Preventing Pain as We Age
Author: Dustin Moffitt, ND
Does it often feel like every passing birthday brings new aches and pains? These pains not only affect how you feel physically, but can also take a toll on your mental health. Pain might limit your ability to do the things you love, or enjoy your day-to-day, but you don’t have to accept pain as your burden to bear in your later years. Instead, view it as a signal that your body wants and needs attention. There are steps you can take to prevent or even reverse pain as you age that don’t involve surgery or a lifetime of pain medication.
What is it about getting older that creates more pain?
It may feel like pain just shows up out of the blue one day, but chances are the potential for pain has been brewing for many years. When there are no symptoms, it can be very hard to determine what is going on behind the scenes. Old injuries that weren’t given the time or proper care to heal can create pain in other areas due to years of compensation patterns. Inflammation in the joints (or all over), chronic infections, or even chemical toxicity can create pain in the body. Hormone changes such as a decrease in testosterone in men, and estrogen in women may also contribute to pain later in life. Thyroid disorders have been commonly linked to pain as well. If you have a combination of any of these factors then your likelihood of pain is even higher.
The good news is that there are things you can do now to prevent or reverse pain as you age. In this article, I will discuss many ways to help you get rid of pain and back to living vibrantly for many years to come.
Lifestyle and Nutrition Necessities
At the top of my prescription list is always incorporating some form of movement or exercise, coupled with strength training. When we aren’t as mobile, we are more prone to develop pain.
Muscle and movement help to reduce pain by keeping our myofascial system in a highly moveable state which lessens the number of adhesions, or painful spots between muscle layers.
If you are over the age of 30, I recommend that you lift heavier weights to help maintain muscle mass. However, if you are new to strength training, start with lighter weights and focus on form until you feel comfortable moving heavier weights.
Good quality sleep
The importance of sleep cannot be overemphasized. Sleep is the time that the body’s important restoration functions get to work. When sleep is short or interrupted, our system is more easily taxed, we respond poorly to stress, and it can cause cravings for not-so-healthy foods.
Ideally, we are waking and sleeping with the natural rhythms of sunrise and sunset, but this isn’t always possible. Aim to be in bed and asleep before 10 pm each night and if your schedule permits, allow yourself to wake up naturally without an alarm clock. For most people, 7-8 hours of sleep provides adequate rest.
Sometimes something as simple as hydration can positively affect a person’s pain levels. This is especially true if headaches and muscle stiffness are the main complaint. Your body needs water, and most people aren’t drinking enough. It is important to get at least half your body weight in ounces each day. So for a 150-pound person, 75 ounces of water per day is the minimum. You may require even more depending on your activity levels and caffeine intake.
Nutrition and Diet for pain prevention
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are compounds that are shown to rapidly increase our aging rate and inflammation. AGEs are naturally occurring, but are Increased when foods are heat processed, especially at higher temperatures (think fried, grilled, or charred). Avoiding animal products that have been high-heat exposed can reduce the number of AGEs in your diet.
A diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables like blueberries, strawberries, kale, red cabbage, beets, spinach, pecans, and even dark chocolate (72% cacao and above) are great sources of antioxidants. Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds (raw) are good sources of healthy fats.
It’s a good idea for every person to monitor and limit their sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. This may require reading food labels as sugar hides in many packaged products.
If you have any food sensitivities then it is advised that you avoid those foods. If you suspect that you may have food sensitivities, then following an elimination diet can help you determine if your suspicions are correct.
Supplements that Help with Aging/Pain
I wish that I could say that there was a one-size-fits-all supplement protocol for pain, but every person is different and therefore requires their own personalized supplemental approach. Here at Riordan Clinic we use lab testing to determine exactly what each patient needs. We measure things like micronutrients and inflammatory markers to detect deficiencies and abnormalities that need to be addressed.
As I mentioned previously, there are numerous reasons that a person might experience pain as they age, and supplements are tailored to their individual case. But, I do want to highlight some of the things I’ve used in practice.
Nitric oxide (NO) plays a large role in how our body heals, operates, and stays young. A recent study indicated that maintaining proper NO levels noticeably reduced osteoarthritis related symptoms and with some cases being reversed entirely. If you are curious about your own NO levels, HumanN created Nitric Oxide Indicator Strips to help you track your progress. If you find that your levels are low, you can find NEO 40 Nitric Oxide tabs in our nutrient store.
Supplements that Support Hormones
DHEA is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body and is a precursor to other hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Our DHEA levels naturally decline as we age. Supplementing with DHEA may help with hormone imbalances in aging adults.
Healthy adrenals are very important in our later years as a lot of hormone production takes place in these small glands. Adrenal Revive contains several constituents like Ashwaghanda, Skullcap, Eleuthero, and Rhodiola that support the adrenals and help the body adapt to stress.
In the body, prengnenolone is used to make steroid hormones. Some research has shown that supplementing with Pregnenolone may help with cognitive function, stress reduction and arthritis. It is important to work with your practitioner to determine dosage and use of pregnenolone.
