In my previous post I introduced the idea of how ridiculously injured we can feel after a night of what was supposed to be regenerative sleep. This is just one but a popular example of everyday pain. This is the kind of pain that has us wondering: “What the heck did I do to myself?”
As I mentioned in that previous post, I believe that our mattresses and pillows only play a minor role for most of us. When we are in a state of pain, the mattress and pillows do become paramount and if they are a wrong fit for us, they certainly don’t help the situation, but they are not the main reason we feel pain. Neither to blame is our sleeping position necessarily. Pain, plain and simple, is the result of inflammation. (read a short excerpt from my book about this here) There are a host of things that can cause a build up of inflammation which then causes the experience of pain.
If you’re waking up with it, whether it’s a low grade ache or a sharp stabbing kind of thing, you can bet that inflammation is at play. Your body is either dealing with a higher than usual level of inflammatory byproducts, or your nervous system was not able to allow your muscles to fully relax and disengage during your sleep. The over-engagement by your muscles can cause inflammation to pool in those affected areas. Again the result is pain because of inflammation.
So, maybe you don’t care why there’s pain you just want to know what you can do about it. Take my word for it then when I say: to manage the pain you have to manage the inflammation triggers.
1. Stop eating your inflammation
2. Help your body get rid of inflammation
3. Keep Calm!
Eating your inflammation
In regards to waking with pain, what you eat right before bed probably matters most but in general if you struggle with pain that seems to come out of nowhere, you should probably consider taking inflammatory foods out of your diet on a regular basis. There are a lot of resources available about inflammatory foods (sugars, starchy foods, alcohol and red meat for starters). Read a bit more about this in my next post
Get rid of it
If you’re in pain and you’re doing everything else right, it’s worth considering whether or not you are eliminating waste well. Are you drinking enough water? Are you moving your bowels daily? A slow-down in our naturally detoxifying activities of urinating and defecating can bog down the body’s ability to flush away pain causing molecules in the body tissues. The byproducts of just living and breathing are molecules that will cause pain if left to accumulate so, even if you don’t have pain this is a good reason to pay attention to your elimination!
Finally, if you’re stressing about your pain or just stressed in general, it’s probably going to add to the pain and that’s not something that’s just “in your head”. Stress causes the body to crank out all sorts of pain-causing chemical reactions. If the nervous system is chronically on high alert, your body will be more likely to flare up with the littlest amount of stress and it can turn into a terrible snowball effect if you don’t tend to it.
Of course, if you’re thinking: “well, if I’m not getting quality sleep because of pain then I’m probably going to be more stressed until I get better sleep…” You’re right. It can turn into a vicious cycle. This is why it’s not always a terrible idea to take over the counter anti-inflammatory aids (pharmaceutical or herbal) before bedtime. Sometimes breaking the pain cycle is more important than “toughing” it out. There will be a future post about what sorts of herbs or nutrients might be just as effective as those common non steroidal anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals.
Don’t put up with it anymore
Some of the most difficult clinical cases I see are with people who have trained themselves to put up with pain on a regular basis. They’ve taught themselves, physiologically, to be in pain and do it well. This means it will take increasingly stressful situations to get their attention. This may seem like a noble goal, but it just makes it so much more complicated to help the body return to a pain free state. If the body learns not to listen to the usual warning signs the warning signs can go haywire and become unreliable or the body simply won’t know to respond to these warning signs. Usually pain is just a big traffic sign – trying to show us what needs to change for better balance.
If pain from inflammation happens like how the last drop in a brimming bucket of water makes it spill over, then there are some things that can be going on behind the scenes that will fill our buckets to the brim and set us up to be less tolerant of certain everyday inflammatory triggers. Two common examples I see are: the naturally inflammatory phase of the menstrual cycle and the 24 hour time span before we get sick with any garden variety upper respiratory virus. Check out the future posts for more about this….