Your Holiday Pain Management Primer

Woman holding head in pain

December always seems to be a challenging pain management month. For one, the transition to more frigid temperatures along with the slew of storms that normally come through this time of year seem to make everyone’s aches and pains hurt more than normal. The “winter blues,” also known as seasonal affective disorder, can cause symptoms of depression and fatigue for some, especially for those in cold northern climates. In fact, Hippocrates reported in 400 b.c. that many illnesses were related to seasonal changes. The various meteorological events that have been blamed for intensifying pain include changes in temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, humidity, and increased ionization of the air. While winter pain complaints seem quite common, the science proving this phenomenon has been lacking, and the actual mechanism behind this has yet to be discovered.

To top it all off, the holiday season can be a source of stress and intense emotion, which can only dial up the pain levels even higher. While we can’t necessarily control the weather, we can employ tools to better manage stress and prevent pain flare-ups this month. Commonly reported complaints during the holiday season include fatigue, stress, irritability, bloating, sadness, anger, and loneliness. The American Psychological Association reports that a lot of the stress seen during this time of year comes from not having enough time, a lack of money, and the pressures of gift giving.

Being proactive about managing this time of year with the right tools can help make this the joyful time that it should be. Here are some tips to keep your “ho ho ho” going strong:

  • Schedule a regular time for at least 30 minutes of exercise. Exercise is a great tool to lower the hormonal and neurological effects created by stress.
  • Pace yourself: Flaring yourself up from overdoing activities will only set you back in the long-run.
  • Make a list: This can help you stay focused and not take on too much at once.
  • Breathe: Spend some time each day doing some deep belly breathing exercises, especially when you find yourself overly stressed. This will calm your nervous system so it doesn’t get over-taxed and burned out.
  • Ask for help: Don’t be a hero. Find family members and friends to help you work through your to-do list.
  • Find the sun: Sunshine can be hard to come by in many parts of the country right now, but avoid staying indoors 24/7. Mid-day sun exposure is important for keeping your biological clock set and preventing seasonal affective disorder. Consider getting a light therapy box for added help.
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods: As problems like joint pain and swelling or back aches can intensify this month, keep the inflammation down by making the right food choices. Try to have seven servings of different types of produce each day.
  • Budget expenses: The holiday season can put a lot of stress on your wallet, and it really shouldn’t be that way. Try not to get too caught up in the commercialism that runs rampant right around now.
  • Don’t overindulge: It seems like everybody puts on some extra pounds this month from all of the high-caloric eating that can take place. Don’t do without, but avoid spending too much time around baked goodies and sweet holiday drinks and cocktails. Most of these treats are pro-inflammatory. Have a handful of nuts handy to avoid overeating at parties.
  • Laugh and love: Remember, this is what it is all about. After all, laughter, compassion and empathy are great for your health, and among the greatest gifts you can give others.

Happy Holidays from Pain Relief Revolution!

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