Woman stretching her arms at her desk

Start the New Year with Less Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have already searched for ways to find relief. Though some medicines or therapies may help with immediate discomfort, they may not provide the promise of a long-term solution for the new year.

While finding the most appropriate and effective way to alleviate pain for an even fuller life may require close consultation with your doctor and pain specialist to determine the cause and eliminate any risks, there are several options available to you.

Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation

Lower body chronic pain can be difficult to treat. Dorsal root ganglion stimulation uses neurostimulation along the spinal nerve root to target specific areas of chronic pain, such as the hip, groin, knee, or foot.

The dorsal root ganglia (DRG) are composed of densely compacted sensory nerve cell bodies, which send sensations to the brain. Each DRG is associated with a different part of the body, and DRG stimulation targets these specific clusters to address the unique area of your individual discomfort.

“[DRG] could provide long-term relief for chronic back pain that has not responded to other treatments, including spinal cord stimulation,” a study from Rush University Medical Center asserts. “It could also help certain people who need a non-drug form of pain therapy.”

Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine is an umbrella term used for a multitude of new procedures that amplify your own body’s healing powers. Because these treatments do not introduce new materials into your system or require surgery, recovery time may be reduced.

Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy utilizes the growth factors that are in the platelet layer of centrifuged blood. These factors help your body naturally harness to treat inflammation, reduce pain, heal injuries, and promote tissue regeneration.

The process involves taking a sample of your own blood, and then separating out the platelet layer with a centrifuge. Your platelet-rich plasma is then reinjected where needed into injured tissue to release growth factors that stimulate and increase reparative cells.

According to the American Academy/Association of Orthopedic Medicine, “Research studies and clinical practice have shown PRP injections to be very effective at relieving pain and returning patients to their normal lives,” but we recommend consultation with your pain specialist to determine whether PRP injections are appropriate for you.

Bone Marrow Aspirated Concentrate

Like platelet-rich plasma, bone marrow aspirated concentrate (BMAC) also employs your body’s own natural healing power. But rather than using blood, BMAC retrieves bone marrow from your pelvic bone where stem cells are made. The cells are then concentrated from the marrow, and injected into a ligament, joint or vertebral disc that is causing pain.

Though further research is being conducted, clinical studies have shown that BMAC has “promising results” for those with osteoarthritis, and that the procedure involves minimal side effects.

Customized Treatment

There are several other methods that can be used to alleviate your chronic pain, including diagnostic facet nerve blocks, lumbar endoscopic discectomy, individual physical therapy sessions, and more.

We know that finding the most effective treatment for your chronic pain can be exhausting. So the care team at Alliance Spine & Pain Centers is dedicated to providing an accurate diagnosis and effective therapy to alleviate your discomfort with long-lasting results. To learn more about our treatments, and to book an appointment for consultation, visit us online, or call 770-929-9033.

person holding lower back in pain

Finding Relief from Lower Back Pain

Pain in the lower back is the leading cause of disability across the globe. In a 2012 National Health Interview Survey, more than 25% of surveyed adults reported experiencing lower back pain within the previous three months.

At best, lower back pain discomfort can be irritating. At worst, it can interfere with your daily life by disrupting your sleep and making it challenging to complete routine tasks.

But just because lower back pain is common doesn’t mean you have to suffer from its symptoms. Here’s a closer look at what causes this pain and what you can do about it.

Common Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is experienced anywhere below the bottom edge of the ribcage. The discomfort can range from a dull ache, to shooting or stabbing sensations that become so intense they even interfere with the ability to stand.

Acute pain can come on suddenly — often after an injury or strain, such as one experienced during heavy lifting. Chronic pain, on the other hand, can have more subtle causes and persist for more than three months. Regardless of the source or intensity, it’s a good idea to seek professional care for any back pain that doesn’t subside within 72 hours.

