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Blond woman supporting a loved one with chronic pain

How to Support a Loved One with Chronic Pain

Battling chronic pain is an obvious challenge for those who suffer from it. But it also impacts those around them — especially their concerned loved ones. Knowing how to provide support can be complex to navigate, but may provide a crucial coping mechanism. 

At Alliance Spine & Pain Centers, we are dedicated to resolving problems for the whole patient, which includes their loved ones. Here are some ways you can help your loved one. 

Be Understanding

“You can’t completely understand your partner’s pain, but you can listen and learn,” recommends MigraineAgain. “Just knowing what they’re going through can make it easier for both of you to handle the ups and downs.” Staying patient, being adaptive, and arming yourself with information are all things you can do to assist everyone caught in the web that chronic pain can spin. 

The Power of Positive Physical Touch

Positive physical touch is good for both your mood and your spirit, according to one study in the Western Journal of Communication. The Journals of Gerontology also indicates that experiencing close physical contact, such as hugging, receiving a pat on the back, or getting a gentle neck massage, can yield higher oxytocin levels.

Why is that important? Oxytocin has the ability to undo the potential negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol. When imbalanced by stress, higher levels of cortisol can add to widespread inflammation, and increased pain. This cycle may put the body in a state of continual fight or flight that makes it even harder to find relief

So when you’re at a loss for what else to do, offer some positive touch. 

What (Not) to Say

Words have the power to both help and harm, especially when the listener may already be struggling with stress, depression, physical discomfort, or changes in lifestyle their chronic pain may cause. Being mindful of your words can make a difference.

  • Be cautious of “toxic positivity” that’s intended to help but may come across as dismissive. “It could be worse,” is one example of this. 
  • Put the emphasis on validation
    • “Saying ‘I understand that *insert chronic illness* can be debilitating. I can’t imagine what it’s like, but I am here to support you in your journey” is what CreakyJoints recommends. Commending them on what they are doing may also prove helpful.
  • Recommending solutions is nice of you, but could be interpreted as an insult. Instead of saying “Have you tried (fill in the blank recommendation),” Duke University’s The Chronicle suggests leave it at something like, “Explore this information if you want to.” 

Keep Up the Engagement

Though someone suffering chronic pain may not always feel “normal,” they still want to be. Remain respectfully aware of their limitations, but invite them to outings and activities. If they can’t attend (or have to cancel at the last minute), remember not to take it personally. Stay engaged in their lives and keep them engaged in yours, too. 

Find alternatives to the tasks they can’t easily perform. “Perhaps they can no longer do yardwork, but they may still be able to help with cooking, setting the table, washing the dishes, caring for children, handling family finances, making phone calls or shopping by phone,” The New York Times recommends. “Feeling useful can bolster a patient’s self-esteem and mood.”

Taking care of yourself is as important as tending to your loved one. And we’re here to help. If you need guidance for a loved one’s pain management plan, we encourage you to schedule an appointment by calling 770-929-9033 or reaching out to us online.

Grandmother and child gardening outside.

Tips for Managing Chronic Pain in the Summer

Chronic pain can impact your daily routine no matter what the weather is like, but many people find that the heat can exacerbate symptoms. While experts can’t always identify the exact mechanisms behind this correlation, people with the following conditions often report worsened symptoms during the hot weather:

  •       Arthritis
  •       Multiple sclerosis
  •       Headaches and migraines

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the heat’s effects on your pain so you can enjoy your summer.

Take a Swim

Water therapy has been shown to improve pain, quality of life, and fatigue in patients with pain conditions. Being in the water has multiple benefits: it can reduce the gravity that strains joints, muscles, and other tissues, increase circulation, and manage inflammation. Whether in the pool, lake, or ocean, see if you notice the benefits of a swim session.

Do What You Can to Stay Cool

It’s challenging to avoid the heat when you want to enjoy outdoor activities. You can still spend time outside, but try these tips to avoid extreme heat:

  •       Bring a tent, parasol, or other type of shade to the beach
  •       Plan any yard work, errands, or other activities for the morning or evening
  •       Wear a hat to keep your face cool
  •       Stay in the shade whenever possible
  •       Make sure the AC in your car and home are working efficiently

Trim Down Your Travel Time

If you’re planning a summer excursion, make attempts to break up travel into shorter, more manageable legs. Long periods of sitting put immense stress on the neck, arms, back, and legs, and can therefore contribute to widespread pain. Aim to take an hourly break to get out and stretch, which is also beneficial for circulation and preventing blood clots.

