Tag Archives: exercise

Exercise Just Right for You

For Providers: Talking Exercise with Patients

Exercise has been a part of daily life for John Kim, a Carle family nurse practitioner, from an early age, but he realizes that’s not the case for everyone.

Kim, who started at Carle in 2015, stresses the importance of exercise with all of his patients.

“I talk about exercise consistently to every patient because not only can it treat comorbidities, but it can also prevent future illness and disease,” Kim said. “I believe exercise along with diet is the foundation of health, and so I make it a priority to talk about exercise with each patient.”

He treats exercise like a vital sign, having his certified medical assistant ask all patients if they exercise and how much.

“Asking about exercise as a vital sign has made it extremely easy to bring up the topic of exercise to each patient,” he said.

Kim offers his patients advice about how to get started if they’re new to exercise and offers ways to increase physical activity if they aren’t active enough. He caters each plan to each patient’s individual interests and lifestyle and tries to help them take one small step at a time.

“If I have a patient that is completely sedentary, I will find out what his or her interests are and try to tailor some kind of physical activity from that,” Kim said. “I try to shoot for my patients to start off with a number they know they can do, whether it’s 5 minutes or 20 minutes a day.”

He also has patients fill out exercise logs to help hold them accountable and initially follows up with them every 2 weeks or once a month until exercise becomes more routine.

Through it all, he’s learned that being patient and nonjudgmental is key.

“New habits take time to build,” he said. “So I make sure patients know that I am not here to ridicule them, but to encourage and support them as they try to build the new habit of exercising. I have found that when patients know that their provider genuinely cares about their health, it gets to the point where it motivates the patients to push themselves a little more, and I believe this is why I have many success stories of patients going from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active lifestyle.”

Key Takeaways

  • Discuss exercise along with vital signs for every patient.
  • Be patient about results, and don’t ridicule.
  • Set attainable goals with small steps.
  • Follow up frequently until exercise becomes a habit.
  • Have patients use exercise logs and bring them to each appointment
Chronic Back Pain

My Healthy Journey: Chronic Back Pain

The Opioid Epidemic and Chronic Back Pain

Over the last year, the leading news story in health care has been the opioid epidemic. And chronic pain, particularly chronic back pain, has been at the top of the list of reasons why people use opioids long term. 

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, and for many, it’s pain that can last the rest of their lives. Chronic pain can happen because of a genetic problem or disorder or an injury or accident. Many people who survive serious car accidents or workplace accidents deal with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. 

And back injuries are a leading cause of chronic pain. Business Insider took a look at a study that dug into the relationship between chronic back pain and opioid use disorder:

Amino - Chronic Back Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

Having back surgery increases your chances of relying on opioids to manage pain by over 7 times! Other back problems raise your chances by over 2 times. 

Obviously, these are also people who are likely to get long-term opioid prescriptions from their doctors.

How Doctors Treat Chronic Pain

For decades, the standard for doctors has been to treat this kind of ongoing pain with opioids. Now, with opioid drug overdoses skyrocketing, doctors are making changes.

Early estimates show that opioids took 53,000 American lives in 2016, more than those killed in car accidents.

Opioids don’t just turn off your pain receptors. They also let your brain release more dopamine, which can help relieve stress and anxiety and make you happier.

But when you take an opioid permanently, you can build a tolerance to it, which means you need more and more to manage your pain and to feel good. Both the pain relief for chronic sufferers and the way it makes you feel can become addictive.

Not to mention, opioids can change how often certain neurons in your brain fire, which means that when you’re not on opioids, you actually get more anxious and unhappy until you take more, causing serious withdrawals. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised their guidelines to help doctors try other treatments first, and doctors are hard at work to find new ways to treat pain.

Waiting for Chronic Back Pain

So why is this part of my healthy journey? I have my own chronic back pain.

I’m lucky. I’ve never taken opioids for my back pain, so I’ve avoided those issues, but I do understand what it’s like to live with pain as a part of your daily life and why people would be willing to take opioids to stop it.

My father has had a slipped disc in his back my entire life. I’ve always known what back pain looks like. I also always thought it might happen to me. Not only can these issues be hereditary, but I also take after my father physically.

Combine that with the slouch of someone who hated always being the tallest in her class as a child and now sits in front of a computer all day, and I always suspected that back problems were coming for me.

My Chronic Back Pain

The pain started for me in college, when I was no longer playing sports or working out in P.E. every day. One year, I chose to live in the loop in Chicago instead of by my campus, so as part of my daily commute, I walked about an hour and a half. That was when I really started to throw out my back once in a while.

But it wasn’t until I worked at Starbucks after college that I really started to have serious problems regularly. Being on my feet all day and bending up and down with milk jugs all the time really started to take a toll on my back.

I’ll get building back pain on one side of my lower back. It can switch sides, and one side is usually worse than the other. And when it fully goes out, my knee on that side can sometimes buckle, which if I’m not ready for it, can actually knock me down. And sometimes it’s so bad that getting out of bed, getting up and down, or just falling asleep, is a challenge. 