Causes

There are many potential causes of lower back pain beyond direct injury to the muscles and ligaments in the back. These causes may include:

  •       Sciatica
  •       Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal column
  •       Ruptured or herniated disk
  •       Arthritis

New Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are nearly as many ways to treat back pain as there are causes. Instead of simply dulling pain with medications, patients now have access to innovative and personalized treatments that address the underlying causes of back pain. While the recommended treatment will depend on the cause of your back pain – which is why consultation with your doctor is recommended — here are several ways the condition may be treated:

  • Injections: Often used for low back pain that radiates down the leg, injections such as epidural steroids can alleviate swelling and inflammation to eliminate pain.
  • Facet blocks: Facet joints are located on either side at the rear of the spine. Facet block injections to this area can administer anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid medication to alleviate symptoms.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: Especially effective for pain in the lower back, during this treatment electric current is administered through a small needle, heating nerve tissues and eliminating their ability to send pain signals.
  • Neurostimulation therapy: Artificial nerve stimulators can be implanted under the skin to deliver targeted electrical impulses to affected nerves. This treatment blocks pain signals, and can provide long-lasting relief.

If you’re struggling with persistent back pain and have yet to find lasting relief, turn to Alliance Spine & Pain Centers. We understand the challenges of ongoing back pain and offer personalized, state-of-the-art treatments delivered by experienced pain management specialists to help you feel like yourself again. To schedule an appointment, call (770) 929-9033, or view our full list of treatment options.

Woman holding foot in pain

What is Painful Diabetic Neuropathy (PDN)?

Painful diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that results from diabetes. The high blood sugar that frequently appears as a result of diabetes can cause permanent injury to nerves throughout your body, which causes the intense pain. PDN presents as a burning, excruciating, stabbing or intractable type of pain, or presents with tingling or numbness. Nerves in the legs and feet are most often damaged with this condition. The symptoms are often painful and debilitating. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication from diabetes and can affect up to 50% of people with diabetes. 

As a result of the nerves affected, painful diabetic neuropathy can produce pain and numbness in your legs and feet and lead to issues with your digestive system, urinary tract, heart, and blood vessels. 

The American Diabetes Association recommends that screening for diabetic neuropathy begin immediately after someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and five years after diagnosis for someone with type 1 diabetes. After that, screening is recommended annually.

Causes: 

There are four distinct types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, proximal neuropathy (diabetic polyradiculopathy), and mononeuropathy (focal neuropathy). The exact cause of each type of neuropathy is unknown. 

Researchers think that, over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar damages nerves and interferes with their ability to send signals, leading to diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar also weakens the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients.

Symptoms: 

According to Mayo Clinic, since there are four main types of diabetic neuropathy, symptoms depend on the type of diabetic neuropathy someone has and its degree of severity. Symptoms typically have a gradual onset, and many don’t notice they have a problem until they have experienced considerable nerve damage. 

Peripheral neuropathy

This type of neuropathy may also be called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy. It’s the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often worse at night, and may include:

  • Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Sharp pains or cramps
  • Increased sensitivity to touch — for some people, even a bedsheet’s weight can be painful
  • Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, and bone and joint pain

Autonomic neuropathy

The autonomic nervous system controls your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. Diabetes can affect nerves in any of these areas, possibly causing:

  • A lack of awareness that blood sugar levels are low (hypoglycemia unawareness)
  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis), causing nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite
  • Changes in the way your eyes adjust from light to dark
  • Decreased sexual response

Proximal neuropathy (diabetic polyradiculopathy)

This type of neuropathy — also called diabetic amyotrophy — often affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks or legs. It can also affect the abdominal and chest area. Symptoms are usually on one side of the body, but may spread to the other side. You may have:

  • Severe pain in a hip, thigh, or buttock
  • Eventual weak and shrinking thigh muscles
  • Difficulty rising from a sitting position
  • Severe stomach pain

Mononeuropathy (focal neuropathy)

There are two types of mononeuropathy — cranial and peripheral. Mononeuropathy refers to damage to a specific nerve. Mononeuropathy may also lead to:

  • Difficulty focusing or double vision
  • Aching behind one eye
  • Paralysis on one side of your face (Bell’s palsy)
  • Numbness or tingling in your hand or fingers, except your pinkie (little finger)
  • Weakness in your hand that may cause you to drop things

Treatment: 

Since diabetic neuropathy doesn’t have a known cure, the goals of treatment are to slow the progression of the disease, relieve pain, and manage complications/restore function. 

