Immune system, chronic pain and low energy

Why do chronic pain and low energy often coincide?

Most of us will know that we get tired when we are unwell. All we seem capable of is curling up in a ball somewhere warm and comfortable and allowing ourselves to drift.  Those that struggle with chronic pain know this feeling too well, waking unrefreshed from broken sleep, struggling through the day as fatigue washes over. Why does chronic pain and low energy often coincide?  This blog gets into what is going on.

What is causing chronic pain?

Firstly, it is our old friend – and enemy – inflammation.  Without doubt, we need inflammation to repair and heal. Indeed, it is an essential part of our survival.  The swelling of a sprained ankle immobilises the area so it can repair; the redness of a cut helps to knit the wound together; a raised temperature from a virus kills the infection.  When everything is in balance, the process has an element of self-limitation. That is, it shuts off when the job is done. However, when pain, swelling and redness persist over a period of months – or years – then inflammation has become chronic and with it, comes a myriad of ailments, including debilitating pain and low energy.

Inflammation is an essential part of our survival

Inflammation is caused by our immune system reacting to a situation or an invader.  We have the equivalent of the army, navy and airforce within our immune system armoury. Whenever something goes wrong, it springs into action.  We have our instant reaction force, or innate immune system, that is on constant patrol and can respond directly.  It is a fairly blunt instrument but it reacts quickly and starts the job.  Following on behind, comes our adaptive immunity, the more thinking side of the system, that employs itself in a more selective way.  We need both these systems to keep ourselves safe and to drive inflammation in a way that is conducive to the situation and to repair.

Even just reading the above paragraph probably makes you feel tired!  This immune response is tiring.  Immune cells need to proliferate and work hard at healing and repair.  Your body is making these immune cells and fuelling them in their work.  It is hard graft and your body gets tired as a result.

So, the tiredness is a side effect of an active immune system causing inflammation.  However, it also serves a purpose in its own right. The fatigue slows us down, so that we focus on the necessary repair processes taking place. This is important. We all know that if we ‘push through’ when we are sick, that we stay sicker for longer and, depending what ails, infect others besides.

The Problem with Chronic Pain and Low Energy

The problem with chronic pain and associated low energy is that we tend to carry on regardless, either by necessity or by sheer strength of will. We just don’t want to give up on some sort of life, even if hugely compromised in enjoyment by the pain.  In these situations, not only is your immune system in overdrive, with a long-term response causing inflammation, but it is hard to take the time to rest and repair, because of the chronic nature of the situation.  So, it is a double whammy – busy immune system, coupled with pushing through the fatigue. 

Tiredness is a side effect of an active immune system causing inflammation

To add insult to injury, those in chronic pain also tend to sleep poorly.  This can be because of the pain itself, making sleep difficult to come by.  Or it could be a combination of disrupted blood sugar balance – it is easy to make poor food choices when you are in pain and consistently tired – other hormonal imbalances, lack of time outside disrupting your circadian rhythm, stress (being in chronic pain IS stressful!), lack of activity etc etc.

I tell all my clients who suffer with chronic pain and low energy to allow themselves more rest, so they don’t fall into the trap of ‘pushing through’ and in the process, depleting themselves further. Your immune system is busy and this is why chronic pain and low energy often coincide.

Nutrition advice for pain and digestive health in Cambridge, Perthshire and online

Nutritional therapy is wonderful for complex widespread pain disorders. Energy is often what returns first with my clients.  This feels wonderful and gives you motivation – and energy – to carry on with making step-by-step changes. Everyone is unique and I tailor my protocols to suit the individual. So, we will start where the need is most, optimising your digestion, working on sleep, fuelling your diet with foods that support energy and calm inflammation. We work this out together and move at a pace that suits you.

If you would like to discuss your own situation with chronic pain and low energy coinciding, you can book a free call with me.  It is worth investing in your health so you can get your life back on track.  Call me to find out more.

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