MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN...
“Unseen, unequal, unfair.” That’s how a major report from June 2021 described the issue of chronic pain in England1. About 34% of people (15.5 million) in the country live with chronic pain. This includes 12% of the population (5.5 million) who face severe chronic pain, which makes it a struggle to carry out daily activities2. Chronic pain can arise in many different forms, for many different reasons. Whatever the cause, there are so many ways to help treat or manage chronic pain.
FIVE COMMON TYPES OF CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain symptoms are as diverse as the people who develop them, but experts categorise them into five of the most common types: arthritic pain, back pain, joint pain, neck pain and muscle pain.
About 10 million people in the UK have arthritis, although many are not diagnosed3. While some forms of arthritis are more common in older people, it can affect people of all ages.
There are a variety of causes of arthritis, including the degradation of cartilage (osteoarthritis), autoimmune inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis) and acidic or calcite build-up in joints (gout and related conditions). Depending on the type, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can be effective arthritis pain relief. Complementary therapies such as osteopathy can also help with arthritis pain management.
Most people will experience an episode of back pain in their lifetime. It is usually short-lived, but some people suffer from chronic back pain because of conditions including slipped discs, sciatica, or more serious musculoskeletal disorders5.
Back pain can be very unpredictable, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk and there are many bad back remedies. Regular exercise, good posture and safe lifting techniques can go a long way to keeping your back in good shape6. When pain lasts for longer than a few weeks, seeing a chiropractor can be a good step towards bad back pain treatment or additional diagnoses.
Our joints do a lot of work to keep us mobile, so it’s quite common to experience minor joint pain as the result of small injuries arising from exercise or just getting around. Chronic joint pain can be a sign of arthritis, a viral condition, or the result of injuries that haven’t healed right7.
Managing joint pain can be as simple as following your instincts – if your knee hurts, your body will rightly be reluctant to put weight on it. It’s a good idea to take a break from high-impact exercise while you’re trying to relieve joint pain, but you can substitute it with low-impact aerobics (such as swimming) or strength training to aid healing and help relieve joint pain8.
Although there are some age-related or more serious conditions that can cause chronic neck pain, such as cervical spondylosis9, in many cases neck pain is caused by underlying issues with posture10. Acknowledging that you have poor posture is one thing but trying to consciously change the way you sit, or stand can be challenging!
There are, however, adjustments we can make in our day-to-day lives to make practising good posture easier. Changing your pillow can help keep your neck in a neutral, supported position while you sleep. Ergonomic office furniture can make a real difference, and many employers are now providing better chairs in the office and specialist equipment to employees who need it. Even just making the simple change of raising your monitor to eye height can make a big difference for your neck11.
Chronic muscle pain is often a sign of fibromyalgia, a condition that affects around 1 in 20 people12. It is most common in middle age, especially among women, but despite its prevalence the causes of fibromyalgia are not well understood, and it can be difficult to diagnose.
Although pain can make exercise uncomfortable, the right kinds of exercise can really help with muscle pain relief. Hydrotherapy workouts, Pilates, and light aerobics can be really effective treatment for muscle pain and are beneficial for people affected by fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain13.
PAIN AND FITNESS
When you see a football player stretchered off the pitch, or an athlete out of action with a stress fracture, it can be hard to think of exercise as an effective way to manage pain. But for most of us exercise can actually be a fantastic treatment for muscle pain – and one that is accessible, enjoyable, and easily tailored to fit our specific needs.
Exercises for Chronic Pain
Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, there are different exercises to help treat or manage your chronic pain. Seeing a physiotherapist is the best way to get advice on an exercise regime that is most suitable for you, but if that’s not possible, many physiotherapists have shared exercises online to help relieve joint pain and as a sore muscles remedy that you can try.
The ‘Dead Bug’ floor exercise is recommended as an accessible way to build muscle strength and function14. There are also a variety of at-home exercises for common types of pain including lower back15 and neck16 pain that you can learn online.
Adapting Your Pain Exercises
While you exercise, it’s important to pay attention to how your body feels. Whatever the cause of your chronic pain, over-exertion is not going to help. Start with the lowest intensity exercises. You can always work towards a more intensive workout, but make sure to stop if you feel increased pain or discomfort.