To Slow Disease Progression: 

  1. To slow the progression of the disease, consistent management of blood pressure levels within a normal range will help. Blood sugar levels might need to be set on an individual basis. The National Diabetes Association recommends between 80 and 130 mg/dL, which is 4.4 and 7.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) before meals and less than 180 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L) two hours after meals. 
  2. Mayo Clinic encourages slightly lower blood sugar levels for most younger people with diabetes, and slightly higher levels for older people who may be more at risk of low blood sugar complications. Mayo Clinic generally recommends the following target blood sugar levels before meals: between 80 and 120 mg/dL (4.4 and 6.7 mmol/L) for people age 59 and younger who have no other medical conditions and between 100 and 140 mg/dL (5.6 and 7.8 mmol/L) for people age 60 and older, or for those who have other medical conditions, including heart, lung or kidney disease

Pain Relief: 

Prescription drugs represent another possible therapy for diabetes-related nerve pain. Potential options for pain relieving prescription medication are: 

Anti-seizure drugs: 

The American Diabetes Association recommends pregabalin (Lyrica) and Gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin) as options. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, and swelling. 

Antidepressants: 

Antidepressants can alleviate nerve pain, even if you aren’t depressed. Tricyclic antidepressants can help with mild to moderate nerve pain. Amitriptyline, desipramine (Norpramin) and imipramine (Tofranil) are all in this category of drug. Side effects can include dry mouth and drowsiness.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another class of antidepressant that may help with nerve pain and have fewer potential side effects. The American Diabetes Association recommends duloxetine (Cymbalta) as a first treatment. Another that may be used is venlafaxine (Effexor XR). Possible side effects include nausea, sleepiness, dizziness, decreased appetite and constipation.

Physicians may combine an antidepressant drug with an anti-seizure drug. These drugs can also be used with pain-relieving medication, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin IB) or a skin patch with lidocaine (a numbing substance).

HFX™ Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS): 

It’s the only spinal cord stimulation system approved by the FDA to manage pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. 

The HFX™ Solution treatment system involves a minimally-invasive implant procedure, allowing the patient to go home the same day. The spinal cord stimulation device then delivers mild electrical pulses to the nerves, interrupting the transmission of pain signals to the brain, which reduces pain. 

Managing Complications and Restoring Function: 

The treatment a patient requires will depend on the neuropathy-related complication a person has. 

  • Urinary tract problems. Some drugs affect bladder function, so your doctor may recommend stopping or changing medications. A strict urination schedule or urinating every few hours while applying gentle pressure to the bladder area can help some bladder problems. Other methods, including self-catheterization, may be needed to remove urine from a nerve-damaged bladder.
  • Digestive problems. To relieve mild signs and symptoms of gastroparesis — indigestion, belching, nausea or vomiting — doctors suggest eating smaller, more-frequent meals. Diet changes and medications may help relieve gastroparesis, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
  • Low blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension). Treatment starts with simple lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol, drinking plenty of water, and changing positions such as sitting or standing slowly. Your doctor may also recommend compression support for your abdomen. Several medications, either alone or together, may be used to treat orthostatic hypotension.
  • Sexual dysfunction. Medications taken by mouth or injection may improve sexual function in some men, but they aren’t safe and effective for everyone. Mechanical vacuum devices may increase blood flow to the penis. Women may find relief with vaginal lubricants.

