Find out how what factors might put you at risk of developing chronic pain

Why do some people experience chronic pain and others have complete resolution of that pain? One in six Australians suffer from chronic pain and there are a number of factors which can predispose you to experience that condition. Chronic pain is defined as pain that continues for more than 12 weeks after the initial trauma or injury.

First up the concept of pain is more complex than originally thought. When you experience an injury the tissue that is damaged sends a series of signals through nerves to the brain. The brain then decides how to interpret that signal. It usually regards it as pain initially and then over time as the tissue heals the signal decreases and the brain usually acknowledges the signal as reduced pain. There can be times however in the presence of high levels of stress or anxiety that the signal to the brain is not adjusted as the tissue heals, this is what can happen with chronic pain.

The brain also interprets those signals through a filter of previous experiences and emotions, factors which may lead to an increased risk of chronic pain being experienced.

For many people testing or scans may no longer reveal the presence of an injury but they are still experiencing pain. This may lead to the feedback from practitioners that the sensation is not real, however it is real and the patient is still experiencing that sensation.

So what are the major risk factors for developing chronic pain (1);

  • Based on the earlier description you can probably guess that one of the major risk factors for chronic pain is a prior experience of chronic pain. That’s right the brain in filtering this information “remembers” a prior experience and this can increase your risk for developing chronic pain.
  • Two other significant contributors can be related to your workplace. Being in an environment where the injury is subject to compensation or being in an environment where your relationship with your boss is strained both lead to a higher risk of chronic pain. To a certain extent this relates to the elevated cortisol you produce when you are in a stressful situation which then leads to a reduction in the ability to modulate or reduce pain signals in the brain. When your nervous system is in overdrive you are less able to calm the signals.
  • There are gender differences in the experience of pain and responses to pain management. Women are more likely to express more sensitivity to pain and less likely to respond to conventional treatment. (2) In a 2007 review of pain research 79% of studies had been conducted solely in male animals and only 8% in female animals. Further women are more likely to experience chronic pain conditions than men.
  • Significant distress during the initial phase of the injury and high levels of anxiety in relation to the injury both predispose you to developing a chronic pain condition.
  • History of domestic violence or abuse increased the odds ratio of pain to 1.6. The data was based on a three year population study of over 24,000 women (3).

For those people who experience chronic pain it needs to be treated with a holistic approach that looks at physical, psychological and social factors. Whilst manual therapies for example can be of assistance in treating acute pain and assist in managing symptoms, graded exercise therapy provides more significant benefit in most of the research done to date. Combining this with appropriate counselling or stress management as well improves the overall resolution. Effectively this condition requires a team approach.

It also is clear that a lot more research is needed on the type of pain and what the best approach is in regards to it. Much of the research is 10-15 years old and often limited to common conditions like low back pain. For this reason you may find that you get more relief from a particular treatment than indicated as more commonly treatments like remedial massage are researched but there are very few studies on other forms of manual therapy such as lymphatic massage, myofascial release and Bowen therapy.

If you are suffering from aches and pains and would like to understand more about how to support yourself then this free webinar on my site could be really helpful, 6 Tips for Ageing Outrageously .

References

(1) Mills SEE, Nicolson KP, Smith BH. Chronic pain: a review of its epidemiology and associated factors in population-based studies. Br J Anaesth. 2019 Aug;123(2):e273-e283. doi: 10.1016/j.bja.2019.03.023. Epub 2019 May 10. PMID: 31079836; PMCID: PMC6676152.

(2) reenspan JD, Craft RM, LeResche L, Arendt-Nielsen L, Berkley KJ, Fillingim RB, Gold MS, Holdcroft A, Lautenbacher S, Mayer EA, Mogil JS, Murphy AZ, Traub RJ; Consensus Working Group of the Sex, Gender, and Pain SIG of the IASP. Studying sex and gender differences in pain and analgesia: a consensus report. Pain. 2007 Nov;132 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S26-S45. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2007.10.014. Epub 2007 Oct 25. PMID: 17964077; PMCID: PMC2823483.

