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Minimizing the Pain and Stress of Chronic Illness

By Martha Michael

Woman in Her 50s Hiking with Daughter

It’s not hard to see what a balancing act it is to maintain proper wellness. Like a three-ring circus, the body’s systems have to work simultaneously to create the healthy balance required for physiological homeostasis.

There are times in life, however, when illness disrupts that unity, which leads us to turn to one treatment or another, hoping to find relief from symptoms and, if possible, get it cured. Some individuals are walking a tightrope of risk management decisions due to illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure or advanced dementia. For those patients there’s little choice but to get their affairs in order and gain some help from hospice experts or palliative care, pulling together a team of caregivers, including physicians, pharmacists, social workers and practitioners, to relieve much of the physical and emotional fallout from living with advanced illnesses.

But in the case of a less serious condition that’s irreversible, but manageable, you benefit most by turning your attention to taming symptoms and improving function.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

While osteoarthritis stems from mechanical causes, rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease with many of the same symptoms. It may be inherited genetically or infection can be a catalyst for the disease. Victims suffer from such challenges as joint pain, stiffness and loss of movement.

Symptoms tend to flare up and recede from changes in inflammation of the joint lining, according to Inflammation can occur in the:

  • Neck
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Shoulders
  • Feet
  • Ankles

Many people suffering from RA get their most successful treatment from a chiropractor. Because it attacks the joints, patients gain relief from chiropractic adjustments, compresses, and other therapeutic options. Your practitioner may also suggest practices you can do at home to alleviate joint pain, including advice about the types of movements that benefit you and those that add stress to your joints.

The added benefit of chiropractic care is that it enables patients to keep drug treatment to a minimum and, in some cases, eliminate the need for medications. It’s not uncommon for medical doctors and other hospital staff to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for RA. Those may be necessary in some cases, but a patient choosing regular visits to a chiropractic professional can increase the possibility of moving away from a routine of pills, patches, ointments and injections.


Patients with fibromyalgia tend to experience massive fatigue, sleep, and memory issues, as well as musculoskeletal pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, it affects your brain’s ability to process pain, so what should be minor is felt more acutely.

“Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change,” an article on the Mayo Clinic website says. “This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain's pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.”

The symptoms may be caused by an infection, the result of physical trauma, or psychological stress. It’s not always possible to pin it to a particular catalyst, and symptoms tend to increase over time, the article says. Victims of fibromyalgia are usually females, often individuals who suffer from headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and TMJ syndrome, or those who struggle with anxiety and depression. If your fibromyalgia stems from psychological issues, you can seek out activities to reduce stress, such as meditation, walking and relaxation.

For widespread physical pain, you can likely gain relief from regular chiropractic treatment. Your chiropractor can also help reduce headaches and joint pain that comes with fibromyalgia, such as TMJ.


Your body’s main source of energy is blood glucose, which is metabolized with the help of the hormone insulin, produced in the pancreas. But if you don’t produce enough insulin, or your body doesn’t use it properly, you develop diabetes.

Approximately 10 percent of the American population, including 1 in 4 individuals more than 65 years old, has a type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Those most likely to develop the disease are either overweight or have family members with diabetes. For some types of diabetes, factors include a lack of fitness and high blood pressure.

If untreated, diabetics can also develop a host of other conditions, which include:

  • Oral diseases
  • Eye degeneration
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease

To offset damage to blood vessels which causes strokes, victims should refrain from smoking and take dietary steps to reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol. Monitoring blood sugar levels through the use of insulin shots is an effective measure, which minimizes the risk of kidney problems and neuropathy associated with diabetes.

There are not many who can handle the burden of chronic illness with the greatest of ease, though they can gain support by jumping through the necessary hoops advised by health professionals. Meanwhile, millions will manage to lead normal lives by minimizing their risks through lifestyle choices.

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