APM Blog

Acute and Chronic Pain

Acute and Chronic Pain (13)

19 Nov

Oftentimes a patient’s most complicated challenge is pinpointing the source of what is causing them pain. Pain specialists are trained to recognize conditions and recommend new treatments, procedures and pain management techniques. Relief can come in the form of not only medications, but also a few simple habits that can be incorporated into our daily routine to help alleviate both acute & chronic pain. From exercise to meditation, quitting smoking to eating healthy foods, these simple habits could change your quality of life.

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8 daily habits to help reduce pain

17 Nov

Did you know that eating certain foods increases the inflammatory markers in our bodies, while eating others can decrease signs of inflammation? People with acute and chronic pain often have a high amount of inflammation in their joints, muscles and blood. Changing your eating habits can decrease inflammation in your body, increase your energy, help you maintain a healthy weight and allow you to feel better both physically and emotionally.

There are three important dietary improvements you can make today that can help you reduce pain.

Limit Sugar

Sugar, AKA corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, maltose and sucrose. You know that you can find sugar in cookies and brownies, but did you also know that sugar is hiding in many foods that are advertised as “healthy”? These include granola bars, instant oatmeal, juices, crackers, prepackaged meals and more. Think like a detective, and be sure to carefully read foods labels on everything you eat, paying close attention to grams of sugar.

Limit Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates include “white” foods, like: white pasta, white breads, white crackers and anything made with white flour. Why should you limit these foods? Simple carbs quickly break down into forms of sugar, which we know to be inflammatory and related with weight gain, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Studies have shown that eating a diet lower in carbs and higher in healthy fats and proteins also reduces inflammation in the body.

Limit Food Additives

Try to limit food additives in your meals, particularly MSG and artificial sweeteners and preservatives. These additives are found in several “low fat” and “diet” products, as well as prepackaged foods and processed meats.

What Should You Eat More?

You might be worried that abiding by the above recommendations that you will be limiting your foods choice but that isn’t true! Foods shown to be especially anti-inflammatory and good in all sorts of other ways include: berries, cherries, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, olives and olive oil, fish (especially salmon, halibut, sardines, tuna, trout, whitefish, cod and oysters), avocados, green tea and nuts including walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds.

Another Tip: Try seasoning your foods with seasonings that have anti-inflammatory benefits such as with ginger, cinnamon, basil, cloves, mint, turmeric, thyme and chili pepper. Moderation is key in life, but being informed and making changes to help manage your life and your pain is important. What changes can you make today? Do you have pain fighting foods or recipes you might suggest to our readers?

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16 Nov

There is nothing quite like a walk on a crisp autumn day; watching the leaves fall from the trees and hearing the crunch of leaves beneath your shoes. But there is more to a good autumn walk than seeing the beautiful changing scenery. Did you know that walking is considered exercise and when completed regularly, walking can provide lasting health benefits? It’s true. The pain experts at Advanced Pain Managements have five more reasons why you should consider starting a walking exercise program.

  • Walking is cheap –No need for expensive gym memberships or countless DVD workout programs. If you decide to start a walking exercise program, all you need is a good pair of shoes! Walking can be done anywhere- outside, inside or even at the mall. If you walk outside, the fresh air and vitamin D can also help you relax and help improve your mood.
  • Pain and injury prevention – You might think getting more active can lead to more injuries, but it is just the opposite! Being active helps strengthen your muscles, bones and joints and can help you reduce pain. Walking for exercise has a minimal risk to degenerative joints, like knees, hips and the lumbar spine. This means that your body can still get a good workout without doing damage to joints. In addition, being active can help improve muscle flexibility and reduce those minor aches and pains. Walking also puts less stress on your spine than sitting.
  • Walking does a body good – Walking regularly as exercise has been medically shown to help prevent or reduce the symptoms of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
  • Improved sleep – Being active during the day can help your body become more restful at night. After a good workout, your body needs time to rest and recover which can often mean a better night’s sleep. Zzzz…
  • Kick-start a healthy lifestyle – Often, the first step to a healthy lifestyle is getting out and getting active! Walking regularly will help build your appetite, so fill up on healthy vegetables, protein and fruit and start a new healthy lifestyle.

Do you have any other walkign benefits to share? Let us know in the comments below.

16 Nov

Whether you suffer from back pain, leg pain, joint pain or chronic pain, sleep position can have profound affect on both worsening and alleviating medical conditions. Have you ever stopped to think about how you sleep at night? A good night’s sleep allows your body to repair and rejuvenate as it prepares for another day. If you are waking up tired or with aches and back pain, consider consulting your pain specialist to discuss sleep position and how to alter it to effectively get much-needed zzz’s.

