You Can Get Rid of Your Pain

8 Nov

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

This month, let’s talk about pain.  While no one therapy is 100 percent effective, there are effective ways to dial back and even prevent big pain. In fact, proven, non-drug therapies can slash your pain by 20 to 60 percent and let two-thirds of you with chronic pain slash pain-pill dosage too. Yes, the data are clear, chiropractic treatment is the least expensive and quickest way to return to normal function after back pain.

If you’ve got pain that won’t quit—headaches, nerve pain, digestive pain or aches in your joints—these eight tips can help you get the upper hand, brighten your mood, and improve your sleep:

#1: Quit smoking. A major cause of recurrent back pain (and all recurrent pain) is smoking and tobacco use! Tobacco users have a 300 percent greater rate of chronic lower back pain than nonsmokers. The cause of the back pain from tobacco is not known, but some research indicates that hydrocarbons from cigarette smoke increase inflammation and decrease blood flow. Researchers have also found that nicotine disrupts the flow of oxygen to the spine’s disks, and coupled with inflammation, can trigger disk degeneration (ouch!). Cigarette smoke (even secondhand smoke) also appears to kill off the cells that build bone, which affects bone density.  (So does smoking marijuana. One joint releases the inflammation from hydrocarbons of four cigarettes.)

So if you have chronic pain and you smoke, your best first step is to quit! (You’ll also reduce your risk for lung, esophageal, and many other cancers, COPD, stroke, and heart attack.) Need help?  Go to and search for “smoking cessation.” Our email coaching program is 63 percent effective on the first try for at least seven months.

#2: Move gently. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do, but a gentle program like walking and yoga (ask your doc what’s best for you) can pay big dividends—like cutting your need for prescription pain pills and boosting the odds you’ll be back to work each by more than 50 percent.  Movement’s great for everything from that bum knee to headaches and pain associated with recovering from cardiac surgery.

#3: Watch your weight. Not only does an extra 10 pounds put 30 to 60 pounds of added force on your knees with every step, but added weight increases your odds for lower back pain, tension and migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, abdominal pain, and chronic widespread pain.  The good news? Losing weight takes that pressure off.

#4: De-stress daily. It’s not all in your head; tension makes pain feel worse. Progressive muscle relaxation by tightening, then releasing your muscles slowly from toes to head helps joint aches, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis pain, and inflammatory bowel disease. Massage and guided imagery also help you relax deeply and ease pain. There are at least eight more techniques you can try to see which works for you at (look for StressFreeNow on the site).

#5: Meditate. Turning inward for a few minutes relaxes you—and helps you control your brain’s alpha rhythm, a brain wave that tunes out distractions like pain.  This also sharpens memory, which is good news because chronic pain can take a toll on your ability to remember names, dates, or where you left the car keys.  Try it: Close your eyes and breathe in and out at a natural pace, noticing how it feels. As thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations crop up, acknowledge them without judgment and return your attention to your breath, focusing on exhaling stress. After 10 minutes, start noticing your surroundings again, open your eyes, and go about your day refreshed!

#6: Make an appointment for more pain help. Therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy, acupuncture, and biofeedback, provided by trained practitioners, can also take the edge off pain. Ask your doctor for a referral.

#7: Use topical pain relievers. These halt pain signals before they reach your brain.

#8: Get a second opinion about your pain meds. Using strong pain relievers long-term may be a smart choice if you’ve got cancer pain or are suffering from pain at the end of life.  After major surgery, taking them while well-supervised by a pain management specialist may be essential, too.  But remember meditating or yoga learned beforehand decreases need for pain meds even after cardiac surgery by 50%.

But for the rest of you, whether you’re stuck on pain meds or just started taking them, it’s the right time to see your chiropractic pain management specialist to learn about your options. Intercepting pain fast can stop it from becoming chronic. Finding new options can, at any time in your journey to control pain, put you back on the road to living the life you love.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).

Young Dr Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)


NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.

This article is of the opinion of its author.

Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have tow newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr Oz.  These makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.  And, the new book by Dr Mike Roizen: This is YOUR Do-Over

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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