(3) M Ellsberg, H Jansen, L Heise, et al. Intimate partner violence and women’s physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence: an observational study Lancet, 371 (2008), pp. 1165-1172

Ten easy New Year’s resolutions you can totally nail for 2023

We have all made those New Year’s resolutions that ultimately set you up to fail. You know the “Lose 10kgs” and “Get Fit” or “Save a deposit”. Gyms rely on us making those resolutions so that we set up a membership use it for a few weeks and then gradually forget all about it. This year I wanted to share ten easy New Year’s resolutions you can keep and help you start the year with a win!

First up before you review the list and pick just one thing (cos I am determined that you succeed) have a look back over 2022 and see if you can find two or three things that you are really pleased that you did do or achieve. From a work perspective it could be trying or learning something new, mentoring another staff member or finally getting a well earned promotion. At home it could be as simple as finally getting that door fixed or another project that was bugging you, decluttering a room or planting your own herbs in the garden.

From a health perspective is it something you have done for yourself that you noticed made a difference ? For me it was committing to twice weekly Pilates as its made a real difference to my strength and stability. It’s also interesting to notice how after 6 months of regular activity you notice that your recovery from other activity (like cooking Christmas dinners) is so much better. It doesn’t need to be a big thing it could be as simple as drinking more water to stay hydrated or having more salads at lunch!

This list is broken down into sections to make it easier for you to pick one! Please make sure you post in the comments section which one you chose and how it works out for you.

Decluttering!

  • Declutter your email – unsubscribe from ten newsletters. It’s amazing how many pile up in your inbox each day and how much time you waste deciding whether to read it, delete it or perhaps you may want to look at it later. Reality is if you actually have a need for it you can always Google later. So hit Unsubscribe and enjoy a decluttered inbox.
  • Rather than scrolling through your phone on Facebook or Instagram open your photo’s and start pruning them, maybe aim for 10 photo’s. If you don’t have a huge number try sorting them into albums so its easier to find material. My current albums include food and tea, so I have always got some inspiration handy for my social posts.
  • Pick a drawer – whether its in the kitchen or the bedroom start by decluttering one drawer. Use the three pile method – empty the drawer out and then sort into three piles, usable, repairs needed and bin. Sort through and be quite aggressive with what gets binned, for example if you start with a sock drawer then throw out the unmatched socks, the ones with holes and the ones where the elastic has gone. Throw out the bin pile, set aside the items that need repair (could be buttons or hems with clothing) and then return the usable items to the drawer after wiping the drawer clean first.

Education

  • Try a new board game or card game, ideally something that challenges your brain a little and possibly in an area you aren’t that good at if you want a little bit of brain training as well. Popular board games in our house at the moment include Settlers of Catan and Pandemic, which are a little different as they are more collaborative games. A couple of newer card games that are have also had good reviews “Snake Oil”, great if you love a bit of drama and “Crew”, a modified version of 500.
  • Listen to a webinar or a podcast and learn something new. Whatever your areas of interest just ask for referrals. There are currently two free webinars on offer on my site at the moment and you can chose from 6 tips for Ageing Outrageously or Natural medicine for first aid

Health

  • Add a new recipe to your repertoire. There are quite a few suggestions on my blog as well as the Easy One Pan Meal Download . Just add an easy curry, salad or a few veggie sides. There are twelve vegetable side recipes in my Healthy Holiday recipes including sweet potato and peach with rosemary and maple beetroot and pear.
  • Do a walk by the beach or in the bush, ideally as much or as little as you are comfortable with for your current fitness. This afternoon we are heading to Davidson Park to do the lyrebird walk which is 2km each way and runs alongside Middle Harbour, best of both worlds as you are by the bush and the water.
  • Create some calm in your mind. Try doing a meditation there are a wide range on commercial apps such as Calm and Gaia and the free 30 day meditations on Themeaningoflife.tv are well worth trialling. You can just do ten or twenty minutes and see if the format is right for you.

