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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.

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 

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.

Photo of Alliance physicians next to Nalu Medical Reps

Alliance Physicians Participate in Groundbreaking Nalu Medical Study

At Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, we provide life-changing pain relief for chronic pain patients through innovative, individualized treatments. Several Alliance Spine and Pain Centers physicians have been initiated by Nalu Medical to participate in their first United States clinical post-market, open-label, multi-center study.

The study title is Spinal Cord Stimulation in the Treatment of Chronic, Intractable Pain Using the NaluTM Neurostimulation System (nPowerTM-US). Dr. Jordan Tate is the Principal Investigator for the Alliance sites and Dr. David Rosenfeld are the Co-Investigators. 

Interested in learning more about Nalu Medical treatments? Schedule an appointment at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers or contact our referral department.

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.

Child with kyphosis being examined.

What is Kyphosis?

Almost three million Americans experience kyphosis in their lifetime. Also known as hunchback syndrome, this common medical issue impacts the upper back and can lead to issues with posture and pain. While it may not be as common of a name as osteoporosis or arthritis, it still can impact anyone’s quality of life.

What is kyphosis? The experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are here to explain this medical condition. 

Explanation of Kyphosis

The best way to describe kyphosis is a severe curve on the upper back. While it’s more common in older women, sometimes children will develop it too. What causes kyphosis? Here are the most common reasons:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Disk degeneration 
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer treatments 
  • Previous fractures in your bones

Main Symptoms of Kyphosis

Unfortunately, symptoms aren’t visible in the early stages of kyphosis. However, a curve in the upper back can be an early sign of kyphosis. Sometimes, back pain and stiffness will also accommodate that symptom.

Treatment Options 

Here are the treatment options that medical professionals recommend for those experiencing kyphosis:

  • Consuming more calcium and vitamin D
  • Avoiding smoking products and alcohol
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain relievers, whether over-the-counter or prescribed
  • Certain medication, such as osteoporosis focused options
  • Surgery

If you have any more questions about kyphosis, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Morning meditation. Tranquil good-looking woman meditating with closed eyes while having connected fingertips, learning What Mental Exercises Can Help with Pain Management.

What Mental Exercises Can Help with Pain Management

Chronic pain often negatively impacts the mental health of those who have issues. However, the brain can also be one of the toughest and most successful weapons against flaring pain. Mental exercises can be extremely effective practices to add to other pain management treatments. Focusing on your brain, distracting yourself, and keeping yourself positive can all make a difference.

To learn what mental exercises can help with pain management, keep reading below.

Do These Mental Exercises to Help Manage Your Pain

First and foremost, we want to stress that these exercises cannot replace the advice of a physician. Before you try any of these, please first speak with your trusted pain management specialist about how these might work for you and your specific pain.

That being said:

  • Lean into your breath. Using proper breathing techniques is a huge element of many encouraging mental exercises. For dealing with chronic pain, it can help to bring focus to other things besides your discomfort in addition to often triggering relaxation in your muscles and body. Practice deep breathing for these benefits by inhaling as much as you can and as slow as you can. Do the same for the exhale. Spend several minutes a day doing this, especially if you’re experiencing a flare-up of pain as deep breathing can often help the pain pass.
  • Focus Elsewhere with Meditation. A fantastic tool that many people often utilize, meditation can help bring your attention elsewhere besides your pain, strengthen your mental focus, make you feel more positive, and reduce stress. No wonder people with chronic pain often meditate! 
  • Gentle Yoga and Flow. Yoga and other gentle flow practices like Tai Chi incorporate both of the above practices while also helping to keep your body fit and stretched. When starting yoga or Tai Chi, make sure to pick exercises that won’t cause more pain for you later down the road. Plus, don’t push yourself too hard.
  • Keep Yourself Positive. It can be extremely challenging to remain positive in the face of daily physical pain. However, training yourself to look for the good in the situation and remaining happy will distract you from your pain. Also, it will also encourage you and better your situation. To keep yourself positive, try looking up inspiring news, starting a daily gratitude journal, or thinking about things that make you happy.

If you have any more questions about what mental exercises can help with pain management, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain-alleviating specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033. 

Young African American woman wearing an orange sweater experiencing back pain

Signs Your Back Pain Might Be More Serious

Back pain can, of course, cause back pain. That’s a given. But, if you are experiencing other physical symptoms in addition to your back pain, then something more serious may be going on.

When your symptoms first appear, it is vital to head over to your doctor’s office to discover what may be at the root of your back issues. If other medical symptoms begin to appear, it means you’ve either waited too long so that your back pain has begun to cause other side effects, or that a bigger medical issue is causing your pain.

