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Managing stress and improving sleep are critical to recovery as they can both worsen pain and inflammation. Each patient’s situation is unique but following are examples of some of the solutions I offer that help reduce stress, lower stress hormones, lessen pain and help restore restful sleep.

One option is short-term use of a natural supplement, Val-Rest, to promote rest and sleep. Val-Rest is a natural, non-habit forming anxiolytic alternative for healthy rest. Another short-term option is a topical preparation containing phosphytidyserine, a normally occurring substance in cell Membranes that can blunt the effects of cortisol.

Although supplements such as these can be helpful, the goal for a long-term solution is to teach your body to relax naturally, reduce cortisol levels naturally and shift from a pro-inflammatory state to what we might call a Deflamed state. Some of the solutions are self-guided techniques that lead to the Relaxation Response or Calming Response. These are powerful and effective. Also, a form of meditative yoga I often recommend has been shown clinically to reduce cortisol levels and promote deeper, more restful sleep.

For those who prefer using scientific technology rather than meditation or medication, I offer a computer-based program or a handheld biofeedback device that perform heart-rate-variability (HRV) analysis. HRV is an important indicator of both physiological resiliency and behavioral flexibility and reflects a person’s capacity to adapt to stress. HRV-biofeedback is easy to learn and can quickly teach you how to relax, reduce stress, gradually manage pain, lower cortisol levels and improve sleep.

The examples I have given are not the only methods I use but should paint a picture of some of the options available that, likely, no one else has mentioned. Which approach is best for you? That depends on the nature of your pain and how stress and poor sleep are interfering with your recovery. The best approach may also be based on lab testing, such as determining your 24-hour
cortisol levels and other indicators of systemic inflammation.

In some situations, I refer patients for a professionally conducted Sleep Study (to rule-out medical disorders such as sleep apnea) or a consultation with a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. In all cases, the goal of reducing stress and improving sleep go hand-in-hand with effectively taking care of pain and inflammation.