Self Care

  • Have a mini spa day with a bath with mineral salts and combine it with a facial treatment with a mask or scrub. Quite often you have been gifted bubble bath or other products so take advantage of them or simply buy a box of Epsom Salts and add a little lavender oil to the bath.
  • Book a favourite treatment to enjoy in January, whether it is a remedial, lymphatic or craniosacral massage or a facial or pedicure.

Feeling inspired to knock over more than a few of these then you may want to look at my blog on 12 Changes for better health to really undertake a big renewal in 2023!

Reduce your toxic load with seven natural skincare and cleaning product suppliers

Reduce your toxic load with seven natural skincare and cleaning product suppliers

Women are exposed to more chemicals than men as we use on average twelve personal care products daily which exposes you to up to 168 different chemicals according to the Environmental Working Group.

One of the best ways to reduce your toxic load is to minimise exposure to chemicals. Most people think about reducing their exposures by buying organic foods however it might be time to look at what you are using on your skin and to clean your house. This list is based on many product suppliers I have trialled and use as well as a few other recommendations from practitioners in this area.

Topical use of products like skincare is one of the biggest sources of toxins for many people. A few of my favourite options are Simplicite Skin Care, Gypsy Rose Haircare , Weleda and Grants. We can absorb up to about 10% of substances applied to the skin and so sorting out your personal care is a big priority when it comes to reducing your toxic load.

Personally I have used Simplicite Skin Care since having a mini facial with their products at Nature Care College when I was studying. At the time I was looking for something which wouldn’t cause my skin to breakout badly or come up in a rash. The range from Simplicite is formulated by an experienced herbalist and, as well as smelling amazing, is also therapeutic. David Lyons, the naturopath who created the range, has worked on skin problems for two decades before formulating these products and it really shows in the effectiveness.

On a number of occasions when I have contacted the company the advice has always been really helpful. My top tip is to try one of the packs for your type of skin before committing to purchasing the full range. It’s also worth trying out some of the serums in particular the capillary repair serum if you suffer from redness or superficial veins. It’s a lovely combination with two types of chamomile and lavender oil. The Rehydration serum is also very effective if you are prone to drying skin and the Antioxidant serum worked well for me on scar repair post surgery.

Weleda has a range of beautiful creams, lotions, oils and deodorants. The texture of the creams is particularly good and they spread well which is a really significant benefit when you are using Calendula cream on a wound. They also produce some very useful combinations for creams like Urtical which combines Calendula for healing and Urtica Urens for itching.

Over the years we have tried a number of hair care products and whilst the Alchemy range has been good Gypsy Rose Haircare has reduced the need to wash hair in terms of both frequency and number of washes. The original recommendation came through colleagues on Facebook who found it beneficial for those with dandruff and psoriasis. It uses ingredients like essential oils, kombucha and apple cider vinegar to improve the quality of the scalp. The website is a bit clunky but it is worth persevering and ordering enough to use it for at least a month. The combination of apple cider vinegar and kombucha gives white or grey hair real brightness as well which is a nice additional benefit.

The other aspect that is well worth considering is using a low tox toothpaste and Grants of Australia make a range of different toothpastes using includes 10 toothpaste flavours: Mild Mint, Fresh Mint,  Cinnamon, Xylitol, Propolis, Whitening, Sensitive, Fresh Mint with Fluoride, Kids Blueberry Burst and Kids Strawberry Surprise, along with Xylitol Natural Mouthwash. The products use natural anti-virals like aloe vera, neem oil and tea tree oil.

Natural cleaning options

In terms of cleaning products there are a number of companies with low tox options, such as Abode Cleaning Products and Dr Bronner’s and for those who are really inspired there is a useful blog on making your own cleaning products on the Low Tox life blog, Keep your cleaning toxin free with these 7 easy home made cleaning products.

Abode Cleaning Products is produced by Building Biologist Nicole Bijlisma and puts into practice many of the things that she has learnt through her training. One of the best products they make is called Mould Control and this blog gives you some great information about cleaning mould effectively Hazards in the Home Mould . Products are available through a range of suppliers nationally as well as many health food stores.

