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6 Tips for managing pain in the age of COVID-19

The fact that non-essential or non-emergency medical services continue to be limited and some surgeries are being postponed, the options for pain management may seem scant.

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It’s the perfect time to pause and take a look at how daily life during a pandemic can impact our health, especially for those living with chronic pain.

That’s why therapeutic at-home massager manufacturer Wahl interviewed board-certified anesthesiologist and pain specialist Dr. Anita Gupta for tips on managing pain during the age of COVID-19.

“The fact that non-essential or non-emergency medical services continue to be limited and some surgeries are being postponed, the options for pain management may seem scant,” explains Dr. Gupta. “Managing pain on the best day is a challenge — managing it through COVID-19 can seem like a Herculean effort.”

Thankfully, according to Dr. Gupta there is hope. While she insists it’s important to check with your doctor for guidance on treating your specific condition, she offers the following pain-relief ideas:

1. Ease stress by staying positive.

Stress and anxiety from the pandemic can increase your body’s sensitivity to pain, but by learning to take control of stress you may find significant relief from stubborn symptoms. Focusing on self-care, staying positive and being active, can lift your mood and make pain symptoms more tolerable. For example, there are specially designed sounds and music for guided meditation that provide a form of mental escape and help add peace to your life. Many of these guided meditations are easily accessible online and are often free. It involves creating images in your mind that lead to passive muscle relaxation.

2. Improve your health with daily exercise.

Being active for 30 minutes a day can boost your overall health, and can be done at home with a variety of online videos. Exercise improves pain symptoms by releasing natural endorphins, which improve your temperament while also blocking pain. In addition, daily exercise will strengthen muscles, prevent re-injury, help maintain weight, control blood sugar and lower the risk of heart disease — all of which decrease pain symptoms. Remember, however, to first talk with your doctor about finding an exercise routine that is right for you.

3. Get an at-home massager for pain relief.

Since COVID-19 has made going to a massage therapist challenging, try using an at-home massager for pain relief. Massage relieves muscle tension and decreases inflammation by activating genes that naturally reduce swelling. Hand-held massagers are an excellent option for maintaining a massage regimen during the pandemic as they can be used in the comfort of your home.

4. Practice good sleep hygiene.

Sleep aids in pain relief; however, sleep can be unattainable because of pain symptoms. Thankfully, there are ways to help break this frustrating cycle. One idea, cut back on alcohol and caffeine as both inhibit restorative sleep. Another way to get your sleep back on track is by sticking to a schedule, this involves following a relaxing bedtime routine at the same time every night.

5. Connect with a virtual support group.

Joining a virtual support group, and sharing your feelings with people who understand your pain struggles will help you feel less alone. It’s also a way to find the strength and encouragement you need to tackle daily challenges. What’s more, you may learn tips on how to manage your pain symptoms from people who’ve been through it. If sharing with others isn’t your thing, there are a number of mental health resource apps available. In fact, some are even free during the pandemic because so many people are feeling overwhelmed.

6. Stay in touch with your doctor.

If your doctor has a pain management plan for you, make sure you stick with it. Patients often stop taking prescribed medications or don’t follow through with a plan of care, which can deter the plan’s benefits. If you’re unsure of your plan, have questions, or are experiencing any side effects, talk to your doctor – many have made check-ins easier during the pandemic by offering telemedicine and video appointments. Another idea is to start a pain log. By tracking your pain levels and activities every day, your doctor can create a care plan that works best with your lifestyle.

“Now, more than ever, prioritizing your health is crucial,” continued Dr. Gupta. “The above tips are just some of the ways you can improve your physical well-being, and find the strength to better navigate the daily challenges of living with chronic pain in the age of COVID-19.”

To learn more about pain management tips and tools visit WahlUSA.com.

Fitness

Study finds moderate-vigorous physical activity is the most efficient at improving fitness

Dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

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In the largest study performed to date to understand the relationship between habitual physical activity and physical fitness, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that higher amount of time spent performing exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) and low-moderate level activity (steps) and less time spent sedentary, translated to greater physical fitness.

“By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures, we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course,” explained corresponding author Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.

