This post is about health topics, namely pain. If you find this to be a pain to you, feel no need to read any further. I must confess that I get a little text book-ish too. You have been warned.
Inflammation sucks. It causes nerve pain, muscular skeletal pain, and can down right interrupt your life. It keeps a person up at night, makes them unable to use effected limbs (leading to Depression as activities are restricted), and can lead the person to become moody and unfriendly. I’ve been experiencing all of the above, but before you think this post is about wanting the sympathy or pity of the casual reader, read on. I have dealt with this pain my whole life and it is, as many things are, simply a part of life. I am looking to share information for any of you out there that might be suffering from the same, or know someone else who is.
The thing about inflammation is that it is your body’s natural defense mechanism against injury and infection. The very pain that is wrecking havoc on your life is your immune system’s genuinely sincere way of trying to protect you. Whenever you experience a situation that might negatively impact your body from your immune system’s perspective, be it infection or injury, your body releases specific chemicals to trigger inflammation. This is an attempt for your body to remove the possibly infectious material from your body by increasing blood flow and the ability for it to pass through your veins. This can be a good thing when you are ill as the nasty microbes are more likely to be released. However, inflammation can be triggered by the body when possible injury is present. This is an attempt to also increase blood flow to the area to get the good chemicals there to begin the healing process. So, see. The body is actually trying to help when something becomes red, hot, irritated, and ungodly painful. The problem is that the body thinks repetitive motions can be injuries. In all do honesty, they can cause some nasty injuries such as strains, sprains, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. The body is trying to help out by getting extra healing chemicals to the limb that is being overused, such as hands. Unfortunately, the more you repeat the movements, the more the body sends these chemicals. What’s the answer?
There are many things you can do for inflammation. Number one is to relieve the immediate discomfort. This can be done with a rotation of hot and cold compresses, switched out every 15 to 20 minutes. It is very tempting to dunk your effected area in a buck of ice, but that would be a bad idea. It would simply trigger the nerves that there is possible hypothermia.. yadda yadda, more inflammation. The next step is to reduce all other aspects in your life that could cause inflammation. In other words, if you cannot stop doing the repetitive motions because they are apart of your job or life, then focus on the things you can control. This includes diet and exercise. Dun dun dun. Everyone hates those words, but it is true. Diet changes such as lowering saturated fats and increasing inflammation reducing foods (turmeric, fish oils, etc) will have a positive impact on the situation. Exercise is also a must. It seems like an impossibility when something is severely inflamed, but exercise is a vague word. For me, it is merely stretches. In fact, counter measure stretches. Whatever repetitive motions I am doing with my muscles that are causing the inflammation, I try to do the opposite when I get home. If I must move my thumb one direction all day and it is causing inflammation, I will find another way to move it later which will relieve the stress in the muscle. Massage can also be helpful. This might seemingly hurt more at first because massage tends to increase blood flow, which can lead to more inflammation. Good communication and an experienced massage professional will be able to reduce this as much as possible. With anything, see your doctor. They go to school for a reason.
For me, I have severe hand inflammation and swelling. I saw my doctor and was put on a diuretic for the swelling (which has helped dramatically) and an anti-inflammatory. I only take the AI as needed because it can cause some other nasty side effects. I generally wrap my hands and wrists after slathering them in mentholated ointment. I then do the hot/cold compress. I find this is the most beneficial when looking for immediate relief. I’ve been looking into alternative treatments but I have not be completely satisfied with what I have found. This past weekend, Hubby and I went to the health food shoppe where I was looking for Marshmallow Root (an anti-inflammatory/anti-swelling) and Devil’s Claw (helps with nerve pain). I let myself get talked into buying something called “The Rub”. It was supposed to be an odorless and painless alternative to mentholated rubs. I took it home with me and put it on my hands, noting that it actually smelled like rotten vegetation. I began remarking about this to my husband who immediately picked it up and looked at the label. He then told me to wash my hands. It’s main ingredients include Nightshade and Monk’s Hood, which are both highly lethal in very tiny amounts when ingested or absorbed through mucous membranes or broken skin. Since I would be putting this on my hands, it only leads to reason that I would end up putting it in my mouth. Not so good and in the trash it went.
Diet is something that I plan on being more focused on in the next few weeks. I have started doing counter measure stretches and find them helpful as well. Like mos things in life, I find that dealing with inflammation is a constant battle and is better to manage once it has been accepted that the pain is not going to magically disappear. It will, however, get better with a few changes. Here’s to fighting the not so good fight.. as the immune system causing the inflammation is truly trying to fight the good one. Kudos.