Advanced Pain Management’s Dr. Kim Litwack answers 5 important questions related to modifying sleep position to reduce and prevent pain.

 

Q: What should I consider if I sleep on my back?


A: If you choose to sleep on your back, your lower back can arch too much and increase pressure on your spine. To combat this, bend your knees slightly upwards. Try using a few pillows underneath your knees to help maintain this position throughout the night. 

Q: Should I consider sleeping on my side?
A: This is usually the most desired sleeping position because it keeps the spine in the best alignment. Try not to curl up in a ball, however; the spine should stay in a neutral spine alignment from the neck all the way down.

Q: Why is it important to have a pillow between your knees?
A: A pillow between the knees in a side-sleeping position helps keep the spine and pelvis in the best alignment and can also be more comfortable for the knees.

Q: Which sleep position is best for shoulder pain?
A: If it is difficult for someone to lie directly on their shoulder, they can try rotating their shoulder slightly forward or backward. I would also suggest using extra pillows for support to help maintain a comfortable position throughout the night. 

Q: Which sleep position is best for neck pain?
A: For neck pain, it is helpful to use a small rolled up hand towel right under the neck for added support. The towel can be placed inside the pillowcase to help it stay in place.

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16 Nov

How is Pain Defined? Acute vs. Chronic
Understanding your pain starts by first defining the most basic aspect of pain: acute pain versus chronic pain.

Advanced Pain Management’s Kim Litwack, PhD has a short and simple way of explaining the difference. Watch her video now.

The standard answer to the question “What is the difference between acute and chronic pain” is this:

Acute pain is pain with a specific, identifiable cause, like a slip or fall. An example of acute pain is the pain you feel when you stub your toe or touch a hot stove. Pain from an acute injury should resolve itself in two to four weeks with the help of rest, ice, heat and a visit to your primary care provider.

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 4 to 6 weeks. An acute injury can lead to chronic pain, but sometimes chronic pain does not have an identifiable cause. If your pain persists for four to six weeks, you should see a pain management physician who can help pinpoint the cause of your pain and work with you to find an appropriate treatment plan.  An example of chronic pain is back pain that lasts longer than 4 weeks.

Interested in more information about pain prevention? Subscribe to our blog now to get weekly emails from our team of expert pain management physicians or join the over 23,000 people who subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter. You can also follow our #KnowYourPain series on Twitter or like us on Facebook to stay current with all of our educational resources.

Do you have questions about your pain or about our new #KnowYourPain series? Let us know in the comments!

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15 Nov

We recently stumbled across a blog post titled "TOP 5 Chronic Pain Resources That Can Teach You A Thing Or Two About Chronic Pain."  We were very thankful to be included on this post because we do take pride in offering educational information to the public.

Moreover, this got us thinking about the types of sites and information that we use regularly to stay informed about the field of pain and pain management. Listed below are a few helpful websites that were not mentioned above that we wanted to share with you.

  • PainKnowledge.org offers great information on 'In the News' topics, including new treatments and studies that show advancements in the field.
  • PartnersAgainstPain.com has some great tools and tips from other pain sufferers, including great coping techniques and partner resources.  
  • MayDay Pain Project at has links to recent national news on pain treatments including hot topics in the news on  CBS, USA Today headlines and more.

Do you have any websites or resources that you use regularly? Leave a comment and let us know!

15 Nov

It has become a commonality in the United States for individuals suffering from sickness and pain to turn to over the counter and prescription medicines for treat various ailments. Next time you feel the need to open a bottle of ibuprofen, try a more invigorating method of managing pain provided by nature, without added chemical content. Essential oils can provide relief for many serious chronic pain sufferers through their ability to penetrate cells quickly, providing oxygen and improving circulation to inflamed joints.  Be sure to talk with your doctor before you try essential oils to understand how to use them appropriately. Learn more of the pain fighting powers of essential oil:

Chronic Pain:
Chronic pain can be a debilitating and frustrating condition that at times, can cause emotional or mental uneasiness, impacting our ability to heal. If pain persists for more than four to six weeks, it is important to seek consultation from an experienced medical professional. There are a number of essential oils that provide relief not only from the discomfort of chronic pain, but also the anxiety and stress that come along with it.

