Why you shouldn't neglect joint pain: It may indicate arthritis or a fracture
Any pain limiting your activity needs attention.
Chronic pain is a disease in itself that can affect productivity. A vital sign that helps assess the physical health of a person, pain may be the result of some injury or illness.
Dr Pushpinder Singh Mehta, consultant-pain medicine, Indian Spinal Injuries Center, New Delhi, said: “Many people experience pain due to sedentary lifestyle. When they get into activities, the unused muscles are excited suddenly and then as they are relaxed, people feel pain. The best way to beat this is to remain moderately active always.”
Unfortunately, people take to self-medication for relief. These cause more harm than good. “Reliance on painkillers over a long term can give rise to a host of complications like gastric ulcer and kidney failure, to name a few,” said Dr Swagatesh Bastia, orthopaedist and co-founder of Alleviate Pain Management Clinic, Bengaluru.
For many types of pain, these may not even be necessary. In other words, there are ways to alleviate chronic pain without any medicine. Most conditions resulting in chronic pain should be treated with a multidisciplinary approach which include modification in diet, lifestyle and work on the psychosocial impact of the condition, with or without interventional pain management. This can reduce and, in some cases, eliminate the need for painkillers, Bastia explained.
"Chronic pain often starts with repetitive stress injuries..., neglected injuries and underlying conditions such as fibromyalgia, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis", Dr Pushpinder Singh Mehta, Consultant-pain medicine, Indian Spinal Injuries Center, New Delhi.
GOING INTO THE CAUSE
Pain itself is not a disease but can indicate the presence of a disease, Mehta said. In most cases, pain is a manifestation of an underlying condition of some bone or muscle. Many a time, it is bad posture that causes pain. There have been cases where psychological conditions such as stress, trauma or anxiety have caused pain in a person, he added.
Dr Dharmesh R Agarwal, senior consultant-cardiac anesthesiology and pain specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru, said pain is highly subjective and varies from person to person. It mainly depends on the psychology of the patient.
“Pain management can be simple or complex, depending on the cause of the pain. The most common causes of pain in adults include injury, medical conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and back problems, and surgery. The most commonly reported types of pain are headache and back pain (although pain involving the limbs, shoulder and neck is also common). In fact, one feels more pain when they are depressed,” said Agarwal.
WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR
Any pain limiting your activity needs attention. When you feel severe pain even at rest, when it is increasing in intensity, when it is unlike any other pain that you have experienced before, when it persists over a few hours to days with other associated symptoms like nausea, vomiting and fever, act on it, Bastia explained.
Pain in bones and joints is a matter of concern as it can indicate an underlying condition such as osteoporosis or arthritis, as well as a more serious complication such as a fracture.
“Never ignore the pain in the chest that moves towards the jaw, shoulder or neck, for it may indicate a heart attack. Be mindful of any pain on the right side of the abdomen that indicates serious appendicitis. Unrelenting period pain in the pelvis area may indicate endometriosis and may need urgent medical attention,” Agarwal said.
Pain in weight-bearing areas such as knees, lower back, foot and shoulders needs early attention because immobility and underuse of these joints can lead to other problems like weight gain, which further leads to hypertension, diabetes, etc. Understanding the root cause of pain and treating it rather than taking multiple pain killers is always beneficial, Bastia said.
WHY DO I HAVE IT?
Mehta said, “Chronic pain often starts with repetitive stress injuries (when the same movement over and over puts strain on a body part), neglected injuries and underlying conditions such as fibromyalgia, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome or arthritis.” Additionally, Bastia said, vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as of vitamin D and C, zinc and magnesium can cause pain.
COMING OUT OF PAIN
Deep breathing or meditation can help you relax and ease pain. “Stress intensifies chronic pain and reducing stress may help improve the situation. Reducing the amount of alcohol and tobacco helps in improving pain conditions. Make sure your food is low fat and low sodium; choose from fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked dried beans and peas, whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt, and lean meats,” Mehta said. Bastia advises avoiding screen time just before going to bed. Instead, read a book or listen to music which can ensure a good sleeping pattern and help manage pain, he said.
Stay active in spite of pain — this is a matter of practice and a test of tolerance. Prepare your body to bear pain and remain normal; this is the starting point to build tolerance. Moderate exercise of 20 minutes a day is good to start with for someone who has never exercised. There is no upper limit, listen to your body and stop when it wants to stop, Mehta added.
5 Simple Exercises To Calm Your Muscles At Work
We routinely take 8-16 breaths a minute. Slowing down to 5-6 deep breaths that really fi ll your lungs will help you relax.
Target 6-8 hours of sleep as pain triggers may worsen without this.
It promotes circulation, curbs inflammation and may soothe aching muscles and joints.
At least 3-5 days a week for about 30 minutes Aerobics: Works your heart and stimulates circulation Stretching: Helps to have limber muscles, keep tendons elongated Strengthening core muscles: Aids balance and stability.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration will keep tissue in normal position especially discs.
It reduces muscle tension and energises your body and mind, all of which can ease pain.
This involves observing your pain rather than suppressing it. By relaxing and accepting discomfort, you may better tolerate it. For 20 minutes a day, sit or lie in a comfortable position in a quiet spot and just be aware, moment by moment, of your breathing, the unfolding of sensations (including pain).
They reduce stress and divert your attention away from pain.
It can reduce anxiety and help manage chronic pain better.
—Dr Dharmesh R Agarwal