Dr Bronner’s produce a range of pure soaps with bases such as coconut oils, olive oils and jojoba oil. The ingredients are used depending on the specific lathering and other properties. Dr Bronner’s also use organic ingredients and advocate for the appropriate regulation of those products in cleaning and personal care products.

What are your favourite low tox products for cleaning and personal care ? Please post any useful ideas in the comments below if you have any thoughts.

For more information on supporting natural detoxification have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. If you would like to work with me directly at my clinic at Elemental Health, St Ives, you can book appointments on (02) 8084 0081 or book online.

Sweet and Salty recipes for some spooky halloween fun

Sweet and Salty recipes for some spooky halloween fun

Halloween is a good time to break out a few fun treats, whether its to feed trick or treaters or just to entertain the family. This collection of recipes has a selection of sweet and savoury recipes which will provide some inspiration for a party, entertaining after school snacks or just some tasty options.

A few years ago we had a combined Halloween party for my children’s birthday just after we had moved house. The timing was less than ideal but we had a lot of fun decorating with cobwebs and pumpkin tea lights. We tied mini donuts to the washing line, bobbed for apples (not a good idea really for young children) and played wrap the mummy with toiler paper. It’s a pity that I didn’t have this recipe collection at the time but we did organise an amazing spooky castle cake!

Included in this collection are some fun fruit snacks with;

  • Candy Fruit Canes
  • Monster Apple Bites
  • Banana Ghosts
  • Clementine Pumpkins
  • Bat energy bites

Or you can enjoy a few savoury options with;

  • Spiders on a log (celery and peanut butter)
  • Mini spider web pizzas
  • Spooky spider devilled eggs
  • Creepy crawly spider pretzels.

Download recipes here

Let me know if you make any of the recipes and which ones were tastiest!

For more recipe inspiration of simply information on maintaining or improving your health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, improving gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Do you really understand how to use Probiotics and do strains matter ?

Do you think you have been fed a few misstatements about probiotics ? If you have been you probably aren’t the only one! There were a few myths busted at a recent conference that I have also been guilty of believing in recent years. So what were those myths and what’s the real story ?

Have you ever been told that your probiotics need to be kept in the fridge ? (Was it me?) Turns out that many strains are heat resistant and don’t need to be kept in the fridge including the range from Activated Probiotics. Probiotics are living organisms and so are sensitive to heat, moisture and oxygen, however if appropriately treated and packaged the product is heat stable. Activated Probiotics freeze dry the probiotic and use specific packaging technology to encapsulate it so that it survives stomach acid and is effective in the gut. The best advice generally is to follow the advice on the packaging, however when travelling a heat stable option is usually better as its less likely to be left behind (in the mini bar fridge!).

The other common myth is that you should take probiotics separately from antibiotics or even after you have finished the antibiotics. Actually since antibiotics are designed to be absorbed into the bloodstream and probiotics into the gut then it really doesn’t matter. For the best result with probiotics ideally they are taken with food and that food contains a little fat.

For many people they may be a little concerned about taking medications with probiotics so it might be a good idea to review the strategies in my recent blog Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well? . When you do have specific side effects from your medications probiotics can be of use in managing those symptoms where they is specific research to support use for those conditions.

One of the big ones is that probiotics replace “lost bacteria” but it turns out that whilst probiotics have a therapeutic effect they do not stay permanently in the gut. Estimates of how long the probiotics will last are usually between 1-3 weeks. The point is that whilst the strain is there it is having a therapeutic effect, for example a lactobacillus plantarum strain which is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBS. Therapeutically we might use this strain whilst making dietary changes to reduce systemic inflammation, so that you do not need to be on a probiotic permanently.

This probably brings us to the biggest myth – isn’t a mix of strains better ? Really it is a bit like spraying buckshot you might get lucky but the reality is a specific strain or strains based on the research and your signs and symptoms will result in better outcomes for you.

