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Chronic pain is one of the most damaging and soul destroying things many of us grapple with…
And despite new medical advances and age-old traditional approaches, chronic pain still holds millions prisoner.
As a chronic pain sufferer nearly my entire life, I know what it can do to your spirit, drive, desire, dreams and daily life.
But I never realized that hurting can make you die sooner. New research says it can, so let’s talk about that, as well as some powerful solutions you can put into use today to not only feel better, but to avoid losing years off of your life.
Chronic pain and early death
According to new research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, those with chronic widespread pain, such as that associated with fibromyalgia, are at risk of early death.
Researchers in the UK reviewed a cohort of a half-million chronic pain sufferers, ages 40-69, and found they died an average of 2.43 times earlier than those without chronic pain.
According to the researchers, though, the pain is not the cause of early death; the lifestyle of those with chronic pain is.
“UK Biobank results… demonstrate that the risk is unlikely to be due to the experience of pain per se, but is substantially explained by lifestyle factors associated with having pain (poor diet, low levels of physical activity, smoking, higher BMI).”
When compared with others experiencing chronic pain, the most common causes of the excess risk of early death included poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking; in other words: lifestyle factors that can be accounted for.
In the end, research of this huge cohort study derived a few strong conclusions:
“The meta-analysis of this relationship shows that all 6 studies find excess mortality and estimate the excess risk across all studies at 59%…” And further, “adjustment for lifestyle factors substantially reduced the excess risk, and this observation is consistent with them mediating the relationship between chronic widespread pain and mortality.”
Changes to help you live longer
The big takeaway here is that lifestyle is, again, at the very heart of the matter. I know that makes most of us cringes, but there is just no denying it…
Poor lifestyle choices do lead to pain and shortened lifespan. And making better lifestyle choices can decrease pain and extend life. So this is something that is within your grasp to change. Let’s look at four ways to ditch the pain:
1. Improve diet – Diet is a first line for improved health because food is fuel and everything we eat becomes part of our body. So reduce all packaged and preserved foods and opt instead for fresh fruit and vegetables. Reduce intake of highly-processed grain, and choose whole grains instead. Ditch the soda and alcohol for water and herbal tea and coffee. Go organic and non-GMO as much as possible to get those toxic chemical out of your body. Be sure to get all the nutrients you need, but especially D3 which drastically helps with pain.
2. Get moving – A sedentary lifestyle is a killer. Humans are meant to walk and run and move in all different directions; not sit in place and only move the fingers. And among other positive effects, exercise reduces pain: This happens through the body’s natural release of adrenalin and endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, that weaken our awareness of or increases our toleration of discomfort. It is a phenomenon known as hypoalgesia. Exercise also burns calories, causes you to sweat out toxins, improves mood and keeps muscles loose and joints supple. Start out walking (in fact, perfect health can be a walk in the park), then walk a bit faster or do yoga or Pilates or tai chi. Basketball and Zumba are good choices, too. The main thing is to get up and get moving. Exercise reduces pain, even in small quantities and low impact. Do what you can — just DO IT.
3. Drop the Vices – Smoking kills people and those around them. Drinking in excess kills people, too. And neither smoking nor drinking helps reduce pain; in fact both increase it by polluting the body, damaging the lungs and liver. In whatever way you can, please quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption (try this 11-minute trick to drink less alcohol). There are many programs out there to help.
4. Get Ample Sleep – Chronic pain can cause delayed sleep, disturbed sleep and thus, more pain. The body requires 7-8 hour per night of uninterrupted sleep to rebuild and repair the body. When sleep is lost pain intensifies. With steady sleep over several days, pain reduces and mood increases. Try to set a constant sleep/wake cycle, make sure the room is dark and do not read or watch tv in bed. This is your sanctuary time.
With these lifestyle solutions, you can reduce your pain, lose weight, improve your mood and, as it turns out, increase your lifespan by reducing early death from poor lifestyle-related pain behaviors.