Consider the Air Quality

When you spend more time outdoors, it’s especially important to monitor air quality levels. Air pollution can cause cellular injury and inflammation, which puts added stress on the systems that are already inflamed and causing pain. Use the Air Quality Index (AQI) online tool to check your area’s levels before heading out for the day.

Keep Up with Meals

Whether you have a packed vacation itinerary or the heat suppresses your appetite, you may find yourself eating less during the summer. While you can listen to your body’s hunger cues, be mindful to get plenty of nutrition each day. 

Many summer-fresh foods are high in nutrients that can help you combat pain, too. For instance, according to the USDA, cherries have compounds that can help calm pain and inflammation.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration reduces pain by helping the body fight inflammation by flushing out toxins and keeping joints well-lubricated. You’ll lose more water when you sweat in the summer, so that’s another reason to take in plenty of fluids. Aim to get at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water each day, and snack on foods with high water content such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber. 

For an effective pain management strategy that helps you feel your best in any weather, call 770-929-9033 or schedule an appointment online.

Girl sneezing and blowing her nose into a tissue

How Do Allergies Affect Chronic Pain?

You may already be aware of some of the common factors that contribute to chronic pain, including lack of sleep and inflammatory foods. Yet there’s an often-overlooked factor that can also worsen discomfort in some people: allergies.

Here’s how your allergies could extend beyond sneezes and watery eyes to exacerbate your chronic pain. 

How Are Allergies & Chronic Pain Linked?

Allergies impact your respiratory system, immune system, and epidermal (skin) tissue, so it should come as no surprise that they can also affect underlying pain conditions.

Allergies are caused by an overactive immune response. While the immune system should only kick in to attack viruses, bacteria, and other harmful agents, it also reacts to certain triggers which are harmless, such as specific foods and environmental factors. During this immune response, the body releases histamine, leading to inflammation, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. 

As allergy symptoms reach their peak, they add physical stress that can compound existing pain.

The immune system and inflammation are intertwined, so the inflammatory response caused by allergies can also worsen the widespread inflammation underlying chronic pain. Symptoms like achiness may therefore feel more intense, especially if you have an inflammatory pain condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. You may also feel more worn out due to the physical strain of both the allergy symptoms and the persistent pain.

What Can You Do to Alleviate the Issue? 

It’s likely impossible to avoid your allergy triggers altogether, especially if your triggers are seasonal allergens such as ragweed and pollen. But don’t despair: there are several things you can do to alleviate your symptoms.

Control Exposure

For seasonal allergies, try to limit your exposure by keeping the windows closed and staying indoors when the pollen count is highest. Consider having outdoor time when your allergies are least likely to be affected (just after it rains, for example). Shower after being outside to prevent getting allergens in your bedding. 

Equip Your Home

Ceiling fans can kick up dust and pollen, so cool your home with an air conditioner instead. You can also purchase special HVAC filters designed for allergy sufferers. These models filter out air particles more efficiently to promote better indoor air quality. Additionally, run a humidifier to keep the air moist, as dry nasal passageways can worsen sinus irritation. Air purifying systems are also available if your allergy symptoms are particularly intense.

Consider Treatment

There are several treatment options available for seasonal allergies. Some patients have success with over-the-counter allergy medications, while others pursue in-office allergy shots to help control their immune response. If you’re unsure which triggers affect you most acutely, you might also consider allergy testing. Doctors use a scratch test method to apply potential allergens to the surface of your skin, then determine which are most aggravating to you. Once your allergies are diagnosed, your doctor can recommend treatment options such as immunotherapy, which allows you to gradually develop a tolerance to the allergen. 

While symptoms such as sinus congestion, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and watery eyes are irritating enough on their own, they can become near-unbearable when coupled with chronic pain. If your chronic pain is wearing you down, contact Alliance Spine and Pain Centers to explore options for relief, or call (770) 929-9033. 

