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Dear mental health, I’m sorry

I’m sorry.

I’m just starting to realize how important you are. You’re something that needs to be cared for, something that can’t be ignored. So, for all the times you cried out for help when you weren’t feeling well, and I ignored you, telling you to stop being so sensitive, I’m sorry.  For all the times I tried to hide you and pretend you don’t exist, I’m sorry. All the while, you sneaked into my bones and muscles, waiting to be heard. I get it! Physical pain is easier to listen to. But sometimes, you make it hard to get out of bed. Let’s not forget all those times you wouldn’t let me see my friends or family, because you just didn’t have the energy to converse and socialize.

The past few years have not been kind to me. Between drastic life changes, difficult relationships, and trying to understand my own personhood, I found it hard to be kind to you as well. I failed to listen when you told me how to feel. Pushing away feelings of stress and sadness is just easier for me. It’s only when you come at me with full force that I understand you’re something that I need to look after.

But it’s hard to understand where you’re coming from sometimes. It makes it difficult to talk to people about you for that reason. Are you acting up because it’s my time of month? Are you trying to tell me I have too much on my plate? Sorry, I don’t understand.

I fear my relationships will suffer because of you. If I don’t understand you’re not well, how could my loved ones? Multiple ‘bad days’ can kill the vibe, ruin a positive atmosphere. I’m sorry if I mask what you’re trying to tell me, in an attempt of keeping things light. Fun. I’m sorry that I downplay your sickness as another ‘bad day.’ It’s just easier. We don’t want people being more concerned than they should be, right? I hope you understand.

I’m sorry that we never had the chance to get that close. I’m sorry we don’t keep in touch. To be honest, you’re a little high maintenance. For you to feel better, a lot of actions have to be taken. Therapy is expensive. And yes, my job might be stressful – but it’s what puts money on the table. My friends and family may be difficult to interact with sometimes, but they care about me. It’s difficult to ask me to give up such important parts of my life for your own betterment.  I’m sorry you’re not a priority even though we both know you should be.

But I’ll try harder. The days you don’t feel well, I’ll try to listen. And when other people are talking about their own mental health, I’ll listen then too. When they don’t understand where you’re coming from, I’ll explain it to them. It’s time to start talking about you. Because you’re important. I realize that now.

Runners: what’s the deal with shin splints?

I’m not an expert runner by any definition of the word, but I run enough to know the intense and debilitating affects of shin splints.

I started getting them when I first ventured into the sport last year. The first few weeks were terrible, and as a new runner, I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Eventually, I fixed the situation by brushing up on my form and creating a stretching routine any professional athlete would be proud of! Sounds easy, right??

Well, a few weeks ago, they came back! I didn’t change my routine and yet, the pain shooting up my shins was unbearable.

Shin splints are common in high-impact activities that put a lot of stress on the feet and legs. It can also be caused by something called overpronation, when the arch of your foot is in constant contact with the ground due to ankle positioning. This limits the body’s ability to absorb the impact of that connection. Sometimes, stopping your activity and stretching out the area can quickly reduce this pain — but a lot of the time, if you continue the activity that caused the shin splints, it can cause serious injury.

So, what to do about it?

Stretch: This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how little people stretch prior to a workout. Make sure to really work every area. Stretch your arms, your core, your neck, your ankles, and of course, your legs. Sure, the hamstrings are most closely related to shin splints, but if the rest of your body isn’t just as limber, it will cause muscle spasms that will carry down to those shins. I do at least 10 minutes of stretching before I put my shoes on. Try doing some yoga between runs to help keep those muscles stretched and toned.

Get new shoes: This is what I’m going to be doing in the next few weeks. My shoes are old and are loosing their support. This means there is less of a barrier between the pavement and my feet, causing more friction and more pressure on my shins/arches. If you don’t want to get new shoes, maybe try orthotic inserts to help support your arches.

Take a break: I know this isn’t what you want to hear. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear either. But if you are experiencing shin splints, continued stress on the legs will just make it worse and can lead to serious injury. Take one to two weeks off the activity that caused the shin splints. Also try to avoid any high-impact activities that would cause your weight to be placed on the arches of your feet.

