fats, excess carbs, omega 6 fatty acids (think corn, soy, sunflower oil) can turn on inflammatory genes. Other foods that increase inflammation include: Anything processed (if it doesn’t grow in that state, its processed). Think fast food, fried food, deli meat, most prepackaged food. Sugar, sugary drinks like soda, juices, energy drinks and sugary coffees.
Foods that fight inflammation:
Salmon, tuna, mackerel
Leafy greens like spinach and kale
Spices, such as ginger and turmeric
Physical steps you can take to reduce inflammation:
Breath in and out through your nose (breathing through the nose vs the mouth is important)
Your exhale is actually more important than your inhale. Try to make it twice as long as your inhale. This can be hard. Proper breathing is actually quite challenging and few of us have mastered it. That’s ok, small steps in a positive direction have a big impact.
Keep in mind, exercise increases inflammation (it is a stress on the body...and not all stressors are bad just like not all inflammation is bad). Movement or muscle contraction is the pump for our lymphatic system. However, when that system is overwhelmed, too much exercise can cause an upset. So, depending on how inflamed your body is (do you struggle with any of the symptoms mentioned above?) you may have to start slow and small. For some that means gentle, slow movement, for others it may be more intense. Work within your limit. Maybe it’s a five minute walk for some, for others, it’s an easy jog. Just move.
Getting outdoors in the morning sun is also important. Indoor lighting, blue light from our cell phones, computers, etc all have a detrimental effect on our nervous and hormonal systems. Natural sunlight, especially early in the day, is very beneficial.
Water is hugely important. It helps to cleanse our system. There is a lot of discussion about the optimal amount of water. Honestly, there is no one magic number. Many factors effect our water intake - our environment, activity level, etc. Just shoot for clear urine. That’s an easy guide for us all to follow.
Sleep is when the body rests, repairs and restores. Without proper sleep we struggle to have good health. On average, we need 7.2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night for optimal health.
We’ve all heard that laughter is good medicine and its true! A good belly laugh changes the hormonal output in our bodies. Find things that give you joy and partake! A good book, a long walk, a furry puppy, knitting - whatever it is for you.
One of the most effective things I have found and use daily with my clients who deal with chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues is Amino Neurofrequency Therapy (ANF). This is a wearable frequency therapy that contains no drugs nor chemicals and provides three days of continuous treatment. It reduces pain and inflammation and helps to normalize acute and chronic conditions. If you struggle with not feeling as you know you should or with any chronic conditions, reach out. There is help. Help that works