During our first November on the Colorado Inside Pain blog, we covered many topics that are important for pain patients in Colorado. These ranged from tips for managing pain when cold weather strikes to navigating the holiday buffet tables to keeping up with the latest pain research.

Braving the Colorado winter

For people with pain, a return to cold weather brings its own challenges. It can lead to more aches and pains, as well as injuries. You can help prevent these by:

  • Keeping your body as healthy as possible during the cold weather months
  • Dressing for warmth with layers and clothes made out of appropriate fabrics
  • Making sure your house is ready by sealing up drafts and setting down rugs
  • Being careful when dealing with snow and ice

Another way to handle the cold weather during the holiday season is by looking to some warming teas or herbs. Specific herbs can reduce pain. Turmeric works as an anti-inflammatory agent. Ginger can lessen nausea and pain. Holy basil can reduce stress and headaches. Once you’ve cleared their use with your doctor, you can use these herbs in meals or tea, with a facial steam or compress, in a bath, or for a massage.

If you just want to cut straight to warming teas, there are many benefits of drinking them. These can include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Settling an upset stomach
  • Relieving aches and pains
  • Preventing cold and flu symptoms

When taken as a complementary therapy, teas can be a great way to stay cozy and help with certain conditions.

Managing a pain condition during the holidays 

When we’re readying ourselves for the cold weather, it also means we must ready ourselves for the holidays. During this time of cheer and family time, there can also be stresses related to traveling, eating, and overbooking. Take the time to prepare now so you can enjoy the rest of your holidays strong and healthy.

Two of our most practical blogs this month dealt with traveling over the holidays. Those with pain or other medical conditions face additional challenges when hitting the road or airport. However, there are many ways to prepare beforehand to help reduce pain and stress during travel.

When on a road trip, you should:

  • Review and pick your hotels carefully to find those that have the best room location, equipment, and accessibility
  • Pack carefully and deliberately to bring your needed items while reducing the need to lug around a huge suitcase
  • Keep moving during the road trip to stretch out and stay limber

Our flight post suggested:

  • Starting preparations early with good communication between you and the airline company
  • Deciding between nonstop or flights with layovers depending on your condition
  • Packing carefully with the right luggage
  • Bringing the correct amount of medications onto the flight with you
  • Relying on TSA agents to help make travel as easy as possible

Travel is just one facet of holiday stress. As we discussed in our “10 Ways To Avoid Holiday Stress” post though, finding ways to manage stress through all of your holiday preparations can have lasting effects on your health. This is important, because as we noted:

“Chronic stress lasts for an extended period, such as the stress you experience when you’ve got a difficult job or other source of constant worry – such as holiday stress. This type of stress can cause fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, or irritableness. Chronic stress can also make you more susceptible to illnesses and increase your risk for cardiovascular issues. Recovering from illnesses is also more difficult if you’re stressed. If you’ve got a pain condition, this means that when your pain flares it might be more acute and take longer to fade.”

You can reduce your own stress by planning in advance, simplifying when possible, leaving time for yourself, and allowing others to help. The holidays should be a time for fun and ease, not stress. Thanksgiving can be the time to start a new gratitude practice, or it can be the time to try some new recipes. Find what makes you happy and keeps you sane during this time of year.

Keeping up with recent pain research 

Even with the holiday buzz and excitement, it’s still great to check in on recent research done on pain. In a recap post, we discussed how:

  • One group of researchers are finding new ways to cut off the communication of pain in the brain
  • Other researchers are developing ways to identify pain tolerance so physicians can manage their patients’ pain more effectively
  • Another group of scientists have isolated specific genes that may be able to affect an individual’s pain tolerance
  • New brain imaging techniques may be able to identify a brain abnormality that is linked to fibromyalgia symptoms

Obviously, there are always new and exciting studies being released. You can always stay tuned in on Pain Doctor to learn about these studies and how they could affect you.

A major new regulation for opioid medications could affect many pain patients. The use of opioids–often referred to as pain pills, prescription narcotics, or opiates–can lead to abuse or overdose. As we noted:

“The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 6% of Coloradans used prescription pain medications for non-medical purposes in 2010 and 2011. Among Coloradans from age 18 to 25, the rate of prescription pain medication abuse was 14%. This rampant abuse of pain pills is resulting in hundreds of opioid-related deaths. 182 people died of opioid-related causes in 2000, but by 2009 this number had risen to 421.”

With informed regulations and better patient education, we believe that opioid abuse can be curbed. It takes a community, a thoughtful legal system, and a trusting relationship between doctors and patients.

Finally, a smaller portion of our patients may be affected by new research and treatment development for multiple sclerosis. As we discussed:

“Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the nerves. Nerves are encased by a protective layer called the myelin sheath. In individuals with multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the myelin sheath, damaging the nerves inside and potentially creating scar tissue.”

New treatments for this condition are focusing on placental stem cells, naturally-occurring growth factors, the natural molecule NAD+, or even parasitic worms as a course of treatment. Through one or a combination of these treatments, we are looking forward to treatments for this currently incurable disease.

What was your favorite post on Pain Doctor this month?

Image by Mr. TinDC via Flickr

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