This is the perfect time to make lifestyle changes to reduce your chronic pain. Making vague goals just won’t work. They need to be SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic with a time span attached.
Start with slight changes and build up to your goal. I’m trying to learn to meditate and was told I should do this for 20 minutes twice a day but I don’t do it it’s too much too soon. So I am to meditate to start with 5 minutes once a day and build up over the month to 10 minutes twice a day. That should be achievable and something I can then build on.
Here are some things you might like to try and achieve, of course there are many other things you may want to focus on like losing some weight or reducing your alcohol consumption. Dry January seems a popular resolution at this time of year but perhaps in the long term having at least a couple of alcohol free days a week might have better health benefits.
1. Walk 10,000 steps a day
Low-impact exercise will strengthen muscles, reduce inflammation and get oxygen pumping to the painful areas.The easiest way to begin is to walk. Here are some ways you can incorporate the habit into your life:
• Get some comfortable walking shoes
• Buy a pedometer so you can track your steps. ‘Fitbits’ seem very popular these days but there are cheaper options even your smart phone can do this. Start with a lower goal and build it up.
• Walk everywhere you can: take the stairs rather than the lift and if you travel by bus perhaps get off a stop easy and walk the rest of the way.
• Team up with an accountability ‘buddy’ and see who can take the most steps each day.
2. Make your bedroom a no-screen zone
People with painful back or neck conditions often sleep poorly, and poor sleep can make the pain worse.
If you want to increase your chances of getting good sleep, kick screens out of your bedroom. Smart phones, laptops, tablets, and TV screens distract and stimulate you. Plus you might be watching with poor posture. Using these in bed, you make it more difficult for your body to recognize that it’s time to sleep. Break the habit and try these tips:
After a while, you may notice that refraining from screen use in your bedroom helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
3. Bring a water bottle everywhere with you
Staying properly hydrated is important for the health of your spine, as your intervertebral discs are mostly made up of water. Drinking water also allows nutrients to flow properly and helps with joint and organ maintenance.
• Drinking about 2 Litres of fluid is a good goal to aim for but if you want to be more precise take your body weight (in pounds) and divide that number by 2. This number is about how many ounces (= 28mls) of water you should drink each day.
• Purchase a durable and easily transportable water bottle to help you reach your daily water intake.
• If you prefer more flavourful beverages, get a water bottle with a built-in fruit infuser. This option allows for deliciously flavoured water that’s still healthy for you.
Another upside of drinking a lot of water is that it makes it easier for you to reduce your consumption of soda and alcohol—both of which can negatively affect your health. I tend to squeeze a lemon then chop up the rest of the lemon and add it to the infuser. I sometimes add ginger (anti inflammatory) sliced thinly.
4. Set a tobacco quit date
Smokers experience pain more frequently than people who don’t smoke. And nicotine kills cells that help with bone growth. Quitting smoking is a difficult challenge, but it’s worth it if you want to enjoy a healthier spine. You can get help via the Smoking cessation service available via your GP. They will educate you to the options available to you. Prescribe nicotine replacement medication or Zyban or Chantix which have been shown to help. They will use a carbon monoxide to monitor your progress.
Consider these ideas too:
• Set a quit-date and stick to it. Tell your friends and family so they can see you are committed and they can help hold you accountable.
• If you associate other habits with smoking, replace those habits with new ones. For example, if you typically enjoy coffee while smoking every morning, start drinking tea instead.
• For the first few weeks of not smoking, keep away from other smokers.
Add at least one of these tips to your list of New Year’s resolutions and see if you enjoy a healthier and happier 2019.