So what about prebiotics should I just take those instead ? A prebiotic is different to a probiotic, the easiest analogy is that its a bit like fertiliser in the garden. It doesn’t create a broader range of plants but it does feed the useful ones. If you want to improve the diversity of your gut flora you really need to look at supporting it with a wide range of vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ? covers this topic in more depth but in addition to variety of vegetables it is also useful to add in organic sources as much as possible.

For more information on maintaining or improving your health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, improving gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Supplements

Many people over fifty are on a range of medications to manage chronic health problems. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 47% of the population is managing chronic health conditions which include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, mental health conditions and osteoporosis. Whilst these medications are often essential the side effects of some of these common medications can have negative impacts on your overall health.

What can you do to manage these risks? First up make sure that your GP is aware of all the medications you are taking and that they are still appropriate. Secondly if you are having noticeable side effects with a medication see if your GP can recommend an alternative. The next step, if the medication is creating side effects, is then to consider looking at supporting yourself nutritionally to minimise the impact. Below are five common medications that may have side effects that impact your brain or physical health (1) and some strategies for managing them.

  1. Statins. A common problem for people on statins (cholesterol lowering medication) is that they start feeling less energetic as the statins deplete the levels of Co Q 10. Some people can also suffer from muscle aches and pains and develop memory problems. CoQ10 is important for energy production within the cell. Dosage is a little dependent on weight however generally 150-300 mcg is useful and its recommended that you start at a lower dose and build up slowly.
  2. Metformin which is often given for Diabetes can reduce levels of both B6 and B12. Low B12 may lead to peripheral neuropathy which can cause loss of sensation in the feet or tingling or burning sensations. Again a Multi vitamin with adequate B12 is essential . Depending on your other medications and any possible interactions you may need to use individual supplements rather than a multi-vitamin. Balancing your blood sugar is also essential when you are on these medications so have a look at the dietary recommendations in my blog Are you missing out on ways that you can start ageing outrageously well ?
  3. Anti-depressants need B vitamins for optimal effect and whilst they may not reduce levels specifically they may be less effective if you are not taking a multi vitamin at the same time. In addition your mood may be helped by considering an anti-inflammatory diet and according to the Mayo clinic, walking at least 30 minutes daily (2).
  4. Antibiotics Antibiotics can disrupt the natural bacteria flora in the digestive system, reducing beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum , this may result in symptoms like persistent diarrhoea or constipation. Use a good quality brand of probiotics such as Inner Health with at least 5 billion live organisms for effective management. Nutritionally make sure you are having at least 3 cups of vegetables a day to feed beneficial bacteria and consider a range of prebiotic fibres as well. There is a lot more information on the best options in my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy impacts on folic acid (B9), B6 and B12 as well as magnesium levels. A good multi vitamin plus between 400-800mg of magnesium can be useful in managing the side effects. HRT can be useful to manage significant symptoms post menopause and it is adviseable to ensure that if you are using it long term you look at liver support, such as St Mary’s Thistle, to minimise adverse effects longer term.

Food sources for some of these key nutrients such as Co Q10 can be a little challenging. CoQ10 is found in organ meats like kidney, heart and liver. Whilst you could look at including a nice pate on a regular basis, to include liver for example, it is hard to get sufficient levels without a supplement if you are vegetarian or can’t stomach organ meats. There are some organ supplements on the market which could be a good option, just make sure they are organic wherever possible.

Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods, but inadequate intake is common and is associated with a greater risk of osteoporosis. Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, legumes, quinoa, dark chocolate, brown rice and other unrefined whole grains (3). People who benefit from a magnesium supplement are prone to headaches and cramping and have difficulty staying asleep. They usually find that magnesium reduces cramping with supplementation. Ideally look for a form of magnesium that is combined with a citrate or an amino acid chelate as magnesium combined with oxide is usually only helpful for constipation as it has laxative qualities.

For more information on maintaining or improving Brain Health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, appropriate movement, gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Key sources

(1) https://www.drugs.com/drug_information.html

(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

(3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318595