If you have been suffering from pain every day or nearly every day for several months, you have chronic pain. More than 100,000 million U.S. adults live with chronic pain today. If you or someone you know lives with chronic pain, then you know how frustrating, lonely, and agonizing it can be.
Chronic pain can limit your activities, affect your moods, impact your relationships, and significantly reduce your quality of life. The good news is that functional medicine can help. Here’s how.
What is Chronic Pain?
Everyone experiences pain occasionally, but typically your pain subsides as your body heals from the injury or illness that triggered the pain.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, doesn’t go away. You still feel pain even after the injury, surgery site, or disease heals. Chronic pain is the medical term for pain that lasts more than about three months. There are several types of chronic pain, including:
- Headaches and migraines
- Postsurgical pain
- Back pain
- Joint pain (arthritis)
- Musculoskeletal pain (fibromyalgia)
- Abdominal pain
Chronic pain varies and can develop anywhere in your body. You might have sharp, stabbing pain or a constant, dull ache.
Watch our free webinar to learn more about chronic pain.
Causes of Chronic Pain
Sometimes the causes of chronic pain are lifestyle-related, and sometimes chronic pain begins after an injury or illness. Ultimately, there are many possible causes. If you have chronic pain, it could be the result of any of the following:
It’s common to experience lingering pain after an injury to your muscles, bones, or tendons, even after the injury itself has healed. For example, chronic back pain that occurs after a herniated disc or a compression fracture is one of the most common instances of chronic pain resulting from an injury.
Post-op pain is common, and most of the time, you endure some level of pain or discomfort following surgery. Chronic pain following surgery is different, though. Post-surgery chronic pain can be the result of nerve damage, inflammation, or tissue damage. Up to 50% of post-op patients will deal with some level of chronic pain following an operation.
Another reason for chronic pain is autoimmune diseases. Your body needs its immune system to protect it from harm. But when you have an autoimmune disease, your body’s immune system begins damaging the healthy cells. Lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes are examples of autoimmune diseases that can lead to chronic pain.
Recent studies have linked chronic pain to certain lifestyle choices. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle can lead to chronic neck pain, back pain, and more.
Diet and food sensitivities can also affect pain levels within the body. A diet high in sugar often exacerbates pain caused by old injuries, while food sensitivities lead to inflammation that can irritate a pain source.
When your body is chronically stressed, it often loses the ability to regulate inflammation. Cortisol is one of the primary hormones tasked with regulating your inflammation. If your body is producing too much cortisol, this can disrupt your body’s ability to manage inflammation, resulting in chronic pain.
You might be surprised to hear that an infection can lead to chronic pain. But infections cause inflammation, and inflammation can cause pain. For instance, unexplained persistent abdominal pain could be the result of an undiagnosed bacterial infection.
Every day your body is exposed to environmental toxins that can cause many conditions including inflammatory diseases, dementia, heart disease, and chronic pain. Chronic nerve pain is commonly due to heavy metal toxicity, such as lead, mercury, or copper.
Conventional vs. Functional Medicine Treatments
In some ways, conventional medicine and functional medicine are similar. Both are practiced by certified healthcare professionals, use evidence-based methods, and employ advanced diagnostic testing. However, when it comes to treating chronic pain, the two have very different approaches.
Conventional medicine tends to focus on symptom relief. It uses interventions such as prescription medications or surgeries to alleviate chronic pain. Addressing the symptoms might make you feel better, but this does not address the underlying cause of the pain, leaving you vulnerable to relapse.
As you read above, chronic pain is often caused by something. Functional medicine aims to treat those underlying causes. It also considers every possible variable affecting your pain, including your lifestyle, age, and environment.
Treating You, Not Your Pain
Functional medicine treats more than your symptoms. Instead, it focuses on your body as a whole system, getting to the root causes of your pain. By changing from a conventional disease-centered focus to a patient-centered approach, you can expect your functional medicine doctor to examine you as a whole.
Your body is made up of many complex, connected systems. So functional medicine’s goal is to address those various elements that impact your health and cause your pain.
A Functional Medicine Treatment Plan
At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we create a unique treatment plan that reflects your needs and lifestyle. We know that pain affects all of you – your relationships, your job, and your mental and emotional health. But making some changes to your daily life can also affect all of you. Here are some areas that may be addressed in your treatment plan to relieve your chronic pain.
A diet that reduces inflammation can also reduce chronic pain. Even small changes, such as cutting out dessert and eating less red meat, can make a difference in your health. Foods that can help reduce your chronic pain include whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, and herbal teas.
You should also avoid foods that cause inflammation to help with your pain. This includes processed meat, white rice, white bread, foods with high-fructose corn syrup, and drinks with added sugar. Even foods that are supposed to be healthy could cause inflammation for you, because everyone is different.
Moving your body might seem difficult when you are struggling with chronic pain. Our goal is to work with you to identify ways that you can exercise safely and gain strength, flexibility, and balance.
If you have chronic pain, you’re probably no stranger to losing sleep. But studies suggest that poor sleep worsens the pain, creating a vicious cycle as the pain further disrupts sleep. Certain lifestyle changes can help your sleeping habits, even if you live with chronic pain. You should avoid caffeine in the afternoon, limit screen time before bed, and try prayer and meditation to reduce stress and help you relax.
Vitamins and Supplements
Magnesium, vitamin B, and vitamin C can be helpful for those dealing with chronic pain. Fish oil has also been shown to be very anti-inflammatory and therefore pain-inhibiting.
Functional medicine offers a holistic path to sustainably reducing your chronic pain. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we will help you recover from persistent pain so you can live a healthy life doing more of the things you love.
You deserve relief from your pain. Take the first step:
- Watch a free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.
- Schedule a Free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
- After your discovery call – if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.