Feeling Achy? Your Diet Could Help!

Feeling Achy? Your Diet Could Help!

September 15, 2020

Some people eat to live, others live to eat – and still others are feeding their chronic aches and pains without even realizing it.

If your pain issues have gotten steadily worse, maybe you need to look at your nutritional choices.

Eating too much and/or eating the wrong things can fire up your inflammatory responses and contribute to muscle, nerve or joint pain.

Physical therapists are not nutritionists, but providing nutritional advice to patients is well within the scope of a physical therapist’s duties. For some chronic conditions, dietary changes can make the biggest difference in reducing or eliminating pain.

Certain foods have been known to alleviate inflammation, where some foods can aggravate it. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, “A lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation, and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation.”

Fortunately, you can reverse this trend by adopting a healthy nutritional strategy as part of a holistic physical therapy program.

Physical therapy and nutritional pain relief

The good news is that the right foods can fight inflammation just as effectively as the wrong foods can worsen it. Simply switching to a Mediterranean diet can put you on a healthier, less painful path.

This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and healthy oils such as olive oil – all delicious choices with high nutritional value and low inflammatory potential.

Even your choice of spices can make a huge difference in your comfort; turmeric, for instance, is a potent natural anti-inflammatory. Your physical therapist can point you toward the right nutritional changes to help you control your pain.

Weight control is another vital aspect of pain management. Your physical therapy plan may include recommendations on how many calories you should consume, what kinds of foods you should eat to avoid getting fat, and any other necessary changes to your eating schedule or patterns.

Increasing your physical activity will help you get the most out of your new nutritional routine. For example, strength training that builds muscle boosts your metabolic rate, helping your body burn calories more easily.

Other physical therapy techniques to ease chronic aches and pains will help you become that much more mobile – enabling you to boost your workout regimen, lose more weight, and take more strain off of your joints and tissues.

Nutrition and pain – how they’re connected

How many times have you heard the old expression, “you are what you eat”? This statement is accurate in many ways, including some rather painful ones.

Certain kinds of foods are known to cause or aggravate inflammatory responses and chronic pain. You may be doing yourself more harm than good if you regularly consume:

  • Foods heavy in processed sugars and/or trans fats (including cookies, donuts, and margarine)
  • Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and other members of the nightshade family
  • Caffeinated foods and drinks
  • White bread or other highly-processed carbs
  • Alcohol
  • Red meat

These foods can make you hurt in various ways. Sugar and aspartame, for instance, raise both your insulin levels and your pain sensitivity.

Caffeine and tomatoes both raise your body’s acidity levels, promoting inflammatory pain. But for all these foods (and several others), the bottom line is the same: an increase in your aches and pains.

Poor dietary and nutritional choices can also increase your pain by increasing your waistline. Excessive quantities of rich, fatty, sugary or starchy foods can cause your weight to balloon, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

This extra weight can accelerate joint degeneration, aggravating arthritis pain. It can also place undue strain on your muscles as they struggle to support your heavier body. Obesity can even encourage the development of bulging or herniated discs, leading to neurological issues such as sciatica.

Nutritional relief for certain conditions

There are a number of common conditions in America that are directly related to diet and nutrition.

Here are some conditions in which nutritional advice will likely be a part of the patient’s physical therapy regimen:

  • Obesity. Pain related to obesity can become a vicious cycle. Being overweight causes a patient pain, so they become more sedentary. Becoming more sedentary causes them to gain more weight, which leads to more pain.
  • Osteoarthritis. Obese patients are more likely to develop arthritis, especially in the knee. Once a person has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee, managing their weight becomes the most important key to managing the arthritis and pain.
  • Inflammation. American diets tend to have a lot of vegetable oils and other inflammatory foods in them. This can make the pain from inflammation even worse. In many cases, a physical therapist will prescribe a diet with more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods to help manage pain.
  • Autoimmune disorders. The combined total of various autoimmune disorder patients (such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis) now outnumber cancer patients in America by a wide margin. Autoimmune disorders are frequently linked directly to deficiencies in a patient’s diet.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes and pre-diabetes pave the way for more serious conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and blindness. More than 90 percent of patients with diabetes also experience neuropathic pain. Diet and nutrition will play a key role in managing these conditions.

Looking for more tips? Contact us today

Eating for health can include eating for pain management. Contact our physical therapy center to make this strategy work for you!


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