If you have any more questions, the pain specialist experts at Alliance Spine and Pain are here to help. Reach out to any of our pain specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Orthopedist examining patients back

Treatment Spotlight: Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation

Persistent pain in the back, neck, or joints is frustrating at best. At worst, it can interfere with your daily routine, making everyday tasks like standing, sitting, bending, and walking painful and exhausting. If you’ve tried home remedies and non-invasive treatments, but they’ve done little to alleviate your discomfort, radiofrequency nerve ablation could be right for you. Here’s everything you need to know before scheduling a consultation.

What Is Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?

Also called radiofrequency neurotomy, radiofrequency nerve ablation (RFA) is a technique typically performed by pain management specialists with the goal of addressing chronic pain in the back, neck, hip, or knee. RFA is widely recommended by doctors for pain that:

  • Is localized to the back, neck, hip or knee and does not radiate
  • Intensifies while lifting or twisting
  • Feels better while lying down
  • Occurs on one or both sides of the back

In general, RFA helps patients with persistent pain caused by the degeneration of joints, usually from arthritis.

How Does RFA Work?

RFA uses heat generated by radio waves to disrupt the pain signals in the spinal nerves. Typically, the treatment will be performed while the patient is awake but mildly sedated, and will involve the following steps:

  • The injection area is numbed to minimize discomfort when the needle is inserted.
  • Under x-ray guidance, the doctor inserts a needle to the appropriate nerve branch. 
  • After the needle has been placed, an active electrode is inserted through the needle to emit a controlled electrical current. This will stimulate the nerve and may briefly create some discomfort, but allows the physician to confirm that they’ve targeted the proper treatment area.
  • Upon confirming the target nerve, the physician will use an ablation method (pulsed, water-cooled, or traditional radiofrequency) to create a heat lesion, which prevents the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain. If needed, the process will be repeated on other nerves.

The process takes 30 minutes, and patients can typically return home the same day. Common side effects include temporary discomfort at the injection site and numbness of the skin.

Most patients experience relief within one to three weeks after the treatment. During recovery, patients should allow their pain levels to guide their activities. Physical therapy may be advised to help patients regain strength and mobility if their pain has limited their activity range for some time.

Who’s a Good Candidate for Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?

Although RFA isn’t considered a permanent fix for back or neck pain, it can provide lasting relief for anyone who wants to avoid or delay full back surgery but has had little success with other treatment options, such as physical therapy or lifestyle adjustments. It may be right for you if you’re experiencing chronic back or neck pain, or pain in the sacroiliac joint near the base of the spine and hip bones. Some patients experience pain relief that lasts years, and the treatment is considered a safe, well-tolerated treatment with few complications. Most people find that pain levels are much improved after the treatment.

If previous attempts to alleviate your back pain have done little to bring relief, turn to Alliance Spine & Pain. We understand the frustration of ongoing discomfort and offer state-of-the-art treatments delivered by experienced pain management specialists to help you feel like yourself again. To schedule an appointment, call (770) 929-9033 or reach out to us online.

Photo of a veteran wearing military uniform.

Pain Resources for Veterans

Originally celebrated after the end of World War I as Armistice Day in 1919, Veterans’ Day is a day of recognition and remembrance to honor all veterans — those who sacrificed their lives during wartime, and all those who have previously served. 

Alliance Spine and Pain Centers honors these remarkable men and women with some resources that can provide support and relief. 

Interventional Pain Management

Interventional pain management is designed to relieve patients of their pain using research-based solutions that go beyond medication. Specialists in interventional pain management take a multidisciplinary approach to address patients’ pain. This collaborative process can be particularly important for veterans who may experience more physical pain than nonveterans, as well as effects from the complex relationship between chronic pain and chronic stress

Physical Therapy

“Physical therapy is a profoundly important practice in caring for veterans,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asserts, because it provides an “alternative to surgery, prevents injury, increases mobility, reduces pain, and restores independence.” 

But the tie between veterans’ health and physical therapy has been strong from the beginning. The first school of physical therapy was established at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., following World War I. 

Since then, physical therapists have provided medical care for the U.S. military across multiple deployments, including active combat. A study in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Journal concludes that the versatility of physical therapy allows practitioners to accurately diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries wherever soldiers are located — reducing the need to evacuate them. Physical therapists can also often be mobile, allowing them to work with patients privately in their hometowns upon return.