He and his team studied approximately 2,000 participants from the community-based Framingham Heart Study who underwent comprehensive cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) for the “gold standard” measurement of physical fitness. Physical fitness measurements were associated with physical activity data obtained through accelerometers (device that measures frequency and intensity of human movement) that were worn for one week around the time of CPET and approximately eight years earlier.

They found dedicated exercise (moderate-vigorous physical activity) was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

According to the researchers, while the study was focused on the relationship of physical activity and fitness specifically (rather than any health-related outcomes), fitness has a powerful influence on health and is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. “Therefore, improved understanding of methods to improve fitness would be expected to have broad implications for improved health,” said Nayor, a cardiologist at Boston Medical Center.

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Fitness

Tips to avoid common running injuries

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

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Whether training for a marathon or preparing for your first community race, being knocked off course with pain can be hard to handle mentally and physically.

Injuries are very common among runners. Recent research estimates that 82% of runners will become injured during their running career and up to 90% will experience injury while training for a marathon. Some of the most common include a stress fracture, plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinitis, ankle sprain, runners’ knee, and Achilles’ tendonitis.

Injury prevention is critical. Here are some safety tips from Dr. Joshua Blomgren, a 15-time Chicago Marathon team physician and sports medicine physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:

Don’t over-train

Don’t increase weekly mileage or intensity by more than 10 percent each week. Build up slowly and let a good training schedule determine how much you run.

Invest in good shoes

Go to a specialty running shop to be properly fitted for running shoes and/or orthotics. Replace them every 350-500 miles. Incorrect shoes can affect your gait, leading to injuries in your feet, legs, knees, or hips.

Choose the best running surface

Look for running surfaces that absorb shock. Opt for asphalt over concrete. Find grass or dirt trails, especially for higher mileage. Avoid uneven surfaces and seek paths with slow curves.

Stretch!

Training causes tight muscles, leading to strain and changes in your gait. Commit to a stretching program. Just 5 -10 minutes after each workout can make a big difference.

Strengthen muscles

Runners have tight hip flexors because their quads are overtrained. Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes to reduce chance of injury and abductors, adductors, and core to create stability.

Watch out for heel striking

Heel striking occurs when your feet land in front of you and your heel hits the ground first. This is common among new runners but can lead to injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and joint pain. Land mid-sole with your foot directly underneath your body.

Prioritize posture

Good form means staying upright and keeping your shoulders back and relaxed. Work core exercises into your training and do posture checks every so often. Hold your head right above your shoulders and hips.

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Fitness

Postmenopausal women can dance their way to better health

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

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Women often struggle with managing their weight and other health risk factors, such as high cholesterol, once they transition through menopause. A new study suggests that dancing may effectively lower cholesterol levels, improve fitness and body composition and in the process, improve self-esteem. Study results are published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

After menopause, women are more likely to experience weight gain, overall/central body adiposity increases, and metabolic disturbances, such as increases in triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Together, these changes ultimately increase cardiovascular risk. Around this same time, women often are less physically active, which translates into reductions in lean mass and an increased risk of falls and fractures. As a result of all these changes, postmenopausal women often suffer from decreased self-image and self-esteem, which are directly related to overall mental health.

Physical activity has been shown to minimize some of the many health problems associated with menopause. The effect of dancing, specifically, has already been investigated with regard to how it improves body composition and functional fitness. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of dance on body image, self-esteem, and physical fitness together in postmenopausal women.

This new study was designed to analyze the effects of dance practice on body composition, metabolic profile, functional fitness, and self-image/self-esteem in postmenopausal women. Although the sample size was small, the study suggested some credible benefits of a three-times-weekly dance regimen in improving not only the lipid profile and functional fitness of postmenopausal women but also self-image and self-esteem.

Dance therapy is seen as an attractive option because it is a pleasant activity with low associated costs and low risk of injury for its practitioners. Additional confirmed benefits of regular dancing include improvement in balance, postural control, gait, strength, and overall physical performance. All of these benefits may contribute to a woman’s ability to maintain an independent, high-quality lifestyle throughout her lifespan.

Study results are published in the article “Dance practice modifies functional fitness, lipid profile, and self-image in postmenopausal women.”

“This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women. In addition to these benefits, women also probably enjoyed a sense of camaraderie from the shared experience of learning something new,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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