By Ed Coghlan
If Susan Nyanzi DrPH speaks to you about chronic illness, you might take the time to listen.
This Ugandan-born British-educated chronic disease management specialist has lived the life of a patient long before she turned to trying to help.
She was diagnosed with Scleroderma when she was 7, developed fibromyalgia from an auto accident and suffers from Celiac disease.
So when she brings her message to the 9th annual Women in Pain Conference in Los Angeles on Friday (September 23), she’s brings literally a lifetime of experience.
She is a critic of the medical model which says is “absolutely broken for the chronic pain patient.
“The model is designed to treat acute issues,” she said. “We should be concentrating on keeping people as healthy as possible but we don’t see them until they are sick.”
Dr. Nyanzi will tell the women (and some men) who are attending the conference that what you eat, how you move and exercise and the importance of interacting with people can go a long way to managing chronic pain.
“We have to get out of the habit of using the pain to define us as individuals,” she said. “Medication along is not going to get rid of the pain, nor is sitting at home and not moving. Actually, it can make things worse.”
That’s why she likes conferences like Friday’s Women in Pain Conference. By going to groups she believes you can learn tricks that work for other people which you can try yourself in managing the chronic pain.
“By noon on Friday, the mood in the room will change,” she said. “People will be laughing, interacting and making new friends. The social support often helps people know they aren’t alone.”
(By the way, if you can’t attend the conference, you can view it online. Register here)
Starting with the diet, her advice is elemental. Cut out of processed foods, eat organically and listen to your body.
“I had a patient who has rheumatoid arthritis. She concentrated on organic foods and was feeling much better. She and her husband celebrated with a fast food meal and she relapsed,” she remembered.”You are what you eat.”
She’s a huge believer in exercise. If you are moving around, you’ll start to feel better.
“I tell my clients by incorporating the lifestyle component of eating better and exercising more, you will actually reduce the amount of medication you take.”
For exercise–especially if you haven’t been doing much of it, she recommends you “start slowly and create a routine.”
Take a hot bath or shower and then stretch your muscles and top it off with a 15 minute walk.
“It rejuvenates you and then little by little you increase the length and intensity. The important thing is to start.”
Her message is clear. Be more self reliant about managing your pain.
The Women in Pain Conference is sponsored by For Grace, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that is devoted to the issue of women in pain. Women suffer from chronic pain much more than men.