Mental Health

Mental health for every individual is complicated, but especially for veterans. According to a 2014 article published by the American Public Health Association, veterans have “disproportionate rates of mental illness, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . . . depression, anxiety, and military sexual trauma.” 

These mental health complications can lead to high levels of substance abuse and homelessness in the veteran population, but also suicide, as a 2018 data report on national suicide by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs revealed.

In August of 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, S. 785. This legislation focuses on improving mental health care for veterans through several provisions, including improved access to innovative care (art and animal therapy, and increased telehealth access for rural veterans, for example). Improved diagnostic tools, transitional care, increased VA program oversight, and specific mental health needs for female veterans are also included.

Sources of Support

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides several resources, including the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, described by Military Benefits.info as “available to qualifying low-income veterans (or their spouses) who are in nursing homes or who need in-home care help with everyday tasks like dressing or bathing.” 

Depending on your location, you may find independent sources of assistance, such as Friends in Service of Heroes (F.I.S.H.), the Cohen Veterans Network, or Forces United. Make the Connection can also help you locate resources based on zip code. 

These national organizations also provide support to veterans and their families:

Alliance Spine and Pain Centers is grateful for our veterans, and for the opportunities we have to assist them. For state-of-the-art therapies to address a wide range of pain, schedule an appointment online or call (770) 929-9033.

Five Ways to Prevent Stiff Joints in the Morning

Ever wake up and feel so sore you’re not sure you can get out of bed? Morning joint stiffness is a common complaint among older adults, and several changes contribute to this symptom as we age.

One major cause of this pain is drying cartilage — the spongy cushioning that helps to absorb shock. A decline in production of synovial fluid can also mean joints are less lubricated. Additionally, stiff tendons and weak muscles become even tighter due to lack of activity during sleep. Finally, the symptoms of arthritis, a condition commonly associated with aging, can be more severe in the morning.

No matter what’s causing your morning pain, you don’t have to live with stiff, achy joints every day. Here are a few ways to get your joints going at the same time you do.

1. Stretch in Bed

Pop right out of bed upon waking up and you’re sure to feel like the Tin Man. Instead, try a few gentle stretches while you’re still lying down to gradually wake the joints up. Start by moving your neck from side to side, then stretching the upper body. Rotate hands and wrists in small circles, then activate the shoulders and elbows with similar gestures. Continue this circulation slowly down the body, including hips, knees, ankles, and toes in a way that feels good to you.

2. Take a Hot Shower

Make your way to the shower after climbing from bed. Turn the water temperature up to the highest comfortable setting, then allow your stiff joints to reap the soothing benefits of heat. Stay under the spray for at least 10 minutes to expose your joints to both water and the steam, which can help reduce inflammatory agents that contribute to arthritis.

3. Move Throughout the Day

Vigorous exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do with sore joints, but low-impact physical activity is one of the best treatments for joint pain. It strengthens supporting muscles, boosts bone strength, provides energy, and can help control your weight to reduce the strain on your joints. Regular movement also promotes restful sleep, giving your body the opportunity to repair overnight. Work with your care provider to come up with a plan that incorporates low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming or cycling, as well as stretching and strengthening moves.

4. Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to the Arthritis Foundation, following a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce inflammation that causes joint pain and stiffness. The dietary approach prioritizes inflammation-fighting agents, such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish and monounsaturated fats in nuts and seeds. It incorporates antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and whole grains. It also limits processed foods, which often contribute to inflammation.

5. Assess Your Mattress

While the right mattress can alleviate joint pain, the wrong one can aggravate it. If you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep, mattress quality becomes even more compelling, as you’re spending a third of your life there! The Sleep Foundation recommends models that provide both cushioning and support, prevent sinking, and keep the spine in proper position.