TREATMENT FOR CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain can be overwhelming. It is stressful to have your body constantly telling you that there’s something wrong, especially if it feels out of your control. But there are preventative, palliative, and remedial treatments available for conditions that cause chronic pain, and most people can find a treatment regime that significantly helps them in managing their pain.
Conventional medicines for chronic pain come in two broad types. Palliative medicines are designed to provide relief from pain and other symptoms, while remedial medicines may be able to address the underlying causes. Palliative drug treatments are the first port of call for most chronic pain treatments, as they can provide fast-acting relief and just give you a break. Remedial drugs or other procedures can create drastic changes in the body, which can allow for more severe underlying issues to be addressed over time.
But there are challenges involved in drug treatment. It is well known that many pain relief medications come with side effects – NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, for example, can cause indigestion and other bowel issues17. Stronger painkillers, such as opioids and some benzodiazepines, are now being prescribed less, as long-term study has shown them to become less effective with continued use, plus they can be seriously addictive18. Remedial drugs, on the other hand, often work by inhibiting certain aspects of biological function, addressing the causes of pain but also creating new vulnerabilities. For instance, DMARDs work by suppressing parts of the immune system, making patients more vulnerable to viruses and other infections19.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in research into the potential of complementary or alternative therapies for pain. This is partly in response to the opioid crisis, as medical providers look for other ways to manage pain than by overprescribing strong painkillers. Findings have been positive, with strong evidence that acupuncture and mind-body therapies (such as meditation) can be effective in pain management, and that other treatments such as massage and hypnosis can be beneficial in specific cases20.
The main disadvantage of complementary approaches, as compared to drug treatments, is that they are primarily effective in managing and relieving pain over long periods. While some practices, such as meditation and hypnosis, can be used for relieving all kinds of pain, other therapies are more specific. Osteopathy, for example, may be effective for relieving pain associated with conditions including osteoarthritis, but it is less effective in addressing chronic pain resulting from complications with injury21.
CBD AND PAIN - A REVOLUTION
One of the most exciting developments in the study of pain relief has been the emergence of CBD (cannabidiol) products as a potential form of treatment for chronic pain. Many chronic pain sufferers are finding that CBD can play an important role in helping them manage their conditions, sleep better, and participate more freely in daily activities. Anecdotally CBD is widely reported to be effective in arthritis pain relief, to relieve joint pain and as a great sore muscles remedy.
The Science of CBD
CBD works in conjunction with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in managing inflammation and restoring normal body function after exceptional events. It interacts with the central and peripheral nervous system in a variety of ways, including stimulating the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter adenosine, which inhibits the brain’s pain response22. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping to reduce the inflammation associated with conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Reviews of the scientific literature on CBD have concluded that, while further long-term study is needed, CBD is an effective treatment for pain management with minimal side effects23. A major study of CBD users found that 62% use it to treat a medical condition. Around half of those users find that it is effective as a stand-alone treatment, while others use it in conjunction with other medications24.
Is CBD Right for You?
Given that there are almost no known negative side effects of taking CBD in moderate dosages, it could be worth a try if you’re looking for new or supplementary ways to treat your chronic pain. CBD is often incorporated into easy-to-use products, such as our Dutchy Labs Organic CBD Skin Balm25. This balm combines soothing CBD with Jojoba Oil, Frankincense and Myrrh, enhancing its antioxidant properties and combining them with antiseptic and anti-infectious effects – perfect for arthritis pain relief, treatment to relieve joint pain and muscle pain relief.
Specifically formulated to melt the power of CBD into your joints and muscles, Dutchy Labs CBD Skin Balm can be a key part of an effective treatment plan to manage chronic back pain, joint pain, neck pain, muscle pain, and arthritis. As one of our regular customers, who has lived with arthritis and chronic pain since her mid-20s recently messaged us about our CBD Skin Balm, “I love this, it’s the best CBD arthritis pain relief I’ve found, and I have tried so many – it helps relieve my joint pain and my neck pain, and really helps with all round pain management”.