The Undeniable Link Between Nutrition and Pain

nutrition

Every day, we learn more about the key role that proper nutrition plays in decreasing pain. Of course, the opposite is also true — poor dietary habits can lead to, or worsen chronic pain.

It’s not unusual for physical therapists to walk their patients through their lifestyle habits in order to pinpoint habits that might be contributing to their chronic pain. For that reason, helping a patient examine his or her diet is often part of an initial physical therapy evaluation, when appropriate.

Inflammatory Foods

Pain stemming from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be eased through physical therapy — and by cutting back on the foods which set off a chain reaction of inflammation. High-sugar, fatty foods are often inflammation culprits, as are junk foods high in additives.

Transitioning to the classic Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on healthy fats like olive oil and fish, as well as on high-fiber fruits and vegetables, is one way in which nutrition can help reduce bodily inflammation.

Vitamin Deficiencies

The lack of vitamins and other nutrients can exacerbate — or even cause — chronic pain. It is believed that Vitamin D deficiency, for example, contributes to painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

Additional nutrient deficiencies linked to these painful conditions include inadequate Vitamins A and C, selenium, zinc, and flavanols. If a physical therapist suspects diet might be contributing to chronic pain, he or she would likely recommend your doctor orders blood work to measure any nutrient deficiencies. In general, however, eating healthy proteins, a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin-fortified beverages and cereals, can often get you on the right track.

Weight Gain

Many of us know, all too well, that even an extra 10 pounds can make a difference in how we move and feel — and it only gets worse when the numbers on the scale go up. Extra weight often translates to increased aches and pains, particularly when it comes to extra strain on the joints. Even worse, gaining weight tends to sabotage energy that could be used in fitness pursuits — indirectly leading to painful, chronic headaches and digestive conditions.

If the patient desires it, his or her physical therapist can recommend diet modifications that cut empty calories to encourage weight loss, while adding foods that boost immunity and energy. Often, evaluating how meals are selected and prepared helps promote weight loss — which, in turn, often reduces the patient’s chronic pain. 

Contact Nebraska Orthopedic Physical Therapy today and speak with our experts.