Eight million people in the UK suffer daily with chronic pain (pain lasting 12 weeks or more), and almost 20 million are in pain at least once a day (1). Pain can be due to many factors, and can range from joint pain, back pain, post-operative pain, age-related pain, muscular and migraine, to period pain.
It is well known that the immune system plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of many chronic pain conditions (2). Unfortunately, chronic pain can also influence immune function, leading to a vicious cycle that can seem tough to break. To top it off, chronic pain often leads to long-term stress, which can also have a negative effect on your immune system.
So, what can you do to break this vicious cycle?
You can’t halt pain in its tracks, but there are some things within your control that might be able to help. Think about what you can do to reduce stress, which in turn may help to reduce the effects of your pain on your immune system (3). When you’re in pain, it can be difficult to think clearly so here are some areas to consider when trying to reduce stress and support immune health:
How to Support Immune Health
- Prepare for healthy sleep: Just like eating and drinking, sleep is an essential human need. Sleep affects emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Healthy sleep has been found to strengthen the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function (4). Little rituals before bed can make a huge difference in the quality of sleep, and for most people having a nightly routine works well for them. It’s important to find what works for YOU, and many people try self-care rituals before bedtime, such as, taking a hot bath with essential oils or bath salts, lighting aromatherapy candles, or listening to relaxing music and reading.
- Stay hydrated: Your body is made up of two-thirds water and hydration plays a key role in helping your body function at its best. Many of you know that dehydration can lead to feelings of lethargy, irritability and low mood. But did you know that your daily hydration can also influence your sleep? Healthy sleep has been found to strengthen the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function (5). So how can hydration play a role? The reason for this link between hydration and sleep may be due to the hormone, vasopressin. This is an anti-diuretic hormone that controls your body’s water balance and is released late in the sleep cycle. The researchers explain that waking up too soon may mean that you miss the time where vasopressin is released, leading to a disruption in the body’s water balance i.e. hydration. Hydrating properly during the day has been said to improve sleep at night, which may help you reach the recommended goal of 8 hours sleep.
- Keep moving: Exercise and movement is so important, and that doesn’t mean that you have to brave the gym every day. Walking in nature has been shown to reduce activity in the brain that has been linked with negative thinking and to reduce depression, so it’s well worth trying to get to your local park throughout the week (5). This is an easy and free way to try and reduce the impact of stress on chronic pain and immune health.
- Healthy eating: When it comes to managing physical and / or mental health conditions, healthy eating is vital. Eating healthily doesn’t have to cost the earth and you don’t have to eat perfectly 100% of the time. Think about eating a balanced diet throughout the week, and then think about what small changes you can make each day to make sure you are eating nutrient-dense foods. For example, swap white bread and pasta for wholemeal grains, because these are a better source of fibre and release glucose into the blood gradually, providing the body with a steady supply of energy and helping you manage your day better. And don’t forget your 5 a day! A recent study involving over 100,000 men and women found out that people who got their 5 a day, specifically 3 veg and 2 fruit, lived longer than those who did not (6).
- Try some natural remedies: To give your body some additional support, I recommend ‘Immunity Drops’, which are a blend of CBD oil, functional mushrooms, and zinc, designed to provide your body with the extra support it may need during times of stress. Take 10 drops twice a day, increasing to 15 drops as needed. Place the Immunity CBD drops under the tongue and hold for 30-60 seconds.
A fantastic topical product to try is ‘Unwind Muscle Rub’. Designed to relieve muscle pain and soreness. The muscle rub contains a blend of CBD oil and functional mushrooms, together with Eucalyptus oil, to relax tired muscles and aid relaxation.