Back to School & Flare-up Management
Let's face it: whether you have a child returning to school or are returning to school yourself as a student or a teacher, this can be a busy and stressful time of change and adjustment. Getting back into the routine and discipline of a regular schedule, tasks to be completed, and deadlines to meet can present many challenges; not least of all a possible flare-up of either pain or headaches.
A flare-up at this time may be due to the increased stress, which leads to the production of adrenaline. This adrenaline is released into the bloodstream and has many effects, best described as the "fight or flight" response. In relation to pain, adrenaline increases tension in the muscles, but also increases your awareness or sensitivity to the pain because now you are perceiving that pain as a threat to your survival. So for these two reasons specifically, the stress-response and adrenaline release can lead to a flare-up of pain or headaches.
Minimize the Adrenaline Response
It is important to be proactive in your stress and flare-up management by using relaxation techniques. There are many techniques for relaxation, but the most common ones are diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery and biofeedback techniques. These techniques are most effective if used early and often. Try to apply one of them when you begin to feel your stress or anxiety levels elevating, and you may need to repeat them often to minimize the effects of adrenaline.
It is also important to maintain your daily aerobic exercise during this time. We often see that when school-related obligations begin to take up time, aerobic exercise falls into the non-essential category. But keep in mind that at this time, it may be more important than ever before. When you do regular aerobic exercise, your body releases serotonin, which promotes decreased stress and anxiety; in other words, it directly combats the effects of adrenaline. Similarly, doing your daily stretching can decrease the elevated levels of muscle tension caused by adrenaline, and lead to an overall decrease in pain or headaches.
Remember that although this is a busy and sometimes stressful time, you do have the tools to be successful. You may even find that by using these techniques, you are able to embrace the change.
More than the programs ...
At The Pain Center, all of our doctor's and therapists see patients outside of the programs. If you have a new injury, significant stressor, severe pain flare-up or need to adjust your home exercise program - come back to the team that you trust. We're happy to help.
Have a question about a flare up?
You are still a part of The Pain Center family. If you ever have a question, please give us a call at 616.233.3480 and we'd be happy to answer it.