Smiling family enjoying a holiday meal together, discussinghow to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays.

How To Avoid Chronic Pain Flare-Ups Over the Holidays

The holidays are an amazing and cheerful time for many of us. However, for some, this joyful season can be more difficult due to chronic pain. From extra time spent on the couch to cold temperatures outside, there are a number of factors this time of year that can make chronic pain worse. Keep reading for our tips on how to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays!

Keep Moving 

Many people think of the holidays as a time to crash on the couch and they end up spending more time resting than being active. While it is certainly important to relax and rest, it’s equally as important to keep your body moving. 

If daily walks or strengthening exercises help keep your chronic pain at bay, don’t stop these habits for more than a day or two at a time. You can easily incorporate movement through walks, bike rides, or hikes into holiday plans by inviting friends and family to join. Alternatively, if you prefer to get this exercise in solo, plan to do it first thing in the morning to avoid conflicts with holiday plans.

Whatever your time constraints or holiday plans look like, there are ways to continue your exercise regimen and remain active. You just have to make it a priority!

Watch What You Eat  

During holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving, it’s easy to pile your plate up high with all kinds of goodies. While we want to encourage you to enjoy without guilt, remember to do so in moderation. 

Over-indulging not only leads to digestive discomfort but even causes chronic pain flare-ups, which takes away from your holiday fun. If your pain management or general health plans established by your doctor involve specific dietary restrictions, be sure to discuss with them how best to stay on track during the holiday season.

Mind the Temperature  

For some people, cold temperatures can cause major issues for pain flares. If this is true for you, keep time outside to a minimum and be sure to bundle up when you are outside.

If pain caused by cold weather becomes serious or unbearable, it’s important to talk with a pain management specialist. They can work with you to develop a management plan and ensure your holiday season isn’t spent suffering. 

Moderate Alcohol Consumption  

While the effects of alcohol may lessen symptoms of chronic pain for some people, they can make things much worse for others. This reasoning is why it’s important to pay close attention to when your chronic pain flares up and what behaviors might be associated. 

Did your pain feel worse the morning after drinking heavily? What about after having a glass of wine? Tracking your habits and how they relate to chronic pain can identify what could be causing your issues. Be sure you share these observations with your doctor to help inform your management plan.

If the holidays are a major issue for you due to chronic pain flares, our pain management specialists are here to help you focus on what matters most during this season. Reach out to us by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033 if you have any more questions on how to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays.

Doctor holding the words, Regenerative Medicine, in hand (abstractly)

What is Regenerative Medicine?

The Chronic in Chronic Pain

The “chronic” in chronic pain speaks to a hard truth: medicine hasn’t been able to cure the underlying causes of many debilitating conditions.

We’ve known certain things to be impossible. Damaged intervertebral discs can’t be repaired. Some ligament injuries won’t heal. Some joint damage is irreversible. Cartilage, once lost, will not regrow.

Treatment has been limited to helping patients manage the pain caused by these conditions. Sometimes with dangerous opioid painkillers. Sometimes with more effective interventional pain management treatments. But always with the understanding that the root cause of the pain will remain.

Regenerative Medicine Gives New Hope

There’s a revolution underway that offers new hope to people suffering from chronic pain. Regenerative medicine harnesses and amplifies the body’s own healing power to treat conditions once thought untreatable.

According to the National Institutes of Health, regenerative medicine “holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by stimulating previously irreparable organs to heal themselves.”

Some effective regenerative medicine protocols are already available, and others are showing great promise in ongoing clinical trials.

Today, regenerative medicine is empowering us to heal connective tissues, repair damaged cartilage, and rebuild fractured bones.

Tomorrow’s potential is even more exciting. The NIH invites us all to “Imagine a world where there is no donor organ shortage, where victims of spinal cord injuries can walk, and where weakened hearts are replaced. This is the long-term promise of regenerative medicine.”

That’s a vision we’re excited to make real for our patients who suffer from chronic pain.

