Tag Archives: teeth clenching

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Confront Pain

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I went to see a neurologist last week. I suffer from migraines. And while they aren’t nearly as bad as those endured by some of my friends – i.e. I don’t vomit, I’m not light-sensitive, etc. – they aren’t pleasant.

I really should have done this awhile ago. My migraines have been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity for several years now. But you know how it is:  you need to go see your G.P./primary care doctor, get a referral, and then block out the time to actually deal with the problem, rather than just suffering through.

But because I really didn’t want to overdose on Ibuprofen, I finally took the plunge and went to see a specialist. (I also finally broke down and went to see the dentist about a different but equally persistent problem I’ve been having with my teeth.)

If – like me – you’re avoidance-prone where pain is concerned, here are five reasons not to ignore the problem any longer:

1. It won’t go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn’t just clenching – as I’d long believed – but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where I’d worn down my front right canine tooth so that it was no longer pointy, but flattened out from grinding so much over time. That’s not good, especially since we all know that smiles are key to a happy marriage.

2. The fix is often quite simple. I think one reason that many of us put off going to the doctor to address an ongoing problem is that we fear that the fix will either not exist (why bother?) or be too complicated (requiring many more time-consuming doctor’s office visits.) And sometimes that’s true. But a lot of times, you just need a new medication (or mouth guard). That proved true for me in both cases. So it’s actually more efficient to go early to the doctor, rather than spending all that money on painkillers that don’t actually do the trick.

3. Pain feeds on itself. I have a pretty high threshold for pain. Which is why I tend to wait until a limb falls off before I go and see a doctor. (Even as I write this, I have a pain I’m ignoring in my upper left shoulder – a reminder that I ought to be stretching!) But even if it’s manageable, pain tends to feed on itself. It makes you tense. You become irritable. It’s distracting. You sleep less well. (The National Sleep Foundation reports that 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers experience sleep problems). So it’s better just to take the plunge and eliminate the pain effectively once and for all.

4. It can lead to other positive changes in your life. As you know, I’m a big believer in yoga for all sorts of reasons. But in addition to the fact that my life coach told me to do it, another reason that I do yoga is that physical therapist I saw for my Piriformis Syndrome told me that he thought it would help. I’d already done yoga when I saw him, but had stopped because of the pain in my, um…ass. He reminded me that yoga would actually help control that pain, not aggravate it. So I resumed yoga, and it turns out he was right.

5. You get ideas for blog posts. When I was in the neurologist’s office last week, we talked about what I do for a living. I actually joked with him that he should “Stay tuned for a post on visiting the Neurologist.” Et voilà!

Image: Headache by ehaver via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Reduce Insomnia

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s list was prompted by a new study showing that sleep loss in middle age is associated with high blood pressure. As a chronic insomniac, I figure this study just gives me one more reason to stay up at night worrying. But it also furnishes me with an excuse to pontificate about some of the more popular sleep aides out there:

1. Get a Mouthguard. If – like so many of us – you find that your night-time stress moves directly into your jaw, you might consider asking your dentist for a mouthguard. Yes, it may make you feel like Evander Holyfield. And, yes, as an old dentist of mine once said: “It ain’t exactly an aphrodesiac.” But if you’ve ever lain next to someone who grinds their teeth or – worse – woken up with a piercing pain in your own jaw, a mouthguard might be just the trick. (Insider tip: figure out if you are a clencher or a grinder. It may affect the design of your mouthguard.)

2. Wear an Eye Patch. These can be helpful for shutting out light that aggravates insomnia. But be sure to replace them frequently. Most eye patches use velcro to accommodate different head sizes. Over time, you may find that  most of your hair stays on the velcro rather than on your head. And some of us don’t have a lot to spare.

3. Employ a Noise Machine. Some people are big fans of background noise. You can listen to the soothing sounds of an ocean…birds chirping…or just plain “white noise.” But again, choose carefully. For the last several years, my husband and I have been using a portable air conditioner to cool our bedroom, which doesn’t have a window (we have a skylight instead). But said machine sputters, heaves and otherwise exerts itself throughout the night like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on steroids. If, like me, you’re prone to dreams about being chased, this doesn’t exactly lend itself to relaxation.

4. Take Ambien. Somewhat further up the food chain, you may need to resort to medication. I have no problem with this, although know that Ambien is often less effective when taken sequentially, rather than once in awhile. My own favorite Ambien story was the time I ran out of my own (5mg) pills and borrowed a friend’s 10mg pill. As the medication began to take effect and I got woozy, I freaked out and called 911. (Yes, you’re seeing a pattern here.) When the operator asked me how much I’d taken and I told her “10 mg,” she responded: “Call me when you’ve taken 100.” You know it’s bad when even the 911 folks are dissing you.

5. Move to France. Apparently, people in France sleep more than in any other industrialized country. Heavens knows why. Maybe it’s all that red wine.

Bonne nuit!

Image: B’s Mouthguard for Football by Axlotl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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