Support a pain-free body
Chronic pain is one of the most difficult symptoms to describe. Pain is subjective to some extent and we cannot feel the experience of another. Living with chronic pain of any kind if a source of internally generated stress that can also create external challenges as people struggle with daily life and everyday tasks others might take for granted.
Some of the most common causes of pain are conditions such as migraines, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, auto-immune conditions like lupus and bladder problems. Back pain makes up a large proportion of sufferers and most yoga and pain focuses on chronic lower back pain. The Office for National Statistics reported that 31 million days of work were lost in 2013 due to back, neck and muscle problems, with sedentary habits – particularly sitting on chairs – at the heart of the problem.
Pain can be somatic, from inflammation (part of the stress response), visceral from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or hypersensitivity at the gut wall directly from tissue damage of neuropathic, where autonomic functions like blood flow may be altered. Often the cause is not known and medication the only offered treatment.
Including lots of anti-inflammatory foods in the diet can help support inflammatory pathways. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant and can be added to soups, curries, smoothies and made into a fresh tea. Oily fish and nuts and seeds are other good examples of anti-inflammatory foods and should be included regularly into the diet.
There is a large cross-over with chronic pain and mood-related issues; low levels of neurotransmitters such as mood-regulating serotonin and nervous system calming gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) have been implicated, and the NHS cite that 65% of people with depression also experience pain. Pain itself can create difficulty sleeping, low energy, anxiety and poor concentration and may lead to substance abuse and addiction, both pharmaceutical and recreational. Drinking 5 cups of green tea per day has been shown to increase GABA production and can therefore support the nervous system and our stress response.
Yoga has been shown to benefit all of these aspects, as movement and as a meditative, mindful and contemplative practice. Researchers are exploring that the ‘stilling of the min’ at the heart of yoga is related to its ability to raise GABA levels in the body.
Eating a diet filled with natural wholefoods, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and healthy fats will help to support every body system. Helping to nourish any nutrient depletions and support pain and inflammatory pathways. Avoid processed foods that are lacking in nutrients, and limit sugar intake which can use up a lot of our magnesium stores being metabolized. Magnesium is often referred to as natures tranquiliser and can help our muscles relax and enduce sleep. Food sources of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables. Magnesium stores can also be repleted from Epsom bath salts. Add ½ cup to a warm bath and soak for a minimum of 20 minutes.