At Alliance Spine and Pain, we don’t just mask joint pain or stiffness with medication — we use individualized treatments to prevent or relieve them. To find out how we can ease your joint pain and stiffness, schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Close-up of a woman holding her knee

How Does PRP Provide Pain Relief?

Many musculoskeletal conditions can be notoriously challenging to address. Whether caused by sports injuries or general wear and tear of the joints, these issues are common in adults and can involve ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and other soft tissues. Low back pain, in particular, is believed to affect 568 million people across the globe, diminishing mobility and dexterity, and contributing to other health issues if left unaddressed.

Treatments such as physical therapy and lifestyle modifications can reduce symptoms. But in some cases, you may need a more powerful approach while avoiding invasive surgeries that require significant downtime. Fortunately, there’s a pain management solution that can address the root cause of musculoskeletal pain without the need for surgical interventions: PRP.

What Is PRP?

PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma, a treatment that leverages the patient’s own blood cells (specifically platelets) containing growth factors. PRP has the ability to:

  •       Stimulate cell proliferation
  •       Accelerate healing
  •       Facilitate tissue regeneration

PRP therapy is a cutting-edge treatment for joint injuries and other musculoskeletal conditions. The process is simple and minimally invasive. During the procedure, a small sample of blood is taken. The blood sample is then placed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the other components in the blood. The concentrated PRP is then redelivered to the body via injection.

How Does PRP Alleviate Pain?

When the platelet-rich portion of the plasma is isolated and injected into an area where the tissue has been injured or otherwise compromised, it can stimulate healing and increase the number of reparative cells at the site. Due to the powerful growth factors, PRP has been shown to improve tissue strength, reduce inflammation, and increase muscle regeneration. Thanks to increased strength and elevation of healing from PRP therapy, individuals with both acute injuries and chronic tendon, ligament, or muscle issues can experience reduced pain levels. 

Because the treatment uses the patient’s own blood, risks of rejection, transmissible infections, or allergic reaction are low. There is little to no downtime required, and most patients can resume their normal activities immediately after receiving injections.

What Conditions Can PRP Help With?

Results for PRP can vary based on the area of treatment and the nature of the injury or condition. PRP is commonly used to treat the following conditions:

  •       Chronic tendon injuries, including tennis elbow and Achilles tendinitis
  •       Acute ligament and muscle injuries, such as pulled hamstrings
  •       Osteoarthritis in the knee, hip, shoulder, and spine
  •       Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
  •       Plantar fasciitis
  •       Ankle and ligament sprains

PRP therapy engages the body’s natural healing process, which means it may take some time for full results to be realized. Pain relief may increase gradually over several weeks, but subsequent injections may be needed to achieve optimal results.

If you’re curious about how PRP injections could reduce your pain levels, contact Alliance Spine and Pain Centers. Our physicians use safe, evidence-based techniques to provide pain relief so you can return to your normal lifestyle. Schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Athletic senior man in a blue t-shirt going for a jog outside.

Preventing Pain During Healthy Aging Month

September is Healthy Aging Month, which spotlights the importance of maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health throughout life’s changes. Thanks to modern medical advancements, the 65+ population has risen in the last ten years and is expected to grow by an additional 45% by 2060.

This increased longevity makes it even more important to ensure you can and will enjoy yourself through your golden years. But the aches and pains that come with age-related conditions have the potential to impact your physical health, and affect you emotionally and mentally, too.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep pain at bay and continue your favorite activities.

Common Causes of Age-Related Pain

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the pain created by the wear and tear your body experiences over the years might be simply considered “nuisance pain.” As we age, the cartilage between bones diminishes naturally, and discs in the spinal column may lose moisture and therefore provide less shock absorption. But pain from other conditions can worsen these effects.

For instance, the Arthritis Foundation notes that at least 54 million adults have some version of arthritis. The most common form is osteoarthritis: characterized by swollen, painful joints caused by a breakdown of cartilage. While osteoarthritis is a common age-related condition among many, athletes and individuals with physical jobs may be more susceptible. 

