If you've been experiencing body aches and pains, know that you're not alone! According to the Global Pain Index, a recent study conducted by GSK, 74 per cent of Canadians experience body pain at least once per week, making us the country with the highest frequency of body pain of those surveyed. In fact, in the past year, Canadian workers lost an average of 1.8 days due to pain alone, costing the economy $7.1 billion in lost productivity.
Muscle and joint pains can be caused by injury, repetitive motions, poor posture or just plain old wear and tear. Body pain is one of the most common question topics I get at the pharmacy. Here are some tips I like to tell my patients to help manage their pain.
Heat vs. ice
Applying heat or ice on body pain depends on the type of injury, and can have vastly different effects on the healing process. Ice should be applied to an acute injury, because it constricts blood flow, reduces inflammation and helps to reduce bruising and discomfort. However, with chronic muscle and joint pain, heat is a better option because it helps to increase blood flow, stimulates healing and can help relax painful muscle spasms. Apply heat 20 to 30 minutes at a time to chronic body aches, several times a day, for best effect.
Think beyond oral medications
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are some of the most effective and common treatments available for muscle and body pain, and can help reduce inflammation and discomfort. However, when taken orally, they can have side effects like upset stomach, increased blood pressure or increased bleeding time for some people.
For more localized and isolated pain, consider using some topical anti-inflammatory creams or gels directly on painful areas to achieve similar benefits with less side effects. Some topical options are medicated, providing effective pain relief.
Strengthen and stretch your muscles through exercise
While chronic body pain can be debilitating and make you not want to move around, evidence shows that strengthening core muscles and active stretching can actually reduce pain. Getting your muscles in better shape improves posture when you are standing, sitting and sleeping, restores your range of motion, release muscles tension and soreness, and will help you feel better in a matter of weeks. Often, some body pains can be a result of the body carrying extra weight, so losing a few pounds through exercise will also help.
How you sleep can reduce pressure on the body and vastly reduce your pain, especially for sufferers of lower back pain. Sleeping on your side with the knees bent is generally recommended, but back sleepers can place a pillow under the knees and a small pillow under their lower back for similar benefits. A firm mattress can help reduce back pain, but for those who own a soft mattress, putting a solid board of plywood under the mattress can decrease sagging.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of mindful meditation in reducing a person's perception of pain, making sufferers less sensitive to pain and placing the individual back in control. Researchers found that those who meditated regularly also experienced other benefits like reduced anxiety, less depression, and better mental health overall.
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While there is no one solution to tackle pain, these tips should help you take back control of your body. If you are one of many Canadians who suffer from chronic body pain, your local pharmacist can evaluate your symptoms and help find the right solution to manage your pain.
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