That’s why it’s best to stay aware of any physical symptoms you’re experiencing. Keep reading below to understand signs your back pain might be more serious. 

Symptoms That Point to Your Back Pain Being More Serious

  • Fever.
  • Pain that travels down the legs. 
  • Pain in both legs. 
  • Legs that are weaker. 
  • Pain worsened by coughing and sneezing. 
  • Unable to hold the bladder. 
  • More bowel movements. 
  • Fewer bowel movements. 
  • Difficulty and pain getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • Stiff back when first waking up. 
  • Feeling unwell on top of the back pain.
  • Weight loss. 
  • Extreme pain, as in lightly touching the back hurts horribly. 

If you’re experiencing any of the above physical symptoms in addition to your back pain, then it’s time to visit your doctor. Don’t let a serious medical problem go undetected. 

If you have any more questions about signs your back pain might be more serious, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain-alleviating specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.  

Back view of fit African American man suffering from backache during workout in gym, wondering about the most common treatment options for back pain.

The Most Common Treatment Options for Back Pain

If you have back pain, it can be an excruciating daily nuisance. You’d do anything to get rid of it, just for a moment of relief.

But what are your options? And which one is best for you? We’ve compiled a list of the most common treatment options for back pain below from the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers.

Best Options for Treating Back Pain

  • Topical pain relievers are an option many find helpful. These creams or ointments that you rub onto the skin of your painful spot can often alleviate pain quickly and effectively.
  • Many doctors will offer prescriptions to help, whether those are pain, relaxer, or anti-depressant focused. With the opioid crisis on the rise in America, fewer doctors are willing to prescribe options like opioids. This decline is for a good reason! It’s good to know this before discussing your treatment options, just in case you were expecting one pill to take care of all of your pain.
  • Cortisone injections are popular for persistent back pain that also travels down the legs. These injections provide relief and numbing directly to the areas that need it the most.
  • Physical therapists have often been enlisted to help exercise the pain away, especially if it’s due to issues like posture or recovering from an accident.
  • For those sufferers who have severe and crippling enough back pain, surgery may be the only viable option.
  • Lifestyle changes can also make a world of a difference. Changing what you eat and the way you exercise might help to change your pain.
  • Some alternative options often can help specific patients, which include:
    • Acupuncture.
    • Massages.
    • Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
    • Laser Therapy.
    • Biofeedback Therapy.

If you have any more questions about the most common treatment options for back pain, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain-alleviating specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Woman holding sore joint while running in cold weather, wondering how does weather affects joint pain.

Bad Joints in Certain Weather? What to Do!

When bad weather starts to roll in, it’s common for anyone with joint pain or arthritis to instantly grow worried. Many people know that when rain or cold hits, it can be disastrous for their afflicted joints.

The truth is, doctors and scientists alike have both looked into this claim that bad weather increases joint pain. They have found that this claim is true for many people. So, if the storm clouds start to gather and you feel your knees begin to ache, know that you’re not alone.

If you’re looking for a solution to how bad weather affects joint pain, keep reading below. bad weather affects joint pain

Why Does Bad Weather Affect Joint Pain?

Think about the things that make bad weather what it is. The barometric pressure of the air, the level of humidity or precipitation, and the temperature. Out of that list, it’s hard to pinpoint which exactly is the true cause of joint discomfort. But, it is safe to say all play a part in creating the nasty weather that squeezes the joints, the cartilage inside the bone, and the exposed nerves.

In most cases, many people will complain of joint pain when it’s raining, particularly humid, and if a cold front has come through.

How to Help Joint Pain When the Weather Changes

Keeping the above in mind, here are the things you can do to alleviate any joint pain you may feel:

  • Keep yourself warm. When it gets colder and you start to feel your joints twinge in pain, reach for things that will warm you back up. Options include additional layers of clothing, warm baths, and hot presses.
  • Certain pain medications prescribed by your doctor can help make the pain easier, as can over-the-counter options.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get exercise, and have plenty of sleep. You’ve heard time and time again how good these habits are for your body. That includes joint discomfort.
  • Paraffin baths are a favorite of many people who have joint problems. This tool melts wax in a small container, allowing you to dip your hands and feet in. The wax hardens on skin and the warmth from the wax absorbs into the joints to warm them up. Speak to your doctor to see if this is a good option for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and do low-impact exercises. Both of these options ease the effort your joints go through on a daily basis, including those that are horribly cold and rainy.

If you have any more questions about how bad weather affects joint pain, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain-alleviating specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.