Getting Help

I’ve always known this pain might hit me one day, and when it started, I talked to my dad a lot about what was going on. My symptoms match his exactly.

Since I knew what the issue was from my father’s medical history, I wasn’t really worried about getting an official diagnosis.

I also already knew that I didn’t want to take opioids or painkillers long term. I’m one of those people who rarely takes even Tylenol. And when I had serious opioids after I had my wisdom teeth removed, they made me feel disoriented and nauseous.

My older brother had a serious workplace injury when I was in high school. He broke his pelvis and some of his spine. He’d seen a chiropractor, among many other specialists, when he was recovering, and he still sees one sometimes to cope with his own chronic pain.

I decided to explore that as a treatment option instead. My new chiropractor ran some X-rays and told me that my pelvis is tilted, which lets my disc slip back and forth instead of holding it in place. 

Through a series of adjustments, he worked to bring my pelvis back in line, and brought me some real relief. 

Unfortunately, I’ve done some state-hopping since then, and while I’m still in better shape than I used to be, I haven’t had time to find a new chiropractor yet. 

Starting to Deal with Your Pain

So what can you do to tackle your chronic pain? 

  1. First and foremost, go see your doctor, especially if you’ve been injured or don’t have a family history of back issues. You might need surgery or other serious help.

  2. Consider your treatment options. Surgery can be an option for many chronic back problems, but it has costs. It’s expensive and can cause its own set of pain problems. Opioids are highly addictive. Talk to your doctor about other options, like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.

  3. Talk to your insurance company. Insurance companies want to stop the opioid epidemic too, and more plans are covering alternative therapies like chiropractic visits than ever before.

  4. Talk to your employer. If you have insurance through your employer, talk to them about making sure other therapies are covered on your group plan.

  5. Work with your care team on a treatment plan to cope with and manage your pain.

Learning to Manage Pain

So how do I manage my chronic back pain without drugs?

  • Set expectations. Knowing I would probably grow up to develop chronic back pain means I’ve always been ready for it. Accepting that pain will be a part of my life helps me feel in control.

  • Find a treatment that helps. For me, this has been regular chiropractic adjustments that help relieve tension and keep my disc in place. 

  • Get massages. I get the occasional massage to help relieve tension in the muscles in my back too. Many people with back pain get regular massages and swear by them.

  • Exercise and eat right. Even just a few extra pounds can put enormous stress on your spine if you already have back problems. And exercise can strengthen the muscles in your back. Focus on low-impact activities and strengthen your core if you’re already in pain.

    And choose your cardio wisely. Running outdoors or on inclines can be really hard on your back and pelvis. Try running on a treadmill, walking, or biking instead.

  • Try yoga, pilates, or tai chi. Yes, these are technically forms of exercise, but they’re more than that too. A new study found that yoga can actually help relieve back pain itself, but recommends gentle poses. And the routine they used is free online. I find it highly relaxing and a nice way to stretch and wind down, and you can do it as often as you want.

  • Get plenty of sleep. You’d be surprised how sleep affects other parts of your life. When I’m sleep deprived, my back is much more likely to go out. And since I struggle to sleep once my back’s out, it makes for a long sleepless week in that situation.

  • Try little treatments and tricks. I ice my back and use heating pads. I also take over-the-counter pain meds before bed if my back feels like it will go out during the night. If my back’s already out, lying on the floor (if I have someone handy to help me get up later) can help. Putting a pillow between my knees can also help while I’m trying to fall asleep.

  • Meditate. Meditation can help you clear your mind and refocus, and mindfulness can be surprisingly helpful in overcoming pain. There are easy apps you can try to get started too.

  • Talk to someone or journal. Chronic pain can be emotional. You hurt. You can’t escape it, and it can feel hopeless. Talk to a close loved one, journal about what’s happening, or visit a therapist. It can help you blow off steam, lighten your mental load, feel heard, and document your pain’s progression.

  • Practice self-care. Stress and tension can tighten up everything in your back. Find ways to reduce and fight stress in your life. And find little pleasures that you can focus on each day, like your favorite coffee, trading back rubs with your significant other, or cuddling your pet.

Most importantly, get help when you need it. Never let your pain push you so far that you can’t handle it or you fall into depression. Talk to your doctor to keep your mind and body healthy, even in the face of chronic pain.

Self Improvement Month

Self-Improvement Month

It’s Self-Improvement Month, and we can help you set goals and make changes to improve your health and wellness.

Your food choices are a key part of maintaining a healthy body weight, which can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and more. Get help making healthy food choices each step of the way.

Healthy Food Choices

 

Get moving to improve your health and how you feel. Studies have found that any kind of exercise, even deep cleaning your kitchen, can help.

Moving Many Ways

 

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Finding a hobby you love and taking on new challenges is a great way to fight stress and channel your passion.