The Miracles of Today

At Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, we’re using cutting-edge clinical regenerative medicine protocols to heal some of the conditions that lead to chronic pain. In many cases, the benefits go beyond pain relief to include increased mobility and restored ability. The results have transformed the lives of many patients.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy has been used since the 1990s to support the healing of bone after spinal injuries and to restore soft tissues after plastic surgery. More recently, PRP has gained wider attention treating the sports injuries of star athletes including Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal, and Hines Ward. Today, PRP is used to treat tendonitis, torn ligaments, damaged muscles, and some kinds of inflammation.

PRP comes from your own blood, separated in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets and other growth factors. We then inject it into the damaged tissue to promote healing. The procedure usually only takes about 30 minutes. Side effects are minimal, and the risks are low: you’re healing yourself with your own blood components.

Some clinical applications of PRP already have solid evidence of effectiveness. Others are showing promising early results but need further study. At Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, we’re helping move the science forward on this powerful protocol.

Alpha-2-Macroglobulin (A2M)

Alpha-2-macroglobulin (A2M) is a naturally occurring protease inhibitor. Among other functions in the body, it inhibits degradation of cartilage. And it helps other biologic processes repair cartilage more effectively.

For people suffering from osteoarthritis (OA), cartilage breaks down more quickly than it can be repaired. This can lead to debilitating pain in the spine and joints.

We use patented APIC™ technology, developed by Cytonics, to concentrate the naturally occurring A2M in your own blood. We then inject it into damaged joints to reduce further damage and promote healing.

Bone Marrow Aspirated Concentrate (BMAC)

Bone marrow aspirated concentrate (BMAC) is a concentration of your body’s own mesenchymal stem cells and platelets. For people suffering from more severe arthritis that has not responded to more conservative treatments, BMAC can help alleviate pain and promote healing.

An NIH study of BMAC as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis found that, “On average, patients experienced an 84.31% decrease in resting pain, a 61.95% decrease in active pain, and a 55.68% increase in functionality score at the final follow-up.”

We extract bone marrow from your hip, then separate it in a centrifuge to concentrate the stem cells and platelets. We then inject it into the damaged joints. Your body’s own healing processes do the rest.

The Promises of Tomorrow

The body has remarkable natural healing powers. Through regenerative medicine, we’re already bringing relief to many people suffering from chronic pain. And we’re advancing the field toward even greater possibilities.

Maybe, one day we will be regenerating spinal cords, restoring intervertebral discs, and returning joints to full functionality. We’re working hard to bring that day closer, so that we can heal more people with chronic pain and get them back to living their fullest lives.

To explore whether regenerative medicine might be right for your chronic pain, make an appointment today. We’re here for you and ready to help.

Asian couple holidng hands on beach.

Learn How To Take Control Of Your Chronic Pain Event

We look forward to seeing you at this Control Your Pain event sponsored by:

If you suffer from chronic and debilitating pain, we look forward to seeing you at this free seminar to hear about new technologies and treatments for neuropathic pain sufferers. Pain is very personal and is the most common reason why Americans seek medical attention. Conventional treatments for chronic pain vary depending on the severity. Come join us to discuss various options to control your pain and learn what might work for you.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
6:00PM
OR
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
6:00PM
Hampton Inn Atlanta Perimeter Conference Room
769 Hammond Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30328
Snacks and refreshments will be provided. Family & guests welcome.

Please RSVP by phone or text to 404-993-5362 or online at CYPevents.com/1900 for the March 27th date and CYPevents.com/1901 for the April 30th date.

Justin Minyard discusses how balanced pain management has helped him overcome opioid addiction.

A woman with chronic pain and depression, holding her spine in pain

Chronic Pain and Depression: Helpful Tips

Many of us have suffered from, or have loved ones who have suffered from, chronic pain. Feeling physically uncomfortable on a near-constant basis can be exhausting and discouraging, and at times can feel hopeless.  Chronic pain also affects those around you, as it is difficult to see someone you love struggling to perform basic tasks or unable to do the things they used to enjoy. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that between 60% and 80% of individuals suffering with chronic pain also struggle with a co-occurring mental health condition. One of the most common problems faced by those with ongoing pain management issues is depression. 