You know that we are big proponents of vitamin C around here. Among its many uses, it very important for supporting adrenal health and function.
Supplements to Support Joint Health
MSM is a dietary supplement that may help with inflammation and reduction in joint and muscle pain.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and Chonoroitin are structural components of cartilage. Supplementation may help with pain associated with osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that damages cartilage in the joints.
Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is naturally produced by the body that also declines with age. Its main function is to retain water which keeps tissues of the body well lubricated for easier function and movement. As you can imagine, this is very important for our joints.
Supplements that Help Reduce Pain
Bromelain is an extract from the pineapple plant that may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that are beneficial for those with osteoarthritis.
Quercetin is being studied for a number of benefits, including pain reduction. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme, meaning that it breaks down proteins. It helps break down scar tissue that can oftentimes be the cause of pain.
Boswellia and turmeric act as strong anti-inflammatories. When paired with enzymes such as serrapeptase they work together to decrease cytokines (inflammation signals) and fibrin development which can lead to poorly healed wounds or painful scars if formed in abundance.
Correct Nutrient Deficiencies
Any nutrient that you are deficient in can essentially lead to pain as you age. Testing is the only true way to determine which nutrients your body needs the most. Correcting deficiencies, along with some of the aforementioned supplements, may be just the right combination to get, and keep, you out of pain. Start with lifestyle and nutritional changes, incorporate supplements with the help of your practitioner, and if you are still experiencing pain, there are other natural interventions available to help.
Other Interventions for Pain
Prolozone involves an injection with the use of ozone. Ozone is created when an energetic force, such as electricity (lightning) or ultraviolet light (solar exposure) is imposed upon a molecule of O2. The two oxygen atoms are temporarily split apart into single oxygen atoms. Then, in a matter of nanoseconds, these highly unstable oxygen atoms will pair up again and reform back into O2 molecules. However, a small percentage of them will unite in a three-part structure known as ozone. Ozone, referred to as O3, is a gaseous molecule which consists of three oxygen atoms all sharing the same electrons.
When using ozone in an area that is struggling to heal, it creates a localized hydrogen peroxide-like effect. This produces local tissue damage as a controlled injury, and then it converts back to high-grade oxygen sending beneficial healing growth factors to the area and flushing the area with extra blood flow. Local administration of ozone also contributes to a rapid reduction in inflammation by means of reducing local cytokines. Results are typically improved in regenerative therapies with the addition of ozone.
Dextrose prolotherapy consists of a variety of different combinations depending on the desired outcome or the provider using it. Generally speaking, it combines dextrose sugar, local anesthetic, and other nutrients. I personally refer to dextrose prolotherapy as the “middle man approach” or a “flagging system” as it is used to provide a low-grade local irritation to an area that says, “hey come pay attention to this area.” With chronic injuries, there isn’t a strong enough signal locally or our body isn’t paying enough attention to it to fully heal and external help is needed.
Every case will provide different challenges. Typically, I think of dextrose prolotherapy as a first-line approach to “stretched-out rubber bands,” ie. ligaments and tendons. Prolotherapy is also superior when needing hydrodissection, or liquid pressure to break up scar tissue. Dextrose prolotherapy may also be most beneficial to locally damaged nerve tissues as it is a local nutrient blast. It helps widen the pain threshold, meaning it would take more pain to elicit a response.
PRP – “Skipping the middle man”
Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP, is a technique where a solution is derived from the patient’s own blood sample and injected into an injured area to stimulate healing and repair. Platelet-rich plasma is derived from a normal blood sample that is spun in a centrifuge. This concentrated plasma contains powerful healing properties and is rich in growth factors. These naturally occurring growth factors in the PRP are very similar to undifferentiated cells, also known as stem cells. Stem cells stimulate growth factors that encourage cartilage development which helps with tendon/ligament laxity, and repairing the smooth bone-coating articulating cartilage.
Other growth factors promote new blood supply enhancing nutrient delivery to the area, and new nerve development to restore proper movement, sensation, and downregulated pain signals. PRP injections are used to improve and hasten the recovery and healing from acute injuries. It is a great resource for injured athletes or anyone needing to get back in action quickly.
Stem cells are another option for regenerative medicine. The primary types of stem cells available are umbilical cord-derived, adipose tissue, and bone marrow. The types of stem cells used depend on the case and the area being treated. In many offices, a combination of stem cells, exosomes, Wharton’s jelly, and PRP are used.
Pain doesn’t have to be our “normal” as we age. It is our signal to rethink our general lifestyle habits and make the changes necessary to bring our body back to health. If we’ve done everything we can do on our own, then natural, non-surgical intervention options are still available. Don’t give up, and don’t accept that pain has to be part of your aging process.
Dr. Dustin Moffitt, ND specializes in natural pain management techniques. To learn more about regenerative injections or to book an appointment with Dr. Moffitt call 785-628-3215.