How to Manage Your Chronic Pain Through Diet and Exercise

Don’t let chronic pain keep you on the couch. Manage it through both your diet and through exercise, and here’s how you can start.

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Many people, millennials included, suffer from some sort of chronic pain — defined as lingering pain following an illness or injury. Though some turn to medications, which certainly have their place in some scenarios, they can lead to the development of a dependence.

Rather than relying solely on medications, it’s a good idea to give attention to things like having a proper diet and getting enough exercise (and the right kind) to help you manage your chronic pain. Now, how can we get started managing all this?

Reduce inflammation to reduce chronic pain
“Inflammation is the body’s immune response to toxins as it works to ‘purify’ itself. There are many ways to treat and manage chronic pain [but] one of the most exciting approaches, however — because it is all natural — is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet,” says The Cleveland Clinic.

Eat foods that help fight inflammation
Need a list of them? Here’s one. Also avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation. Try to eat as many fruits and vegetables that you can every single day. Include cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, sprouts, and broccoli into your diet as well as fish and nuts.

Avoid certain foods
Unfortunately, this list is pretty long. Studies have shown that fried foods, red meat, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and dairy can all cause inflammation. It may help to begin a sort of elimination diet and remove all of these at first, and reintroduce some to see what effect they have on your pain. Take baby steps until you figure it out.

Drink more water
No, you can’t go through your whole life drinking nothing but water — nor would you want to. But you can surely reduce the amount of things you drink that aren’t water. What you drink affects you just as much as what you eat. And if you think about all the things we drink, so many of them can cause inflammation.

Drink less caffeine and sugary drinks
Coffee and tea (due to caffeine), alcohol, sugary sodas, and milk can all exacerbate chronic pain if you buy into the inflammation model. And what about diet drinks? Well, according to Health.com, “The artificial sweetener [aspartame] found in diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase sensitivity to pain,” says Health.com. Try drinking diet sodas sweetened with other artificial sweeteners, but if you find that you are not feeling any better, stick to water.

Start with moderate exercise 
Many chronic pain sufferers feel as though they are in too much pain to get up and exercise, even when exercise is the very thing that could make them feel better. Break out of the unproductive cycle by easing into exercise. Find exercise scenarios that put less stress on your muscles and joints, such as stretching, yoga, pilates, and other low-impact (but still somewhat strenuous) exercises. Also remember there are the “lifestyle exercises” like gardening and swimming.

Listen to your body
Whatever exercise you do, don’t push yourself to the point of extra pain. Listen to your body and know your limits. In the end, any exercise you get — however minor — is going to help. There’s nothing worse for chronic pain than being sedentary.

 

About the Author

Jackie Waters is a mother of four boys, and lives on a farm in Oregon. She is passionate about providing a healthy and happy home for her family, and aims to provide advice for others on how to do the same with her site Hyper-Tidy.com.

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