  • Basil: Energizing and uplifting, with anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant and decongestant benefits.
  • Peppermint: Cools and calms the mind with additional anti-inflammatory, gallbladder and pain relieving benefits.
  • Wintergreen: Increases attentiveness with additional neck, nerve, herniated disk and carpal tunnel pain relieving benefits.
  • Clove: Improves memory and assists healing with anti-aging, arthritis and rheumatism benefits.
  • Lavender: Relaxes and balances the body, with anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Sandalwood: Encourages relaxation with additional antidepressant benefits.

Joint & Bone Pain:
There are many causes for joint or bone pain including natural aging, injury or trauma. This type of pain is most common in middle aged or older individuals because as you age, your body goes through changes including a decrease in bone density. While joint and bone pain typically require medical attention, there are essential oils that will assist with managing this type of pain.

  • Helichrysum: Offers anti-inflammatory and nerve regenerating benefits.
  • Idaho Balsam Fir: Eases sore muscles, joints, tendons and back pain.
  • Spruce: Soothes arthritis, rheumatism, back pain, sciatica and bone pain.
  • Palo Santo:  Helps with inflammation.

Muscle Pain
It is not uncommon to experience muscle aches and pain that often go away within a few days. Muscle pain becomes a larger concern when it lingers for a longer time period and particularly when it occurs in the neck and back. In fact, 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives making it one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor or miss work. Muscle pain includes aching, stabbing or shooting pain, and stiff or limited flexibility. If you are experiencing muscle pain, it is recommended that you be evaluated by a physician in addition to trying essential oils that may alleviate some of the discomfort.

  • Roman Chamomile:  Relieves stress and anxiety and offers anti-inflammatory, relaxant and detoxifying benefits.
  • Majoram:  Helps with aches, pains and muscular cramps.
  • Rosemary:  Keeps the mind alert and can help with muscle soreness.
  • Thyme:  Fights fatigue and can help with rheumatism.
  • Vetiver: Helps with joint stiffness and muscle fatigue.

Essential oils are so effective because they by-pass the digestive system and become absorbed directly into the blood stream. With millenniums of successful use, they not only provide enticing, awakening and pleasant aromas, they help fight pain by reducing inflammation, anxiety and stress. Whether you are using essential oils for your health or your home, relieving pain is just one of the amazing powers packed into the little bottle.

How have essential oils helped you fight pain and alleviate stress or anxiety? 

pain guide

Sources Used:

http://www.experience-essential-oils.com/essential-oils-for-pain.html
http://www.thealternativedaily.com/5-amazing-essential-oils-for-chronic-pain-relief/

15 Nov

Music can move people. It can bring a smile to a face, tears to eyes; music can make us laugh and motivate us to overcome obstacles. But did you know that the power of music can even reduce the perception of pain[1]?

As more and more studies reveal the benefits of music therapy in healthcare, it’s no wonder that this field continues to grow. Music therapy has been shown to lower stress, enhance comfort and manage pain for people of all ages, genders and races.

It can work in many different ways. At its most basic, rhythm's ability to ease pain has been noted among patients in cancer wards and nursing homes[2].

Some medical facilities will use music to elevate patients’ moods, promote movement for physical rehabilitation, calm patients down, counteract apprehension or fear, and lessen muscle tension for the purpose of relaxation. Music with a strong beat can actually stimulate brain waves, including those that govern the autonomic nervous system, which can slow breathing and heart rates.

And while the greatest benefits of music therapy will come in a professional setting with a trained expert, people can use music to assist in relieving daily aches and pains. Music can be used for relaxation, to get an added boost for physical activity, as a catharsis when dealing with emotional stress, and other ways.

There is no one kind of music that everyone finds soothing or beneficial in reducing pain. Start by identifying the type of music that soothes you the most and makes you feel comfortable. This might be anything – classic music, jazz, rock ‘n roll, maybe even rap.

You will likely find that you use different types of music to promote specific types of healthy activities. While one form of music might get you revved up for a walk or run through the neighborhood, another type of music might be perfect to relax your tight muscles after that run. A good balance of physical activity and periods of relaxation can dramatically help reduce the pain people experience.

Music also has the power to improve your state of mind. This helps keep things like depression and anxiety at bay[3]. Having a positive attitude can prove beneficial in decreasing pain.

While listening to music can provide many benefits, actually making the music has been shown to provide even better results. And no, it’s not necessary to be a musician to get involved. Some people find that rhythmically banging on a drum can provide serious returns.

What type of music do you find theraputic? Let us know in the comments section.

Nileshkumar Patel, MD

Nilesh Patel, M.D., works for Advanced Pain Management in Green Bay. He is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology.


