The new year is a time for planning and resolutions. It is time to clear away the cobwebs and work on some areas of self-improvement for many. Most people make resolutions that highlight their desire for better health, whether losing weight, eating healthy, or being more active. But for people with pain, resolving to have better health can be harder to stick with throughout the year.
Pain isn’t always mechanical. If something is wrong with your car, you take it to the mechanic so they can identify the issue and fix it. It’s not so easy with pain. Pain is never purely physical, although it often stems from some physical impairment or dysfunction. Unlike a car, you can’t replace a part in the body and expect everything to be back to normal. Our emotions, thoughts, and perceptions impact the pain we experience.
Thankfully, there are ways to take control of your health, but first, you have to commit to doing so. Here are five tips to help you take control of your health in the new year.
- If you have recurrent pain, see a healthcare provider. There is no reason to live with pain. If pain is preventing you from living an everyday, healthy life, see a healthcare professional. If you don’t like the answer you get, get a second or third opinion. We’ve had patients tell us that they were told there was nothing that could be done to improve their condition. Then they begin physical therapy, and things improve for them. Don’t give up. Seek a solution because there almost always is one. It may not be a 100% improvement, but you may be able to live a more productive and active life, which is extremely important.
- Keep moving. We repeat this time and time; motion is lotion. Motion increases the lubricating fluid that transports nutrients throughout the body to promote tissue healing. This means, if you have pain, don’t sit around and wait for it to go away because it may worsen with inactivity. Instead, get up and get moving. Find another way to stay active while resting the injured body part. If you are concerned about safely moving, schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist or your healthcare provider.
- Sleep more. Poor sleep can lead to adverse health partly because it makes people less inclined to exercise. Sleep is critical to your health. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it is estimated that 50-80 million Americans experience some sleep-related problem. People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight and are more prone to diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. A lack of sleep can also cause depression and anxiety, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk for some cancers. If you want to sleep more, research shows that exercise helps. That’s a win-win on the path towards optimizing health in 2021.
- Find ways to reduce your stress levels. Stress and anxiety have become a bigger problem this year than in years past. Stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga have proven to reduce a person’s response to stressors. Physical touch is also a known stress reliever. However, our ability to hug people is thwarted by the mandate to distance ourselves physically. Massage therapy is an excellent option for addressing muscle tension while reaping the benefits of physical touch.
- Get outside. Spending time outdoors has been proven to be beneficial to health. According to Harvard Research, exposure to natural light elevates the mood and can help you heal faster. It also increases vitamin D levels, preventing osteoporosis, some cancers, depression, and heart attacks. Spending some time outdoors can also improve concentration. This is exceptionally helpful if you work indoors and are feeling unfocused. Go for a walk outside and see how that changes your perspective upon returning. Likewise, if you work indoors, be sure to schedule a time to get outside every day. Go for a short walk on the weekdays and plan more extended activities outside for your days off.
Taking control of your health means permitting yourself to feel better. Self-care is more important now than ever before. Create a plan now for how you will love yourself more in the new year and commit to making it happen.