Cross train: Just because you aren’t running, doesn’t mean you sit on the couch and watch TV all day! Go for a walk, swim, or hit the gym and use an elliptical or a stationary bike! As long as you avoid activities in which you jump, you’ll be fine! Maybe the better choice is to go for a long walk. Walking is just as good for you as running is, without the stress caused by having your foot hit the pavement with force.

Return slowly: When you do start running again, don’t pick up where you left off. Start slowly and work your way back up. Sometimes, increasing your speed or mileage too quickly can cause shin splints. So, when you do get back into the game, make sure not to over do it. After the run, if your shins are starting to bother you, stretch them out and ice it to reduce inflammation!

Best of luck!

 

What do you do to help ease the pain of shin splints? Let us know in the comments below!

Want a natural way to get rid of menstrual cramps?

For most women, menstrual cramps are a terrible experience. It can feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out. For myself, it is as if my hip bones are being pulled in two opposite directions and my lower legs go completely numb. In other words, it’s hell. In these moments, all I want to do is sink into a pile of chocolate and cozy blankets for a few days, but alas I must continue through the daily grind.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t simply stay home and wallow — we have to continue working and living our lives. Traditionally, women have used herbs to help with menstrual cramps before drugs become available in convenient little pills. Medications don’t always relieve all of the pain or symptoms associated with our time of the month, so why not try some natural remedies. They worked for our ancestors and they will work for us.

ginger-57072_1280

One of the best herbs for cramps is ginger. It is easy to find in grocery stores and is known to soothe menstrual cramps as well as aide in bloating. Simply shave a few slivers of ginger and place into a cup of boiling water with a spoonful of honey and a splash of lemon. Having a mug of homemade ginger tea nightly will help alleviate menstrual pain substantially.

Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.
Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.

Another option to help ease cramps is fennel. Fennel contains anethole, which is a compound that helps to ease pain. There are many ways to eat fennel both raw and cooked, and it has a celery-like texture. Slice the fennel into thin pieces and add to a salad. Use the leafy fronds (the top of the fennel) to add to salad. You can also cook chopped fennel and put it in a delicious tomato fennel soup. Roasted fennel is simple, but delicious if you like the liquorice taste.

Cherry tomato and sage pasta.
Cherry tomato and sage pasta.

Another herb that has truly magical qualities is sage. Along with helping menstrual cramps, it also lifts the mood and increases memory. Sage goes well with asparagus and can be added for extra flavour in a variety of Italian pasta sauces. It also pairs well with pineapple. Sage tea also helps with sore throats and in the summer, frozen sage in ice cubes makes a refreshing drink during your menstrual cycle.

Common pain relievers can have negative health side effects for some people, and natural remedies can provide an alternative. By incorporating ginger tea into your evening routine and sage into your pasta sauce, some of the symptoms of cramps may be alleviated. Any solution to helping get rid of cramps is a welcome one, and using herbs is surely a delicious way to get rid of pain.

How do you choose to heal from a break-up?

I want to start by saying each woman has their own way of handling a break-up. Many will sink into despair, keep their sweats on while digging into the baked goodies. Others deny themselves their sadness, move on quickly and efficiently, only to come tumbling down a week or a month later from the pressure of avoiding those terrible feelings. Some have mastered the art of letting go, and to those woman I commend you — and am admittedly also terribly jealous.

I recently went through a break-up and the amount of advice I’ve received has ranged from downright entertaining to adorably helpful. The amount of times I was told to go and purchase desserts immediately and load up on romantic flicks became funny, albeit a bit alarming.

wallow

Why is it that we must feed ourselves sugar and lament our lost loves so pathetically? Is there not a healthier way to be sad, where you still confront the deep dark blues with grace instead of tears and chocolate stains?

This confession is undoubtedly for other women who are going through a break-up or a loss on how to proceed. I feel I have stumbled onto a method of healing that could be helpful, though I still maintain the path to healing is subjective.

