Forget Your Pain: 3 Things to Focus on Instead
Updated: May 19, 2022
Here you are. Hurting, aching, avoiding the activities in life that you love best. You can’t go to the gym. You can’t play with your kids. You can’t get it on with your significant other. You can see the life you used to lead and the fitness you used to own slipping through your fingers.
You’ve tried Aleve. You’ve tried hot packs. You’ve tried icing. You tried turning yourself upside down. You’ve been needled. You’ve been adjusted. You’ve been stretched. You’ve heard from countless friends and family members about what worked for them that you have to try.
What if I told you that Pain is a liar?
What if I told you that 50% of people who have a positive MRI finding (slipped disc, pinched nerves, degenerative arthritis, etc.) have zero pain?
What if I told you that you’re more in control of how you feel than you think?
I’m here today to give you some other things to focus on that will actually move the needle and help you get on top of your pain now and reduce the likelihood of these problems coming back in the future.
These recommendations aren’t just quick fixes, either. They’re long-term, lifestyle-based interventions that will help you now but also compound in their usefulness the longer you practice them.
Let’s dive in so you can start wrestling control back to your side of the ledger.
1. Sleep 8-10 per night. Here’s why: Your body heals itself when you sleep. Put another way-the single most common feature of people who have chronic pain is chronic sleep deprivation. Diving deeper, if you want to optimize your sleep (read: healing time) try these specific suggestions:
Get your room as pitch black as you can. Any light in your room, whether it’s from TV’s, tablets, phones, alarm clocks, or windows, makes it harder for your body to drop into the deep, regenerative stage of sleep.
Get your room cold. Somewhere between 62 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Avoid blue light an hour before bedtime. If you can’t turn off all your devices, get some blue light blocking glasses and set the “Night Shift” feature on your device to darken the screen as the sun goes down. Blue light exposure close to bedtime will make it harder to get that restorative sleep your body needs.
2. Clean up your diet. I’m not going to lecture you here. It’s no secret you need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Remember that protein is a building block for all the tissues in your body. You should be aiming for one to two palmfuls of protein with each meal and one to two fistfuls of vegetables with at least two of your meals each day. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Hydrated tissues heal better. If you love drinking coffee, keep it up; now is not the time to try to kick your caffeine habit (plus, caffeine doesn’t dehydrate you, but that’s a conversation for another blog post).
3. Move as much as you can throughout the day. If you’ve only been resting in the hopes of trying to relieve your pain, it might be time to start moving. Movement, as we like to say, is medicine. If you can walk, shoot for three 10 minute walks per day, preferably outdoors. If it hurts to stand up and move around, can you sit on a recumbent bike and pedal for 10 minutes, three times per day? No matter what, as long as you can find some non-painful way to move for 30 minutes per day, you have a better chance of feeling better faster than you would if you simply sat all day hoping to get better.
So there you have it. It’s not magic. But it’s also not something that requires you to radically change your lifestyle or increase your income. It’s likely that it will take seven to 10 days of consistent practice of the above habits to notice considerable improvement. But if you’ve been dealing with your current problem for more than 2 weeks, it’s probably time to start trying something different.
NEED MORE HELP?
If you have more questions about how to help your body feel better, heal faster, or perform better without unnecessary pills, injections, or surgeries, feel free to reach out to us by clicking the "Inquire Now" button on this page or reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (913) 396-9726.
Blog: Super Power Naps by Dr. Tim Cummings
Blog: Deadlifting for Low Back Pain by Dr. Patrick Chandler
YouTube: Pain Free
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tim Cummings is a strength coach, physical therapist, writer, speaker, and, along with his wife, Jess, the founder of Restore/Thrive. Tim splits his time between helping athletes, parents, and coaches fix acute and long-standing orthopedic injuries and programming post-rehab training programs for individuals looking to get back to their active lifestyles after an injury.
He received his Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2004, and his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Southwest Baptist University in 2010. He was certified as a Titleist Performance Institute Certified Trainer in 2011. He was certified as an IMPACT Concussion Management Provider in 2012 he was the first physical therapist in Kansas City to earn recognition as a MovNat certified trainer in 2014. He was the first physical therapist in Kansas City designated as The Ready State Certified Practitioner in 2015. He earned the Power Athlete Block One Coach certification in 2020.
Tim’s background as an athlete includes a history of competitive baseball, basketball, cross-country running, and performance weightlifting. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife Jess and their three children, Aiden, Evelyn, and Connor, their Cavachon puppy Coco, weightlifting, golfing, obstacle course racing, competitive eating, and wrestling with his kids.