This COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak can be a difficult time for all Americans, especially those living with chronic pain. Here are a few helpful tips from our Pain Management Specialists at Caliber Pain to maintain good physical and mental health while at home.
1) As per the CDC guidelines for infection prevention, wash your hands often, minimize touching your face, practice social distancing and avoid leaving your house except when absolutely necessary. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from others if possible and remember that the virus can stay active on plastic or metal surfaces for over 24hrs.
2) Stay active. Chronic pain will not take a break during this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean your activity level should. Spending too much time in bed or on your couch can worsen your chronic pain due to an increase in muscle spasms and a decrease in muscle activity and core strength. Remember to stretch everyday (consider using a foam roller if you have one) and do light activity around the house. This can include getting steps in around your home or practicing exercises learned in physical therapy. Most physical therapy practices offer home exercise programs, reach out to one if you need assistance.
3) Have a positive outlook. There is a very clear link between mental health and chronic pain, specifically with depression and anxiety. Times will get better, but in the meantime try to make the best of this situation and take advantage of the free time. We can do this by strengthening relationships, personal development, professional development, yoga, spirituality and other ways. Anxiety can be improved through practicing focused deep breathing, avoiding negative thought patterns, taking your mind off of your pain and stressors, remembering that things will get better, and doing something enjoyable at home (a hobby, listening to music or a podcast, aromatherapy, etc). Reach out to a mental health provider if you want to talk to somebody, many are offering remote tele-medicine sessions online.
4) Maintain a healthy diet. In the short term, eating foods high in saturated fat, sugar, artificial flavors/preservatives, fried food, or alcohol can increase inflammation and lead to a flareup of chronic pain. For some people, milk, dairy and gluten can also cause these symptoms. Some foods that can help improve chronic pain include olive oil, green-leafy vegetables, fish (such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines), nuts (like almonds or cashews), fruits (such as berries and oranges), and others. In the long term, obesity is associated with worsening chronic pain, especially in the low back, knees and hips. Consult with your primary doctor or dietician for more information.
5) Stay hydrated. It can be easy to become dehydrated while at home. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Some guidelines recommend drinking between 2-3 liters of water a day. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps/worsening pain, headaches, and feeling sluggish. Note that having a fever for any reason can worsen dehydration so it is important to keep up with your fluid intake during this time. Please consult with your physician regarding water intake if you have heart failure, kidney failure, fluid overload or other related health conditions.
6) Talk to your doctor about stopping NSAID medications. While not completely proven, there has been data to suggest that those who contract COVID-19 (Coronavirus) do worse if they have been taking any of the NSAID class of drugs. These include Advil (Ibuprofen), Naproxen (Aleve), Diclofenac, Celecoxib (Celebrex), Meloxicam (Mobic), and others. Remember that many or most of those who are infected with the virus do not show any major symptoms.
7) Worsening muscle aches (myalgias) can be a symptom of a viral infection. While this is classically seen with the Influenza virus, it can also be a symptom of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). That said, the most common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t panic! Call your doctor for further evaluation or guidance. It may be best to NOT go to the emergency room unless you are experiencing severe symptoms.
We are truly living in historic times. Things will get better, businesses will reopen, socializing will be encouraged, and we will return to normalcy. If you are dealing with chronic pain and would like more information on helpful tips or a telephone consultation with one of our Pain Management Specialists, please visit caliberpain.com or call us at (212) 203-5987. Stay safe!