How living with chronic pain damages your heart

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 50 million Americans wake up each and every day to pain that just won’t go away.

Low back and neck pain, arthritis that makes daily living a challenge, hip and knee pain that echoes with each step… whatever the issue, this chronic pain engrains itself into the life of the sufferer until it can become unrecognizable.

Now, as if the on-going torture of constant pain itself weren’t enough, new research has found that if you’re living with chronic pain, you might be facing something even worse…

Is your heart suffering?

The study, published in the Journal Pain Medicine, has found that chronic pain makes it more likely that you’ll suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The studies followed a whopping 52,842 people from 2001 to 2015 – 17,614 who used pain relievers (either over the counter or prescription opioids for pain for at least three months) and another 35,228 without chronic pain.

They then matched them all by age and sex to eliminate outside factors that could skew their results.

And the results were eye-opening for those of us who hurt…

Over the follow-up period, chronic pain sufferers were a full 20 percent more likely to experience a heart attack. The numbers were even worse when it came to stroke, with a 30 percent higher chance for people with chronic pain compared to those without.

The pain/heart health connection

According to the researchers, the reason behind the association found between chronic pain and the risk of cardiac events comes down to the fact that long-term pain causes a cascade of issues leading to poor heart health, like:

  • Increased stress levels
  • Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep
  • Depression
  • Reduced ability to exercise

All of these together can leave your heart and your blood vessels in bad shape.

It also means that protecting your heart has to involve managing your chronic pain.

Natural ways to ease your discomfort and get moving again

Of course, as with everything, when it comes to pain management, I believe that the natural way is the better way. After all, with the opioid crisis in our country, I think we’ve proven the dangers of prescription pain medications beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Holistic approaches to beating the aches, stiffness and discomfort you live with include:

#1 — Getting plenty of sleep

Lack of sleep is linked to increased pain levels and even new-onset chronic pain. So be sure to maintain good sleep hygiene, keep a regular sleep schedule and get as much high-quality rest as possible to help ease your chronic discomforts.

#2 — Moving but gently

Exercise works to stimulate your brain to produce endorphins – happy chemicals that can block the pain signals that are getting you down. This means that while it’s tempting to reduce your physical activity levels when you’re living with chronic pain, incorporating gentle exercises and stretching can actually help improve your symptoms.

#3 — Practicing mindfulness

A 2017 review of 38 separate clinical studies found that practicing mindfulness, such as mediation, not only reduced pain symptoms and depression, but it also improved overall quality of life.

#4 — Incorporating proven supplements

You can also help calm the discomfort and aches you’re living with by modulating your immune system to calm the fires of inflammation using proven supplements, including:

  • Black cumin seed oil — Cold-pressed and hexane-free, this oil is loaded with thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone, which target your immune system to provide inflammatory support, calming your body’s natural pain signals.
  • Turmeric extract — A study from the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that the active ingredient in turmeric extract — curcumin — works by blocking NF-kb activity which can help reduce swelling, stiffness and aches for faster recovery and relief.
  • Ginger extract — In one study on the effects of ginger on rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders, 56 patients were given powdered ginger. Of these, 28 had rheumatoid arthritis, 19 had osteoarthritis and 10 had muscular discomfort. Over a period of 3 months to 2.5 years, an impressive 100% of participants with muscular discomfort experienced pain relief. What’s more, 75% of arthritic participants experienced relief in pain and swelling.
  • Vitamin D3 — Vitamin D affects the body’s inflammation response in a way that lowers the sensation of pain. That makes sense since vitamin D deficiency is tied to an increased risk for pain-related conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatic diseases. It’s also believed to help with sleeplessness associated with pain.

Sources:

Chronic pain linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke — Harvard Health Publishing

Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016 – CDC

Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis — NCBI

11 Tips for Living With Chronic Pain — WebMD

Sleep is key to curing chronic pain — ScienceDaily

The association of sleep and pain: An update and a path forward — NCBI

Hurting? Swap your NSAID for this vitamin  — Easy Health Options

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.