I’ve valiantly decided to not succumb to the bad habits and when I told my friends, they laughed at me because it is apparently an approach many take and fail at the break-up routine. Yes, there may be piles of Kleenexes, but they will not be accompanied by pounds of chocolate. I will probably experience painful realizations, but I choose the comforts of Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas rather than a romantic comedy that makes me wish I could return to a relationship that meant to end.

rumi-the self

Clean comforts are key. Tools of healing that will help usher in a new phase of beauty in your life could range from a new creative hobby to a run through a new hidden path in nature. Only you know the mechanisms that will make you feel alive again.  I want to feel the pains and sorrows, dig into it deeply and understand it. But at the same, it is important to support myself by providing healthy comforts to supplement this pain. A good start could be healthy fresh foods and outdoor exercise in a natural area for the body and meditation, books, music, photography and writing for the mind.

A common thread between these activities is they are all solitary activities. This is purposeful. There is an absolute empowerment in being alone if only we are courageous enough to face it. Loneliness is real and terrifying, but it is also a matter of perspective. It can easily turn from a broken feeling into one that empowers you to truly be on your own with yourself. Being alone helps you to move on from your pain fully because you have left yourself with no other choice and avoidance becomes impossible.

Finding a replacement man or woman to try to fill your heart will only leave you spinning further downwards because you cannot truly share yourself when you are in pieces. The demons from your last relationship will haunt the new one if they are not dealt with and that is not fair to your new and unsuspecting lover. Instead, being your own source of support and self-love is the first step to being ready to move on with someone else in the future.

In the end, it isn’t about distractions or isolation. It is about looking in the mirror and loving the person looking back at you no matter how hard that may seem. I ask, how will you love yourself today? What can you do that will make you feel grateful that you have your insightful mind, your beautiful body and your resilient heart? How do you choose to heal?

patti smith quote

Chronic back pain may be ruining your sex life

Chronic back pain can do more than cause aches and pains. Studies show it can reduce your mojo, plummeting the sex drive and killing the mood between the sheets.

Fourty-seven per cent of Canadians suffering from chronic back pain report their condition affects their sex lives, according to the GSK Global Pain Index commissioned by GSK Consumer Healthcare. Of the study participants, 53 per cent said they felt less attractive as a result of their pain.

Chronic back pain is defined as pain that persists for more than three to six months. Treatments include physiotherapy, exercise, pain medications, and acupuncture, among others. In Canada, 18.9 per cent of people over the age of 18 suffer from chronic pain. A study by the National Institute Health says that chronic pain increases with age and women have a higher prevalence of pain than men.

Most people suffering from chronic back pain rely on medicines to help alleviate their symptoms. Fourty-five per cent of people suffering with the pain condition will use medications as a primary source of aid, whereas only 16 per cent use physical therapy and nine per cent use alternative medicines.

The problem is there are many pain medications that have unfortunate side effects on users. The company that sponsored the GSK Global Pain Index study, Voltaren, is a producer of oral and topical pain medications for people suffering with chronic pain. Possible side effects of their oral pills, as indicated by the FDA, include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, exhaustion, and nausea and vomiting. Interestingly, the company sponsored a study that provides information on the unsettling effects of pain on people’s lives, but doesn’t include the side effects for their own medications.

Pain medications could also be a contributor to a lacking sex life. Personally, I know that if my back hurt and I had constipation, nausea, vomiting or exhaustion, I wouldn’t feel like getting busy in the bedroom. Luckily, there are alternatives that take away the need for pain medications, while still allowing people to feel sexy.

“A lot of chronic pain involves not recognizing the difference between damaging pain and residual neurophysiological pain,” said registered physiotherapist, Hannah Williams. “The brain is rewired to think that certain movements are damaging when they are no longer actually damaging.”

Physiotherapy, stretches, yoga, strength training, acupuncture, and massage are great options to try as a primary source of care before turning to pain medicine.

Physical exercise is essential to re-train the brain so that unnecessary chronic pain no longer bothers you. “Any exercise at all is beneficial. Limiting yourself only to certain types of exercises will continue the pain,” said Williams. A very good type of exercise happens to be sexual intercourse, which can increase the heart rate and allow people to work past their chronic pain in a pleasurable way.

“Going to a chronic pain physiotherapist will help people to understand the difference between good and bad pain,” said Williams. “Chronic pain can hurt people’s sex lives, but it doesn’t mean people can’t work around it.”

Maybe all you need is a good old fashion rumble in the sack to help get rid of that chronic back pain. We suggest you work on that immediately.