Pain can be a serious joy – killer. It can (and very often does) turn your life into misery. But there is hope. There is always something you can do about it. I am not a big fan of medications and taking pills. I think we reach for pain-killers too often and put too much hope in them. They do not seem to resolve a problem with pain. You do not want to be taking them all your life. You can get many side effects and get addicted to them too (for example with opioids) I know, sometimes we do not have much choice, but there are usually other, more natural ways to fight with pain. They may prove equally effective and help us reduce, modify, and alter the pain.
Losing weight and getting active – first step if you want to reduce pain
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that being overweight causes back pain or other musculoskeletal issues for that matter. Yet, common sense would suggest something completely different, surely there must be a link. I also know this from my professional experience working with patients in my back pain clinic. Nobody wants to be in pain, but it can be a sign prompting us to change the way we live our lives. The sign to encourage us to act and take action. Losing weight and getting fitter may be the very first thing we want to start off with. It may be such a positive step in tackling pain head-on. This is why I always recommend it as part of rehab programs for patients. I want them to understand they can do a lot for themselves without seeing a specialist
Reduce pain with walking
In my recent self-help tips for patients with back pain, I recommend brisk walking. Walking can be good for all sorts of musculoskeletal pains, and help you recover quicker after an operation or a sports injury. If you in doubt if walking is right for you, you may consult your Physio or a doctor. As a general rule of thumb – if it is painless or causing some mild discomfort, it should be ok. It is one of the best pain preventive measures ever. It will make your body (and mind) stronger. No medication can replace it. It is natural, helps to nourish your joints (including spinal joints), and reduces pain.
Take it easy and have fun
Start with gentle walking and try to increase distance and pace over time. Remember to make it as fun as possible. The more enjoyable you will make it, the more you will want to do it! And do not be too hard on yourself if your body needs some rest and you do not feel like walking. You do not need to do it every day. I would say walking a minimum of three times a week seems sensible. You may find more information on walking on my blog.
Do you need to lose weight? Check your BMI
BMI (Body Mass Index) takes into account natural variations in body shape, giving a healthy weight range for a particular height.
BMI may help in bodyweight monitoring. Check your BMI today and see if you need to worry about your body weight.
This is a 2 step process.
STEP 1: Calculate your BMI first here
Step 2: Check if you need to lose weight
If your BMI is over 25 you should seriously consider getting more active
Bodyweight and musculoskeletal system
Excessive body weight will put your joints and the whole musculoskeletal system under unnecessary strain.
Every day your joints and supportive tissues need to do extra work while you move from place to place. After some time, your body may go on a strike and develop pain. Besides, extra body weight may cause all sorts of changes in your body that will also contribute to pain and affect the quality of your life and how happy you are.
Is therapy alone enough to tackle and reduce pain?
Do not expect pain to go away if you continue doing the same things over and over again. A one-off visit to a physio or an osteopathy clinic may do the trick and help you. That’s true. However, oftentimes it is simply not enough to bring about long-lasting and satisfactory effects. If you really want to get well and stop the pain once and for all, you need to do more to change your lifestyle and start making different, more healthy, choices.
Albert Einstein once said:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
It is never too late
Do not get me wrong, having therapy in a bid to reduce pain may be very good short term, but you probably need more than that. It is the changes you make in your lifestyle that can induce great improvements in the way you feel. Losing weight seems one of the key aspects of looking after one’s health. And, the good news is this. It is never too late to do something about it. If you think you need to lose weight, do not wait, act now. Even going for a short but brisk walk may initiate something good in your life. Who knows, maybe you will be willing to continue with walking and make it your daily routine?
Negative effects of being overweight
Excessive weight will also mean a lot of bad things to your health in general as it may ( and usually does):
- Reduce your energy level. If you feel sleepy all the time and are lacking energy, extra pounds of weight may be the reason.
- Affect your cardiovascular system where your heart needs to work much harder.
- Increase the risk of blood clots, especially with the development of so-called hypercholesterolemia. Moreover, this may lead to a heart attack, stroke and other vascular problems
- Have a negative impact on the condition of your skin; with losing weight your skin condition may improve
- Impair metabolism of fats and carbohydrates in your body
- Lead to the chronic, inflammatory state of your body; something that we believe may lead to/ contribute (among other things) to painful, orthopedic conditions including frozen shoulder and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Increase the risk of diabetes; if you feel constantly tired and are overweight, it may be only wise to have your fastening glucose level checked
- Affect your mood and mental well being. You may find that it is so much easier to beat/cope with anxiety and depression if you decide to lose weight and start being more active. And let me tell you, physical exercise will also boost your endorphins. This will also make you happier. There is nothing better than knowing that you are doing something good and positive with your health and look after yourself. losing weight and getting fitter will make your stronger and help you deal with difficult situations in your life (no escape from them, I am afraid)
- Affect your general fitness so walking fast may become a struggle and you may find your self huffing and puffing a lot.
Change may feel awkward
Of course, any change in your life may feel awkward. This applies to beginning a more active lifestyle and trying to lose weight. You may struggle with motivation, develop aches and pains, come up with all sorts of different excuses (time is the most common one, right?) as a result of starting on an exercise regime. But let me tell you this: you will reap benefits and these will come sooner rather than later. In other words, you reap what you sow. I am sure you will be able to reduce pain and feel better in no time in the process too.
Lance Armstrong once said:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.
Diet can help you too
Diet can help you reduce and retain a healthy weight. With more exercise your appetite my improve so you may notice you eat and drink much more. The trick is to have a well-balanced diet and ensure your daily calorie intake is less than the number of calories you burn. Otherwise do not expect changes in your body weight. You will likely replace fat tissue with muscle (which is always a good thing) but to reduce body weight you need to modify your diet a bit too.
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Chartered Physiotherapist and Master Myofascial Therapist. In the NHS since 2008; I currently work in the community as a Physiotherapy Team Lead. I also run a specialist back pain physiotherapy service in Southampton, UK. Follow me on social media.