New research shows that a staggering 97 per cent of Australians suffer from body aches and pains, and two thirds of Australian parents believe they would be a better parent if they suffered less body pain.
Body pain, whether it’s a dull ache or sharp pain, can affect our quality of life, and can make us short-tempered and unable to carry out normal day to day activities like carrying supermarket shopping or picking up the kids for a hug.
As parents, we often don’t prioritise our own health, and instead choose to ignore pain, rather than looking at ways to manage and prevent it.
But if pain is causing you to feel impatient and irritable towards your family, or is restricting you from participating in activities with your children, it is time to invest in your own health.
The good news is, everyday pain can be managed using a combination of exercise, rest, medication and other strategies, outlined below. Let’s look at how to manage pain better.
Global Pain Index – what we’ve learnt about pain
The Global Pain Index (GPI) is a first of its kind global study into attitudes towards body pain around the world.
Commissioned by GSK Consumer Healthcare, and completed on behalf of Voltaren, the study was conducted across 14 countries, including Australia.
From the 7000 people that were interviewed, the study found:
- Australia tops the list, with 97 per cent experiencing body pain, compared to 90 per cent in the US and 88 per cent in Sweden.
- 94 per cent of those who said they experienced pain, feel it in their back or lower back.
- 52 per cent of those interviewed said they had difficulty in picking up their children, and 47 per cent said that they were not spending as much time with their children due to pain.
- Half of people’s visits to doctors around the world are due to pain.
From these findings, it is evident that everyday preventable pain has a significant impact on people’s lives, and consequently, on family life.
Kelly’s Story – why you shouldn’t ‘learn to live with it’
After Be a Fun Mum Editor, Kelly, gave birth to her fourth child, the back pain she had experienced after previous pregnancies returned.
“After the birth of my fourth child, I experienced back pain again, even without the extra weight of carrying a baby, and I’ve experienced many other types of body pain in the eight years since,” Kelly shared.
“Flare ups happen for various reasons… like when I did a burpee exercise at a park and was out of action for days… to the time when I did nothing but lean over a soap dish at a sink.”
Kelly admitted that at times, the pain was so bad that even getting in and out of the car could be challenging.
“When my back hurts, I’ve had to ask my kids to tie my shoes, rather than the other way around, because of pain when bending,” she explained.
But after consulting a doctor and having physiotherapy, Kelly said she now uses uses a number of strategies to prevent and reduce her pain, and subsequently improve her quality of life.
“The biggest thing for me with back pain is to make sure I do regular exercise…The tricky thing is, if I do the wrong sort of exercise, or too much, this can cause more pain, so I’ve had to learn to listen to my body and find the balance there,” she said.
Stay fit and keep strong
“Another way I look after my back is to change the way I work. As a blogger, I often used to sit at my computer for long periods of time and with poor posture. Taking regular breaks, and working at a standing desk is helpful.”
In addition to investing in preventative measures, Kelly manages flare ups of pain as they happen.
“Inflammation can be part of the cause of my back pain flaring up,” she said. “Voltaren topical gel is great for these times. It takes the edge off the pain to help me move and helps me get mobile again. Rest and applying heat is helpful too.”
For parents who don’t have the the time to manage their pain when it occurs, Kelly offered this advice, based on her own experience:
“It’s something I wished I got on to earlier,” she said. “When you have small children to look after, often your own needs are way down the list, and you wait for it to go away on its own. But the thing is, the sooner you start, the easier it is to learn to manage pain and reduce it. Get advice and make a plan; find out what combinations work for you. I have now become good at stopping and readjusting what I’m doing at the first niggle, rather than pressing on.”
Tips for pain management
If being active and adventurous with your kids is important to you, but pain has been holding you back, Sydney pharmacist John Bell has these tips on pain relief:
1. If you’re in pain, don’t suffer in silence
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist; they can help identify the cause of your pain and the appropriate treatment options. Body aches and pains can often be managed effectively with simple therapies.
2. Understand your medicines
Appropriate use of medicines can help relieve joint and muscular pain and inflammation. Depending on the cause of your pain and the severity of your symptoms, your healthcare professional may recommend simple medicines, such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Anti-inflammatory topical rubs or heat packs can also help.
3. Keep moving
Whilst rest is important, exercise is even more so. Regular exercise increases mobility and flexibility, it strengthens muscles, bones and ligaments, and it actually reduces pain and stiffness. It will improve your mood too.
4. Choose an exercise you enjoy
If you don’t already exercise, start slowly to begin and choose something you’ll enjoy doing on a regular basis. It might just be walking, swimming or gentle aquarobics (warm water exercise is especially helpful), cycling, dancing, yoga, pilates or tai chi. If in doubt, consult your healthcare professional about exercises that will help and not exacerbate your pain.
5. Control your weight
Being overweight may not cause body pain; but it sure does make it harder to manage. Limit foods high in fat, sugar or salt. Keeping to a healthy weight will limit the stress and strain on those weight-bearing joints.
6. Make good use of qualified health professionals
Treatments for body pain will vary according to your specific symptoms. Your doctor, pharmacist, physiotherapist and podiatrist can all give you good evidence-based information and tailor-make a management program. Make sure you get their advice before self-treating.