Pick a Passion

 

Take an adventure. Traveling is one of the best ways to broaden your horizons, and even if you don’t go far, exploration will be worth the experience.

Adventure Away

 

Become a mentor. Whether it’s to a new co-worker, your nephew, or at-risk youth, mentoring can help you and someone else grow.

Become a Mentor

 

Adjust and refocus on your goals. Figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and make a system to stick with them, like a dream board, planner, or journal.

Evaluate your relationships and how you can be a better friend, spouse, or parent to those you love. Focus on small ways to make improvements for each type of relationship.

Prioritize Relationships

Depression Awareness

Depression Awareness for Suicide Prevention Month

It’s National Suicide Prevention Month, and someone with depression dies of suicide every 13 minutes, over 41,000 people per year. We spent the week raising depression awareness.

Depression affects more than 18 million, or 1 in 10, people and takes an economic toll of over $100 billion in the U.S. each year.

The Cost of Depression

 

Severe depression can be one of the most debilitating conditions, rated in the same category as terminal cancer.

Depression's Reach

 

Fewer than half of the people in the world with depression get treatment because of lack of resources or the stigma of mental health issues.

Depression's Toll

 

Depression can be caused by social, psychological, and biological factors, and your physical health can make a difference. Exercise can help.

Exercise to Feel Better

 

There are treatments for moderate and severe depression, from therapy to medicine.

Depression Treatment

 

You can also adjust your lifestyle to improve depression. Avoid stress, alcohol, and drugs, maintain a healthy diet, and get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Lifestyle Changes and Depression

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Family Fun Month

Family Fun Month

It’s Family Fun Month, and in honor of it, we’re helping you make exercise fun so you can get moving with your whole family.

Go for pre- or post-dinner walks as a family. They’ll help with your digestion, and walks are the perfect time to explore your neighborhood.

Dinner Walks

 

Crank a record or a playlist, move the furniture, and have a dance party. Music can help cognitive development. You’ll get moving, and you can hand down your favorites.

Make a game out of household chores to improve imagination and get active. Put on capes and have your kids save their toys from the slimy pit of the rug by putting them away.

Clean-Up Made Fun

 

Have a weekly sports night. Go to your kid’s baseball game, play tag or catch in the backyard, or make or buy an exercise deck of cards.

A New Kind of Sports Night

 

Walk or run for charity. Teach your kids the value of helping others and about good causes, and meet people while working out.

Moving for a Good Cause

 

Put kids to work in the yard. Tell them they can only jump in the leaf pile if they help rake and bag them too.

Yard Work Made Fun

 

Garden together! Kids already love playing in the dirt, so have them help you plant a garden and learn about healthy fruits and veggies.

Learning Through Gardening

Beat Stress Tips

Tips to Beat Stress

It was Everybody Deserves a Massage Week, so we helped you take a minute for yourself each day with these tips to beat stress.

If you’ve never had a massage, they’re a great way to relax, relieve muscle tension, and help your immune and digestive systems.

Massage Away Stress

 

Grab some gum. It’s been shown to relieve anxiety and stress and improve alertness while multitasking.

Fighting Strss with Gum

 

Watch a viral video, comedy special, or your favorite rom-com. Laughter can lower stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase good cholesterol.

Laughter for Your Stress

 

Unplug from your technology, turn off your phone, and shut off the news. Taking a break can genuinely help you beat stress.

Eat a square of chocolate, suck on a peppermint, or sip on hot chocolate. Sweets can stem the production of the stress hormone.

A Dose of Sweetness

 

Try a stress-relieving yoga routine. It’s great exercise, and you’ll feel refreshed and calm afterward.

Stress-Fighting Yoga

 

Learn to knit, cross-stitch, or sew. Repetitive motions have been shown to help sooth anxiety.

Knit Your Way to Peace

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National Anti-Boredom Month Activities

National Anti-Boredom Month Activities

It’s National Anti-Boredom Month, and it’s important to beat boredom in more ways than just bingeing Netflix, no matter your age. Give these National Anti-Boredom Month activities a try.

Try a new and adventurous activity, like kickboxing, indoor rock climbing, or yoga, or just find a great hiking spot.

Reaching New Heights

 

Got bored kids this summer? Try a campout in the backyard or build an awesome indoor fort with them for a change of pace.

Campout at Home

 

Create a dream and goal board, which can help you identify things to work toward in your personal or professional life.

Dream Smart

 

Explore your community. Find a place to volunteer, visit a local farmers market, and check out a local calendar for festivals and events.

Learn something new to beat boredom. Pick up a new skill for your career, teach yourself to knit or paint, or start a garden.

Growing a New Skill

 

Get creative! Find crafts and activities for you or the whole family, like scrapbooking, sewing, or woodworking.

Creative Creation

 

If TV or movies are your favorite hobbies, do an exercise each commercial break or make a game out of it. Try doing something like 10 crunches each time a character says their catchphrase.

Active in Front of the TV

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