One suffering from chronic illness is usually granted three options while seeking care from traditional medical professionals. Option one, medication. Option two, physical therapy, and option three, deal with it. Which would you choose?
Medication is always the correct choice, without it medical practitioners would be out of business. Physical therapy is a logical option, although in many cases ends up doing more harm than good. Let’s say a physical therapist is working with a client who experiences chronic, dull to moderate back pain, without a specific origin. One experiencing chronic pain -especially from an unknown illness, is likely to feel burnt out after mild exertion. The appropriate exercises should not compare to ones used to treat a mild sports injury. Whether you’re 19 or 91 years old, the early stages of getting back in shape should more resemble elderly workouts. Improving chronic pain is a long, gradual practice that needs to be carried out up to twice a day, five times a week to see long-term benefits. Once you feel the difference, you’ll be motivated to keep room for it in your routine.
So why is one only given three choices? -Money, greed, and pharmaceutical research… Enough cynicism, there are other options! Here are my recommendations and methods I have implemented in my daily routine that are making a significant improvement in my overall quality of life. These recommendations have boosted my energy, strength, mood, immune system, and decreased my pain. I firmly believe that following these steps will be beneficial for anyone coping with a rheumatic disease, arthritis, or undiagnosed chronic pain. More specifically, chronic back, joints, and abdominal discomfort.
Let’s begin. First, make a quick mental list of a few easy stretches that wouldn’t take much effort to do and would not easily tire you out. Stretches can be as easy as turning your neck slowly in each direction, reps of shrugging your shoulders, lifting your legs and arms, etc. Eventually, make a video or some sort of visual aid/list of these stretches. Each morning, within the first hour of being awake apportion 10-20 minutes to do them. Stretching is to be done at a relaxed pace. The point is simply to get your body in motion, loosening your joints, and easing you into the day. By incorporating some sort of visual in your living space helps train yourself to get off the phone/computer and physically do something. Practicing this daily, at least five times a week can decrease morning stiffness, reduce cracking bones, improve endurance and mood.
Set up a workout space. If you’re a homebody like me, the gym is unrealistic. I am not on the level of an avid gym enthusiast. I accomplish more at home without enabling the excuse that I couldn’t make it to the gym. If possible, collect light weights, an elastic work out band, and an exercise ball. If you are not very active, I can’t stress enough, start light.
On top of stretching five times a week, it is just as important to spend the same amount of time doing exercises that elevate the heart rate, and strengths core muscles. These are a few ideas of light movements that build and tone core muscles. Biceps; start lifting 2-3lb weights starting with 10 reps. While sitting in a chair, knees bent at 90 degrees, raise one foot off the floor at a time with an ankle weight on your knee. On an exercise ball modified crunches can be done. You can also lay belly down and lift one leg at a time (with or without ankle weights). My motto for exercising with chronic pain is, if it hurts you’re doing it wrong. Do not set a huge expectation to live up to. Do each of these for a week or so until they become easy, then increase reps or weight, or add an extra couple minutes to a walk. Be creative and remember start small even if you think you are not accomplishing much. I think of tasks I struggle with and how I could improve my daily efficiency on doing them. An example is watering the plants, realistically it entails lifting about an 8lb jug of water. I will hold two 5lb weights evenly with both arms at a 90-degree angle, moving them from at my chest to bending my arms straight in front of me, and hold them there. Each movement should easy and natural, avoiding straining or pulling any muscles. Eventually chores become easier, inflicting less joint pain.
The most important option out there that is rarely recommended by physicians is strict diet modification. Nobody favors this option at first, for it requires a lot of sacrifices. Staying healthy and pain free can be compared to one struggling with addiction or food cravings. As we all know smoking kills and sugar tasty toxicity, these products provide humans with the satisfaction of temporary happiness. Without them what would one do instead?
Answer: gain some self-control! It will get easier. Do your research and be open to elimination diets. A sad but true fact is that ailments are frequently resolved by diet alterations. There are conditions where meat proteins are mistaken as enemies in the body, making one chronically ill, without any evidence that meat was causing the problem. Dairy products can also have the same affects. Meat and dairy products are loaded with additives, preservatives, growth hormones, etc. Currently, mass manufactured food products are a silent killer, but who would want to give up some of the best tasting treats? We wonder why so many children now days have ADD and ADHD, why autoimmune diseases are peaking, and why cancer has taken over. Starting an elimination diet should not be perceived as a letdown. Eating healthy and replacing food choices with new recipes and options should be an exciting challenge to explore.
Diet modifications available online have been becoming increasingly popular, but with too much information it can be difficult for one to determine which will have the best effect. My diet modifications were not something that came to me overnight. Nor did I find a set of instructions to feel better. Once I learned and accepted my diet could be playing a huge role in my illness, I went through two years of trial and error, eliminating and reintroducing foods into my diet. I also experienced a fair share of relapses; binge eating junk food, and then suffering the consequences. I learned the hard way and still prove to myself, living with an autoimmune disease, everything I do and/or consume will affect me in one way or another. If I had this information I share with you today, six years ago, I would not feel as if I spent those years wasted on being harshly ill.
The diet I am about to explain closely resembles the Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP). You can find more detailed food lists and information on why this diet works by searching online. Some food lists will vary depending on the sources. I am not a doctor, the following is my personal recommendation of food choices I have switched to that have boosted my energy, eliminated nerve pain, rashes and hives, decreased and relieved redness, stiffness, joint pain, as well as smoothed my GI symptoms and cured chronic nausea. This information has not been clinically proven to cure or treat any condition. My chart below provides herbal supplement information, and a very brief benefit of each.
Goodbye processed foods! Eliminate anything with a barcode. Sugars, carbs, coffee, dairy and gluten should also be eliminated. -GF pasta does not count here! Oats, seeds, nuts and night shade fruits and vegetables should be avoided. What are night shades? Here’s an all you need to know explanation of what they consist of and the impact they have on the GI tract. https://draxe.com/nightshade-vegetables/
Those with IBS, IBD, or comparable GI conditions I highly recommend a trial of stopping all meat. A week of eating high fiber vegetables may even be quick enough to see how the GI tract responds. I have not made a conversion to an all vegan diet, although after periods without eating meat my symptoms vastly improved. If you decide to eliminate meat be sure to implement more high fiber fruits and vegetables, which are listed in the above chart in purple. It is also key to eat enough healthy fats. Some on the list include organic oils, natural lard, avocados, and coconuts.
On this road of chronic unpredictability, I’ve learned that a doctor’s time is scarce, and ran by a higher power, whose interests are not in the individuals they are perceived to help. Pharmaceutical drugs time and time again have caused me more harm than good. I am the hundreds of side effects rattled off during a rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia advertisement stamped, “rare but fatal side effects.” Not just for one drug, but over a hundred. If this sounds familiar and you have not faithfully practiced the above, at least these recommendations have not costed you a co-pay. You need to be your own advocate and make your own informed decisions. I hope you have found this helpful and will share with loved ones who have had enough of the three traditional health care options.