Frequently, the only recourse offered for coping with depression is another pill. However, anti-depressant medications are often insufficient for ameliorating the symptoms associated with chronic pain and do little to change a person’s actual behavior or quality of life.  Below you will find some guidance on what you can do to help manage your chronic pain and depression, and to be an active participant in your own recovery.

A Common Chronic Pain Question

Q: What can someone with chronic pain do to avoid or help reduce depression?

A: Pain interferes with your ability to sleep, do your daily chores, and to have a good quality of life. Therefore it is not surprising that over two-thirds of those who have chronic pain issues report struggling with depression. Constant pain alters the neurochemical output in your brain and can negatively impact your entire view of life. Nevertheless, there are two basic steps you can take when you feel yourself sliding into depression these steps will help you regain control without having to take another pill.

First of all, remember to breathe!

When a person is in pain their breathing speeds up, even if they don’t realize it. Try slowing your breathing and focusing on breathing from your diaphragm (belly breathing), this type of breathing exercise will help you feel calm and relaxed. A quiet state of mind leads to a reduction in perceived pain and a better mood. There are Smartphone Apps like “Calm” and “Relax Meditation” that can help by providing guided breathing exercises.

Secondly, move!

It is common to be afraid of moving when you are in pain, fearing it may cause you to hurt more, but sitting too long will worsen your pain! For every 20 minutes, you sit you should get up and move around for at least 2 minutes. Try taking a short walk or do some stretching. Movement triggers the production of “feel good” chemicals in our brains, helping to reduce both pain and sadness.

If you start these activities regularly and you still feel depressed, don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are trained mental health professionals who can work with you and give you tools to learn to manage your mood and your pain. You may not be able to alter the underlying reality, but you can change how you perceive and think about it. With the right tools, you can manage chronic pain and depression.

A man holding his neck in pain, Understanding chronic pain.

Understanding Chronic Pain

Intended as a warning sign of physical injury, pain that lasts too long can become a disease of its own. Chronic pain is a condition in which pain has occurred for three months or longer and often long after the initial injury has healed. Understanding chronic pain is an important step toward finding the proper treatment for this life-changing and potentially debilitating health condition.

The Pain Signaling Process

The nervous system is comprised of the peripheral nervous system, the nerves that run throughout the body, and the central nervous system, the spinal cord, and brain. Stimuli are anything that triggers transmissions through the nervous system, such as a hot stove, soft animal, or sharp needle. Sensations such as pain are normally perceived after stimuli in the periphery triggers a transmission that is relayed through the spine to the brain where it is interpreted as heat, cold, pain, etc.

Reflexes, which use similar nerve transmission pathways, are often interpreted at the level of the spinal cord. The shorter distance between the site of stimuli and the location of interpretation allows quicker responses to potentially dangerous situations.

Chronic Pain: Pathological Pain Signaling

Long-term pain transmissions can lead to alterations in the pain signaling process. The brain becomes so accustomed to recognizing the presence of painful stimuli from a particular location that the brain’s neural pathways are re-shaped to facilitate the transmission of this signal. Eventually, the pain signaling process related to a particular body site is so well established that it no longer requires stimuli: the brain senses pain even after the stimuli have been removed. In addition, the reflexes and other sensations that utilize the same signaling pathways can also be altered. This concept of re-wired neural pathways is essential to the understanding of appropriate treatments for pain that has become chronic.

Pain Management

Many pain-relieving medications are effective because they reduce the extent to which stimuli can trigger a peripheral nerve. This usually means alleviating swelling and inflammation at the site of the injury. When pain has become chronic, however, the altered pain processing requires treatment that targets the brain as the site of pain relief.
Until recently, few treatments were available to appropriately manage unremitting pain. Opioid medications were once a mainstay for the treatment of pain that has become chronic. While these drugs are essential for short-term and strong pain management, they can carry unwanted side effects and are not the most appropriate option for long-term pain management. New classes of drugs, as well as targeted drug delivery techniques, provide more options for delivering long-term pain treatments right where they are needed and with fewer side effects.

The special care and treatment required for these unique pain conditions make choosing the right health care provider essential for managing pain that has become chronic. Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are proud to provide a variety of long-term pain management options at its 15 locations around the Atlanta metro area. Trust Alliance Spine and Pain Centers to provide lasting relief from long-lasting pain conditions.