Tag Archive for: chronic pain

In Pain? How to Advocate For Your Health to Doctors

Chronic pain can cause many stressors beyond the pain itself. But talking to your doctor doesn’t need to be one of them. Though you may feel uncertain during an appointment, at United Physician Group we are committed to addressing your pain — and all of your health matters — with kindness and empathy. Here are a few things you can do to help your doctor understand your pain, and collaborate with you for solutions.

Take Note of Your Own Body

Being armed with information is one of the best ways to be proactive about pain. But this doesn’t require encyclopedic internet printouts or endless email chains of advice from your neighborhood chat group. Though research can offer extra information, what may best equip you (and therefore your doctor) is self-awareness.

“Think about the duration and quality of the pain. How you’d describe it if someone asked when it started,” Sana Goldberg, practicing nurse in New Haven, CT, and author of How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine told REWIRE. “If anything has relieved it, and if anything has made it worse. Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ of sorts. The more you can describe it, the better you’re going to be able to work with your physician.”

Pay attention also to how temperature, food, over-the-counter pain medicines and physical activity also impact your pain. All of these details will help paint an even clearer picture, and will help your doctor plan for how to alleviate it.

Coordinate with Caregivers

“When you’re seeing a whole bunch of different specialists, they don’t always talk, which can make the diagnostic process take much longer,” Isabel Mavrides, a Latina disability justice activist and organizer explained to GREATIST. If necessary, bring everyone together in a Zoom or conference call, or even an email chain. Find the format that works best for you and your specialists, to make sure everyone is clearly connected. (Because of HIPAA regulations protecting your privacy, your doctors may then continue the conversation through more secure channels, but now they all know who is on your care team.)

A friend or family member can also help with this task. In fact, asking a trusted loved one to attend appointments with you — to take notes, ask questions, and provide thoughtful and honest feedback to your own fears and reactions in private — may help a great deal.

Ask Questions When You Have Them

Your doctor knows a lot, but she or he doesn’t always know what you want to know. When a question arises, remember that your doctor is a member of your whole-health team who wants to help. In October 2021, U.S. News & World Report shared 17 questions doctors wish their patients would ask, including those around:

  • Preventative care
  • Comprehension of what’s been shared
  • Other trusted sources of information
  • How your family history may impact treatment
  • Specifics around prescriptions
  • How sleep impacts pain and treatment
  • The reason behind tests, and what results will reveal
  • What they do for their own health and well-being

Dr. Ted Epperly, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine underscored the importance of question-asking in Time magazine:  “Asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure you and your doctor are on the same page,” he explained. “And if your doctor doesn’t seem interested in answering, or you get a negative response, you need to find a new doctor.”

Second opinions and finding a better personality fit may also help you solve your challenges. But be sure that, wherever you go, you’re taking the most important person in the conversation seriously — yourself.

At United Physicians Group, we’re here to advocate for and with you. Connect with us online or call (833) 523-0906 for consultation.

Got Chronic Pain? Don’t Stress About It

Chronic pain and stress are often intertwined. When you experience persistent discomfort, it’s natural to feel stressed about it. Unfortunately, this stress often exacerbates the pain, resulting in a frustrating cycle that can leave you feeling worse both physically and mentally. 

Fortunately, there are ways to break the stress/pain cycle. Here’s what you should know about the relationship between the two. 

How Does Stress Affect the Body?

According to the American Psychological Association, stress affects every system of the body, including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems. One of the most pronounced ways it can cause pain is through the tension it triggers in the body. Tensing of the muscles is the body’s natural response to stressors— a protective measure to guard against injury and pain. Under persistent stress, however, this continual muscle tension can lead to issues like tension headaches and musculoskeletal pain.

Stress also impacts the body on a chemical level. The body releases stress hormones that can have a cumulative, damaging effect over the long term. Moreover, research shows that persistent stress creates an altered chemical response that can actually intensify pain. For people with preexisting chronic pain, such as joint pain from arthritis, the cycle may feel impossible to break.

How to Cope With Stress to Control Pain?

It would be easy to fix stress-related pain if stress could simply be avoided altogether. Unfortunately, stressors are often a part of everyday life. While we may not be able to steer clear of them entirely, we can change the way we respond to them.

Finding healthy stress outlets is an important step to managing both your mental health and your chronic pain. While each person will have their own preferred stress management technique, here are a few options to try:

  •       Get some exercise. It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you’re in pain, but even a brief walk could provide benefits. For instance, walks can help reduce joint stiffness in people with arthritis while also delivering a mood boost.
  •       Focus on sleep hygiene. If your mind is racing at night due to stress, your body isn’t getting the sleep it needs to repair itself. Promote restful sleep by avoiding electronics at least 30 minutes before bed, as the blue light from devices can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms.
  •       Manage your responsibilities. Chronic stress can come from taking on too much. While not all stressors are avoidable, there may be ways to lighten your workload and feel less overwhelmed. Find out if you can delegate tasks at work or home, and consider turning down social activities if you don’t have the bandwidth for them.
  •       Connect with loved ones. Spending time with friends has been shown to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which can provide a mood boost and help you beat stress.
  •       Discover an alternate stress outlet. For some people, going for a drive while listening to music might be an effective way to decompress. For others, quiet activities like yoga, journaling, or meditation may help. Experiment with different methods to find which works for you. 

