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  • Writer's pictureDr Gi Ming Chan

Nutrition & Pain: How are they related

Pain is one of the most common symptoms described by patients, and has become one of the main problems of modern society and medicine. When pain becomes chronic, one’s life is dramatically affected, and is associated with significant emotional distress and/or functional disability. According to the CDC, 20.4% of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and 7.4% experience chronic pain that frequently limits life or work activities. Chronic pain is the highest among individuals 65 years and over.

The experience of persistent pain differs from person to person even under the same biological and pathological conditions. There are many lifestyle factors that can influence the occurrence, maintenance, and perception of chronic musculoskeletal pain. A very significant lifestyle factor is nutrition, meaning the foods we eat and how we eat them. In general, nutrition is an essential part of musculoskeletal health. The foods we eat is an important indicator of chronic low-level systemic inflammation, which is an associated factor of chronic diseases.

Overweight and obesity are both risk factors for developing chronic musculoskeletal pain. Prevalence of chronic musculoskeletal pain increases as body mass index (BMI) rises. Pain severity can show direct relation with overweight and obesity in patients with osteoarthritis, lower back pain, and fibromyalgia. Overweight and obesity are associated factors of unhealthy food intake and main indicators of nutritional status in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Diet change in overweight and obese patients is suggested as an important aspect of pain management.

Diet and nutrition also have a supportive effect on bone, cartilage structure and immune modulation. Vitamin D and calcium intake have been reported as an essential factor for bone health. It has been reported that chronic lower back pain is associated with low vitamin D intake. The effects of dietary protein intake on muscle and bone health have been established as well.

Your body has the capacity to make its own pain-relievers in the central nervous system, using essential fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acids, arachidonic acids, and tryptophan. These essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by mammals and need to be acquired from food intake. Pain relieving effects of alkaline mineral and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation have been reported in patients with lower back pain and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively.

Additionally, inadequate intake of selenium was found to be associated with pain severity in patients with fibromyalgia, and antioxidant intake was suggested for pain reduction in the same population.

In sum, diet and dietary patterns are important factors of musculoskeletal health and are associated factors of musculoskeletal pain. Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is inversely associated with blood inflammatory biomarker level. Thus, dietary patterns and overall diet is suggested as an effective therapeutic target for chronic diseases.

Anti-inflammatory foods include organic fruits and vegetables such as avocados, red grapes and onions, green tea, bone broth, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. It’s also important to avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, fried foods, and processed foods.

At Appalachia Chiropractic & Wellness in Cranberry TWP, Pa we provide holistic care. We can treat your pain with chiropractic care, as well as nutritional counseling with naturopathic care.


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