What is Dry January?
Dry January is a public health campaign encouraging participants to abstain from drinking alcohol for January. Choosing to participate in this challenge may offer potential benefits for those living with chronic pain.
Living with chronic pain can be difficult and leave you frustrated and exhausted. While we don't yet know exactly why alcohol can make chronic pain worse, research suggests that drinking alcohol may increase the body's sensitivity to pain. Therefore, Dry January could provide an excellent opportunity for those living with chronic pain to take a break from alcohol and see potential positive benefits.
How Does Alcohol Exacerbate Chronic Pain?
Studies suggest that alcohol affects how your brain and body process pain. Alcohol has an anesthetic effect on the body, reducing the sensation of any pain. However, this numbing sensation can be short-term and not necessarily beneficial for those with chronic pain.
Alcohol is also thought to increase inflammation in the body, worsening chronic pain conditions. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased anxiety and depression, both of which can exacerbate chronic pain.
Furthermore, alcohol can interfere with the body's natural sleep cycle and make it even more challenging to get a good night's rest. And we all know how important quality sleep is for reducing chronic pain.
While alcohol may provide users with short-term pain relief, the long-term impact alcohol has on the body is overwhelmingly negative.
How Can Participating in Dry January Help?
Participating in Dry January can be a great opportunity to take a break from alcohol and give your body a chance to recover. Studies have found that abstaining from drinking can improve overall physical and psychological well-being, reduce inflammation, lower anxiety and depression levels, and enhance sleep quality.
In addition to these physical and mental benefits, Dry January can help you save money and calories!
How Can I Successfully Complete Dry January?
Although it may be difficult at first, Dry January is achievable, and the rewards can be significant. Here are a few tips for success:
1. Set yourself up for success.
Be sure to plan for a Dry January by stocking up on non-alcoholic beverages and foods that you enjoy. It can also be helpful to set yourself a goal or reward for completing Dry January.
2. Stay connected and socialize with friends.
Just because you're not drinking doesn't mean you can't hang out with friends. Try alternative activities such as going for a walk, shopping, hosting Dry January-themed events, or offering to be the designated driver for a night out!
3. Talk it out.
Let your friends, family, and colleagues know about Dry January so they understand and can offer support when needed. You may even find that some of them are also interested in taking part!
4. Keep track of your progress.
Make a note of the days you complete Dry January to help you stay motivated. There are also Dry January apps available to help track your progress, such as Try Dry!
5. Make a plan for saying "no."
As much as we want our loved ones' support, it's essential to have a plan for saying no when offered an alcoholic beverage. Have a few phrases in your back pocket ("I'm dry this month" or "I'm taking a break this month"), so you can graciously decline. If you feel uncomfortable with these phrases, a white lie such as "I am on antibiotics and can't drink right now" may be a more comfortable alternative.
6. Celebrate milestones.
Give yourself rewards for meeting Dry January goals, such as a massage or movie night with friends. If you successfully complete a certain amount of time throughout the month, such as week one with no drinking, treat yourself to an extra special reward!
7. Don't become discouraged if you slip up.
If Dry January becomes too tricky and you slip up, don't become discouraged. Instead, use that day as a reminder of why Dry January is essential for your health.
What's Next After Dry January: Putting a Plan in Place
Participating in Dry January can help you to see potential benefits for your chronic pain, and it's also a great opportunity to reflect on how alcohol affects your body. After this month is completed, consider creating a long-term plan outlining what type of drinking (if any) you want to include in your lifestyle.
This could include limiting your drinking to special occasions or setting a number of days each week that you will abstain from drinking.
Coordinated Care for Lasting Relief at Shaw Pain Clinic
No matter what you decide, a Dry January can help to start the year on a positive and healthy note! So take advantage of this opportunity to give your body a break from alcohol for the entire month and kickstart your health this new year.
And if you're looking for lasting relief from chronic pain, the team at Shaw Pain Clinic is here to help. Our experienced staff will coordinate the care you need to improve your chronic pain, so you can get back to living your best life.
Get in touch today to learn more about our services by calling (830) 220-5007 or filling out our online form! We look forward to improving your health, hope, and function.