Other chronic conditions commonly seen in aging populations may also contribute to pain. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may all impact your body’s ability to combat inflammation and deterioration, reducing your capacity to function optimally. Further health issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle, such as joint stiffness and frailty, may also contribute to pain. 

Whether or not you’re already managing a preexisting condition, here’s what you can do to minimize discomfort through adulthood.

Pain Prevention Through the Ages

Stay Active

Our bodies are meant to move. Joint-friendly exercises can support mobility without compounding existing damage. For instance, biking and swimming take the load off your joints while keeping you active.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Staying within a healthy weight range can reduce the strain on your body. Obesity increases the risk for arthritis, along with other health issues, but maintaining your weight by eating a nutrient-rich diet and staying physically active can mitigate your risks.

Don’t Overdo It

Muscle fibers become less dense with age, making you more injury-prone. Ask for help when needed to prevent a muscle strain, and practice bodyweight or light weight-bearing exercises, (such as squats or bicep curls) to build up your strength gradually and avoid injuries.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration promotes shock absorption. Your cartilage and spinal discs need moisture to stay healthy, so pay attention to your body’s thirst cues. Ideally, you should be drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and swap out sodas and other calorie- or sugar-rich beverages for water when possible.

Address Persistent Pain

While we can expect certain pains to come and go as we age, intense or persistent pain should never be ignored. Discomfort is the body’s way of telling us something’s wrong, so professional help is essential for addressing the root issue. 

If you’re experiencing chronic or acute pain, turn to Alliance Spine and Pain for an effective care plan. Our team is dedicated to bringing you relief through state-of-the-art treatments and a personalized approach to patient care. Call 770-929-9033 or schedule an appointment online 

Young boy in yellow shorts is playing outside with his golden retriever.

How Childhood Habits Can Affect Chronic Pain

Though children sometimes seem indestructible — bouncing back from illness and injury more quickly than the grownups around them — their growing bodies are, in fact, susceptible to pain. And behavior patterns they establish now could prevent more serious suffering later in their lives.

Here are some things to stay aware of to help children avoid chronic pain, especially at the beginning of a new school year. 

Overburdened by Backpacks

If your child regularly uses a backpack, improper adjustment can cause aches and pains in their shoulders, neck, and spine. Keep these things in mind while packing them up for the day:

  • Weigh the bag and its contents carefully. Altogether, the pack should weigh only 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Extra books can be carried in their arms, if necessary. 
  • Make sure the bag has two straps, and that both are secured over the child’s shoulders, so that the pack rides high between their shoulder blades and does not drop below their waist. 
  • Consider a rolling backpack/suitcase if that suits their style and will help make maneuvering easier. 

Keep Them Moving 

Everyone benefits from regular physical activity, but especially children. “Exercise leads to improved motor skills (such as hand-eye co-ordination), better thinking and problem-solving, stronger attention skills and improved learning,” according to About Kids Health. “Not surprisingly, these all combine to benefit school performance.”

Getting into the habit of physical activity now may also help prevent chronic pain later. Besides the other general health benefits of exercise,  Utah State University Heart Extension also reports that “Physical activity reduces chronic pain by building muscle strength and flexibility, reducing fatigue, reducing pain sensitivity, and reducing inflammation.”

Sedentary school schedules, a reduction in physical education or recess, and the appeal of video games and tablet time may make it challenging to get a child active, however. But combatting these trends doesn’t require a grueling sports schedule. “Every time you and your child throw a softball, swim a lap, climb a flight of stairs, walk to the store, or carry packages, your health and fitness levels are improving,” reminds Parents magazine

Even 10-30 minutes a day of helping with outside chores, climbing on a playground, or running through a homemade obstacle course can make a positive impact. 

But Warm Them Up, First

Though little ones might be eager to dive right into physical activity, Harvard Health cautions against doing so. This is because sending “cold” muscles into abrupt action can cause injury, due to a lack of blood flow or proper oxygen. 

