The Best Type of Diet and Exercise Plan for Chronic Pain Sufferers - Guest writer Jackie Waters

Photo credit: Pixabay

Photo credit: Pixabay

While there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the use of opioids to treat chronic pain, there’s no

arguing that diet and exercise are safer alternatives. But like any regimen, it has to be strategic

in order to cater to the needs of the problem at hand. In this case, it’s an amalgamation of

inflammation, stiffness, stinging, throbbing, soreness — even depression. Though being

diagnosed with chronic pain can be overwhelming, making a few health-related changes doesn’t

have to be a daunting task. Here are a few tips for seamlessly incorporating a chronic pain-

friendly diet and exercise plan into your daily life.

Why Diet and Exercise vs. Opioids

According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), Approximately 25 million Americans

suffer from chronic pain, many of whom rely on opioids for relief. While the drug’s dangerous

side effects have been a topic of conversation everywhere — from Congress to the news —  for

years, a new study from Columbia University Medical Center reveals that 60 percent of opioid

overdose deaths were individuals with a chronic pain condition. Now, more than ever, safer

ways to manage symptoms are being recommended, including adopting a diet and exercise

plan with mood-boosting and anti-inflammatory side effects.

Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Swap out the word “anti-inflammatory” for “Mediterranean” and that’s the type of diet that’s

research-backed and doctor-approved for individuals with chronic pain. The specific

combination of foods controls insulin and cholesterol levels while reducing pain-causing

inflammation — an immune response to toxins in the body that trigger chronic diseases. Used in

conjunction with exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet can help control pain, as well as fatigue and

fogginess as a result of using medication. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include

fruits and vegetables; healthy fats (think olive oil and avocados); seeds, nuts, and legumes; fish

and eggs; digestible dairy from cultured milk (kefir, yogurt, fresh curd cheeses like ricotta);

whole grains; and antioxidant-rich herbs and spices.

Foods to Avoid

Unlike the foods on the anti-inflammatory/Mediterranean diet list, the following should be

avoided because they contain specific chemicals that can trigger the release of

neurotransmitters that can increase pain and sensitivity. While you can eat pesticide-free fruits

and vegetables, watch out for nightshade varieties such as potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes,

as they can often trigger pain. Avoid junk food, artificial sweeteners, and additives, as they can

activate neurons and increase insulin levels that can cause pain and compromise the immune

system. What’s more, junk food can lead to tooth decay and oral health problems, which has

been linked to problems such as heart disease and depression. Regardless of your diet, you

should be getting regular cleanings, so find a dentist in your area who is rated highly.

The Benefits of Exercise

While exercise may not at the top of the list for someone suffering from chronic pain, avoiding it

will actually make the condition worse. There have been numerous studies showcasing

evidence that exercise is beneficial for those with chronic pain — even at a minimal level.

Keep It Low-Impact

The best exercises for chronic pain involve strength training movements such as squats, wall

pushes, or bicep curls in combination with cardio such as simple walking, an elliptical trainer,

bike riding, or swimming. Daily stretching to aid in flexibility and range of motion is also key.

Research shows that not only does physical activity reduces inflammation in chronic pain

patients, but it also helps with fatigue and sleeplessness, and helps to beat depression due to

the production of feel-good endorphins. Activities like tai chi and yoga are also excellent

practices for the body as well as the mind.

Be Sure to Seek Professional Advice

As with any diet or exercise plan, it’s important to see a doctor as there are various types of

conditions that cause chronic pain that may need specific attention. Your healthcare provider will be your

best asset in deciding how to manage your pain through diet and exercise without the use of pain

medication. With time and patience, you can live your best life and help keep your chronic pain in check.

Written by: Jackie Waters

Why I don't call myself 'Plant-Based'

Trying new things...kundalini :)