How is nutrition affecting your pain?

My job revolves around people coming to me wanting me to minimize or eliminate their pain, whether it is from an injury, surgery, or just chronic pain. I am a firm believer of staying active and performing specific exercises for specific conditions.  I also believe that good nutrition is an important piece to the puzzle in avoiding chronic pain.

Your food choices each day affect your health — how you feel today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. Our society and medical practices currently undervalue the relationship between nutrition and our health.

So what does nutrition have to do with pain?

#1 Weight gain

Studies have shown with an increase on the BMI index there are more complaints of pain. Less than three percent of people in the normal BMI range reported low back pain, compared to almost eight percent of obese people, who have a BMI of 30 or higher. Among people who are morbidly obese, with a BMI of 40 or higher, the rate of low back pain was almost 12 percent.

    • Carrying too much weight adds stress on the joints and can cause exacerbating conditions like arthritis.
    • Excess weight compresses the spine, narrowing disk spaces, which can worsen low back pain.
    • Psychological stress of being very overweight or obese can add to the distress of chronic pain, intensifying the perception of pain.
  • People who are overweight are more prone to fibromyalgia.

#2 Inflammation

Inflammation plays a huge role in your health. When you are injured or have and infection, your body signals the immune system to repair the injury or fight the infection. When the injury heals or the infection goes away, inflammation normally goes away too, but sometimes your immune system can be left on even when the the problem has passed. The resulting inflammation not only causes pain in the body, but over time can trigger chronic diseases.

“Your medicine shall be your food and your food shall be your medicine.”

– Hippocrates

Your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation, but your diet can also be the cure to reducing that inflammation. Following an anti-inflammatory diet is powerful therapy for pain control and to help prevent diseases affecting our hearts and joints, like arthritis.

#3 Energy

This third one I think is quite simple. Having bad dietary habits can affect your energy levels and how you feel from day to day.

With decrease energy from a poor diet you are less likely to stay active and exercise. Consequently it creates a domino effect. Your body gets out of shape -> muscles lose their conditioning -> pain will actually increase because your body is not functioning as well as it could. Exercise is Medicine! It is an important daily strategy to assist in the management of pain conditions.

These are just three of the many ways that our nutrition is intrinsically connected with pain and our long-term health. By understanding the effects that these three principles have on our bodies, we can truly avoid a pain in the neck!

Charlene Nordhoff, Physical Therapist Assistant
Align Therapy