[1]Tan, X., Yowler, C.J., Super, D.M. & Fratianne, R.B. (2010). The efficacy of music therapy protocols for decreasing pain, anxiety, and muscle tension levels during burn dressing changes: a prospective randomized crossover trial. J Burn Care Res., 31(4):590-7.

[2] Magill, L. & Berenson, S. (2008). The conjoint use of music therapy and reflexology with hospitalized advanced stage cancer patients and their families. Palliat Support Care. 6(3):289-96.

[3] Siedliecki, S.L. & Good, M. (2006). Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability. J Adv Nurs. 54(5):553-62.

15 Nov

Relaxation has many health benefits including: lowering blood pressure, reducing active stress hormones, reducing muscle tension and chronic pain and improving concentration and mood. We understand it can be difficult to find the time to use relaxation so here is a quick relaxation technique that can be used anywhere. 

Guided imagery is a relaxation technique where you use your imagination to picture a time, place or person that makes you feel relaxed. Guided imagery requires you to use all of the senses to relaxation. For example, you could imagine you hear the sounds of birds chirping, a breeze on your skin, the reflection of the sky in the water, the smell the fresh cut grass or the taste of your favorite beverage. This type of relaxation technique can take as little or as much time as you need.

First, find a quiet place and get into a comfortable position. Next choose your setting and then imagine yourself there; use all of your senses. Remember to include as many details as possible. Take a deep breath and let the scene play out.

It is important to remember that there isn’t a right or wrong way to relax; you need to do what works best for you. Relaxation is a skill, and it is important to practice the skill to get better.

 

Sources: 

http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-doing-guided-imagery-to-relax

15 Oct

HikingOutdoorsCases of cabin fever are widespread throughout the Midwest as temperatures finally start rising and people begin emerging from their homes in pursuit of fun, warmer-weather activities. If you are someone who suffers from a back or neck condition, it’s likely that you are familiar with the effect weather (or rather the change in weather) may have on your pain. While the change in weather may cause increased pain for some, it brings relief for others. The one common factor presented with warmer months is the increased opportunity to take part in low-impact, physical activities outdoors.

Not only does exercise stimulate endorphins which have been known to help reduce pain, it also provides greater pain-fighting benefits through strengthening bones, increasing flexibility, building muscle and diminishing stiffness and weakness. Spring is the perfect time to begin or continue a low-impact exercise routine including at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. 
Looking for a new activity? Try a few of these back and neck friendly outdoor activities. Find your favorites and enjoy in the warm months ahead!

Walking:
Did you know that according to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate in comparison to any other physical activity? This is because it can be done anywhere, anytime and with minimal gear needed. With a comfortable pair of sneakers and a safe path – you are well on your way to improved cardiovascular health and reduced pain. Additional health benefits from a regular routine of walking include:

  • Strengthened muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso - walking increases the stability of the spine and strengthens the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.

  • Nourished spinal structures - walking for exercise facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into soft tissues and draining toxins.

  • Improved flexibility and posture – walking, along with regular stretching, allows for improved range of motion, can help prevent awkward movements and susceptibility to future injury.

If you are someone who is motivated by exercising with a friend, find a walking buddy, join a walking club and plan walks with co-workers over your lunch hour or facilitate “walking” meetings. 

Cycling:
When done on a well-paved, smooth surface, cycling can offer a number of benefits to for the back and neck as a non-weight bearing exercise. Riding a bicycle is less jarring to the spine than many other forms of aerobic exercise (specifically jogging or aerobics). Stationary bicycling is an additional option that is especially gentle on the spine, and with the many spin classes now available, can offer a vigorous aerobic workout.
Here are a few other cycling benefits and tips to consider:

Benefits

  • Riding a bike improves lower body muscular strength and overall endurance.

  • Biking is a non weight-bearing exercise, so it places less stress on the spine, hips and knees.

  • Cycling is a great cardiovascular and conditioning exercise.

  • Stationary bikes offer benefits when weather conditions prevent access to outdoor roads and trails.

Tips

  • Be sure to use the right kind of bike for the terrain on which you're riding—taking a street bike to off-road trails will be rough. In fact, if you suffer from back pain – avoid rough, off-road trails all together.

  • Have an experienced professional fit you for the proper type and size of bike in order to prevent accidents and injuries.

  • Ride with your back straight—this will prevent lower-back stress.

