The holidays are a beautiful time but as the New Year begins, the aftermath may be less than pleasant. With all the parties, traveling, eating, drinking and general merriment from the past few months, many of us may be dealing with a post-holiday headache. But what if your pain is more than just a passing ache? For those with chronic pain, especially in the back and neck, the added stress of the holidays can make it worse. Our minds and bodies play off each other so when one is stressed, the other one usually is, too. For instance, have you have noticed how a little rest and relaxation can cut both the physical and mental pain of stress? Here a few tips to keep the post-holiday headache from getting the best of you:
Get enough sleep: Most people need 7-9 hours per night. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekend!) to help your body get on a consistent sleep schedule. A tired brain feels more pain.
Schedule in “me time”: Whether you prefer a daily jog, quiet time with a book or a relaxing massage, make sure that you block out time every day to rest and take time to rejuvenate your body and mind. A relaxed brain feels less pain.
Exercise and eat healthy: This “broken record” message is vital. Exercising and getting your heart rate up for at least thirty minutes per day plus eating a diet of lean protein (chicken, turkey), nutrient-rich vegetables (kale, spinach), and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, skim milk) can go a long way to keeping your body and your brain in top form.
Talk to a healthcare provider: Sometimes painful conditions need more help to feel better. Keep a diary (print one here) to track when and where you feel pain and share it with your doctor. They may be able to suggest other ways to treat your pain.
Of course, these tips may not help everyone. For those with pain in the back and neck, Swedish/Issaquah will be holding a free seminar called “Have Aches and Pains?” on Wednesday, January 30th from 6-8 p.m. Whether you deal with musculoskeletal or nerve dysfunction, or pain due to degenerative conditions or injury, Swedish physicians will discuss what causes back and neck pain, how to treat it quickly and successfully, and how to minimize the chances for future episodes. In the wake of the holidays, you should enjoy the tail end of the season of good cheer rather than be in pain. With these tips and a little research, you can find a way to address the post-holiday aches and pains.