Before sending them into the pool, onto the trampoline jump zone, or across the ball field, give kids a quick warm-up to elevate their heart rates and move joints and muscles through a basic range of motion. NerdFitness recommends some of the following for adults, but they can work for children too:

  1. Marching in place while swinging arms
  2. Jumping or walking jacks
  3. Arm circles and shoulder shrugs
  4. Hip rotations (like stepping over a fence) or hip circles (like you’re hula hooping)
  5. Squats or lunges

All of these elements in combination can help prevent injury and more complex chronic pain issues later in life. Though a child may not yet suffer from the same causes for pain that you do, we’re still here to help (and especially so if they are experiencing pain). Schedule an appointment with us online or call 770-929-9033 to investigate any pain they are suffering, or discuss an individualized plan for prevention.

Grilled salmon on fresh vegetables on wooden table

Chronic Pain-Friendly Recipes

Easy, Healthy Options to Boost Your Immune System

Learning about the connection between diet and chronic pain is an important piece of any integrated treatment plan. 

At Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, we are dedicated to finding multiple solutions to relieve your pain. Below is a collection of chronic pain-friendly recipes that will help boost your immune system and your taste buds at the same time.

Rainbow Fruit Skewers 

Flatlay photo of rainbow fruit skewers, chronic pain-friendly recipe

“Eating the rainbow” provides your body with phytonutrients that help protect it from disease. With these simple skewers, you can accomplish that in a single breakfast or snack.

Ingredients

  • 7 raspberries
  • 7 hulled strawberries
  • 7 tangerine segments
  • 7 cubes peeled mango*
  • 7 peeled pineapple chunks*
  • 7 peeled kiwi fruit chunks
  • 7 green grapes
  • 7 red grapes
  • 14 blueberries
  • Wooden skewers

To assemble, slide one piece of each onto the skewer in the order listed. If it’s challenging to find wooden skewers, you can mix everything into a bowl and enjoy it with a spoon! 

* If mango is difficult to come by, replace it with cantaloupe. And banana chunks may substitute (or be an addition to) the pineapple. 

Pan-Seared Fatty Fish

Grilled salmon on fresh vegetables on wooden table, chronic pain-friendly recipe

Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids — essential fats for inflammation reduction. Because our bodies cannot generate these fats on their own, getting them from your diet is important. 

Healthline recommends 12 different fatty fish, including mahi-mahi, striped bass, and wild Alaskan salmon. Though finding the fish flavor you enjoy most may take some experimenting, cooking it doesn’t have to.

When selecting your filet, The Stay at Home Chef recommends finding the freshest possible — one with only a mild fish smell. 

For pan-searing, you’ll need:

  • fish fillets
  • seasoning or marinade (your choice)
  • cooking oil
  • acid (lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, etc)
  • heavy skillet
  • sharp knife

Trim the skin from your filets if you prefer not to eat it. Then sprinkle both sides with your seasoning (simple salt and pepper can do the trick), or marinate it for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat your heavy skillet with a coating of cooking oil until the oil shimmers. Place your filet in the oil, and cook until it is ⅔ done. (Cooking time will change based on the thickness of your filet, but you’ll be able to see the color change from translucent to more opaque along the side of the filet.) Flip the filet over, sprinkle with your acid of choice, and cook the rest of the way through. You’ll know your fish is finished when it flakes off with a fork and is fully opaque.

Whole Grain and Legume Salad

Flat lay of a quinoa salad with broccoli, legumes, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, chronic pain-friendly recipe

It’s easy to combine these two health foods into one meal, once you understand the basics. Though you may be concerned that cooking grains will be time-consuming and fussy, Epicurious recommends treating them like pasta by boiling them in water and draining them through a sieve.

Select whatever legumes you’d like to add (many are easy to find canned). Other vegetables, cheese, nuts, and dressing can also change up the flavor and texture. As with your fish, experiment to find the flavors you enjoy most.

If you’d like to talk about how your lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, can help manage your pain, schedule an appointment by calling 770-929-9033 or reach out to us online.