If you’re facing stress that could be causing or contributing to your pain, talk to your United Physician Group provider. Our compassionate pain management specialists are here to help find relief from all aspects of pain, including the mental toll it can take. Connect with us online or by calling (833) 523-0906. 

Are You What You Eat When it Comes to Chronic Pain?

The month of March marks a time of change: There’s the coming of spring, the start of daylight saving time, and even a chance to change your luck on St. Patrick’s Day. But March is also National Nutrition Month® — which presents an opportunity to change your eating habits, too. 

Turns out, paying attention to what you’re putting into your body isn’t simply good for your general health and well-being. Studies suggest that our diets can also help with chronic pain.

“A lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation,” says Dr. Fred Tabung, in a 2018 article from Harvard Health Publishing, “and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation. But your diet is also one of the best ways to reduce it.”

Extinguishing the Flame of Inflammation 

Several sources can help point you in the right direction when it comes to identifying foods that either promote or prevent inflammation. The Fit Institute of Chicago, for example, recommends avoiding red meat, refined carbohydrates (in most cases: products made with processed white flour), soda, and fried foods to aid in inflammation reduction. Harvard Women’s Health Watch agrees, and adds margarine to the mix. 

Margarine (rather than butter) is on that list for a reason, as excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (not to be confused with their cousins, omega-3 fatty acids), may also contribute to inflammation, according to The Arthritis Foundation. This means check the ingredients on your salad dressings, and moderate your intake of safflower, corn, grapeseed, peanut, sunflower, and vegetable oil. Mayonnaise may be a place where omega-6 fatty acids lurk, as well. 

“To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet,” Harvard Health Publishing recommends. Several studies suggest the Mediterranean Diet, with its focus on plant-based foods and whole grains, but the Mayo Clinic also breaks down their advice fairly simply when they suggest “eat more plants” and “cut the processed stuff,” among their five “simple rules of thumb for anti-inflammatory eating.”

Anti-inflammatory eating doesn’t just help with chronic and arthritic pain, either. Several sources, including The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy and The Neuropathic Therapy Center at Loma Linda University Health suggest it can benefit those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, too.

Can What’s in Your Stomach Also Go to Your Head?

Following the Mediterranean Diet and keeping omega-6 fatty acids low could also help with migraine headaches a 2020 study in Nutrients suggests, though the authors also encourage a willingness to experiment with solutions. Because of the more complex causes and contributing factors of migraines, one single diet plan may not be a fix-all. An elimination diet to identify more specific food triggers is recommended. Researchers also find ketogenic, modified Atkins, or an epigenetic diet may provide relief.

More reason to be flexible, and willing to experiment? The American Migraine Foundation says a variety of different foods may trigger migraine, including alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, aged cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, yeast extract, and artificial sweeteners. But even making sure you’re eating regularly is something the Foundation suggests may relieve this specific kind of pain. 

Pain in a Bottle

While alcohol shows up as a specific potential trigger for migraine, it has a variety of dangers for those in chronic pain. 

It may be tempting, for instance, to numb chronic pain with a cocktail or glass of wine, but the National Institute of Health warns that mixing alcohol with pain medications could cause dangerous problems. They also note that, as tolerance to alcohol’s effects develops, more alcohol is needed to reach the same analgesic effect. This can create alcohol dependence, and the consequential string of health risks associated with it, as listed by the CDC, including stroke, heart disease, and the risk of several cancers.

Keep in mind, whether you’re in chronic pain or not, alcohol is a well-established cancer-causing agent (among other health problems), and moderating your alcohol consumption is good practice for anyone concerned about their longevity.

Cup of Caffeine Instead?

Alcohol may be a clear thing to avoid, but advice about caffeine is a little less consistent. Though the American Migraine Foundation suggests limited caffeine might help treat migraine headaches (and acknowledges that caffeine is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter headache medicines), The Global Pain Initiative recommends caution with it:  “Caffeine actively causes pain by decreasing the pain threshold and making the nervous system more alert to pain.”

Tracking your consumption of and sensitivity to caffeine (as well as other specific foods) in a food diary may be the best way to help you narrow down the cause of (or solution to) the pain that ails you in this regard.

Find a Friend for This Relationship

Navigating the effects of chronic pain is complicated enough, without also having to sort out the best way to stock your fridge and pantry at the same time. Even when the relationship between what we eat and how we feel seems clear, the exact solutions aren’t always so easy to find. It’s why we recommend reaching out to a pain specialist for help crafting an individualized plan to address the whole experience of your chronic pain. Contact us any time to schedule an appointment and craft a comprehensive strategy (including what you eat) just for you.