Looking for the perfect route? Check out these scenic bicycle paths in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Swimming:
For those who love water activities, swimming may be the best forms of low impact aerobic exercise for anyone who suffers from neck or back pain. Unlike other activities, swimming places virtually no impact or stress on the spinal structures. Water supports the body, relieving stress on joints, muscles and bones.
 
Here are a few other reasons why swimming may be the best form of exercise for you:

  • Buoyancy reduces the force of gravity on the body, making it easier to perform various movements. Buoyancy can improve range of motion for any part of the body because it allows for movement without having to battle with gravity.

  • With degrees in the upper 90s, heated pools allow tissues and muscles to relax and become more flexible.

  • While it may sound painful, hydrostatic pressure is actually a good thing. Hydrostatic pressure is the force that water applies to the body and can improve circulation and decrease blood pressure.

Yoga:

Yoga appeals to many back and neck pain sufferers because it is an excellent combination of physical movements, breathing and meditation. The many movements, poses and stretches incorporated into yoga practice has many practical applications for treating chronic back and neck pain conditions.

Classes are easy to find in both Wisconsin and Minnesota and if you are new to yoga, pick a style1 that most appeals to you:

  • Iyengar yoga - Iyengar yoga stresses proper alignment and precise movements, yet it incorporates modifications that often benefit back and neck pain patients whose mobility may be limited as a result of their symptoms.

  • Ashtanga yoga - Emphasizing powerful flowing movements like push-ups and lunges, Ashtanga yoga is appropriately described as "power yoga," and it often appeals to patients who have previously rehabilitated from a back injury.

  • Bikram yoga - Also known as "hot yoga," Bikram yoga is especially popular in cold areas because it takes place in a hot room. The benefit of this type of yoga is that the heat helps increase stretching and flexibility, but you should be careful to stay hydrated and avoid over-stretching muscles that have become looser than normal in the warm environment. Bikram yoga should not be performed by patients with cardiovascular disease. 


  • Viniyoga - Breathing is the focus of viniyoga, with each movement coordinated with an inhale or exhale. Viniyoga is easily adaptable for each person, making it a good option for many types of back pain and neck pain patients, especially those who are just beginning to practice yoga.

Paddle Boarding:

During warm months, have you noticed more and more people standing up on surfboards, paddling to and fro? Paddle boarding is a water activity that has become very popular in recent years. It’s a low-impact exercise that can help improve strength, core stability and balance. It also boasts an added benefit of relieving stress because of the relaxing nature of the activity.

Other benefits include:

  • Variable level of intensity depending on where you are paddling. If you are in the ocean and experiencing waves and current, your workout will be intense. If you are simply drifting on a relatively placid lake, the intensity level will be lower.

  • Paddle boarding engages almost every muscle in the body including leg muscles, arms, back and shoulders to propel the paddleboard in the water. The core and abdominal muscles are constantly at work to maintain your balance.

  • As a low impact physical activity, paddle boarding is relatively easy on the tendons, ligaments and joints.

Ready to jump on a board and get paddling? Check out these great places in Wisconsin and Minnesota to rent boards and start paddling away!

Hiking:

For many of the same reasons walking is such a fantastic physical activity for people who suffer from neck and back pain, hiking can provide many of the same health benefits. One important consideration for those who love hiking is to have good familiarity with your intended route and the terrain’s expected level of difficulty. Pick a distance and surface that are the best fit for you. Remember that if you are embarking on longer hikes, carrying a pack and necessary supplies is a must. The added weight of supplies will increase the level of difficulty for most hikers. Other considerations include:

  • Pick the best type of hiking boots to reduce jarring on your knees, hips and back.

  • Choose a backpack that will fit snug to the body and high on the back to minimize stress on the spine.

  • When calculating intended mileage, account for regular stops.

  • Consider using walking poles or sticks to aid along uneven terrain.

Popular Wisconsin and Minnesota Hiking Trails:

-Travel Wisconsin

-Wisconsin Park System

-Explore Minnesota

-Minnesota Park System

 Warm weather in the Midwest brings opportunities for increased physical activity and fun in the great outdoors. However, if you are someone who is currently experiencing a neck or back condition that causes a moderate to severe level of pain, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider or pain management expert before beginning any new activity. In addition to consulting with your physician, considering easing in to any activity by taking it slow, taking breaks and taking proper precautions such as warming up, stretching, staying hydrated and wearing appropriate clothes or equipment.

Coming soon: Part two of our warm weather guide featuring activities pain sufferers should avoid.

Sources:

 http://www.spine-health.com/blog/yoga-back-pain

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