For those with chronic pain, nutrition plays a much larger role than you may think.  Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce the stress on your back and joints.  However, apart from weight management, a healthy diet can be another method for managing a painful condition.

The best diet for those with chronic pain is still being researched. There are several simple dietary changes that can be helpful in reducing inflammation, as well as improving your overall health.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Anti-inflammatory diets have demonstrated positive results among patients with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Components of an anti-inflammatory diet include:
    • Leafy greens
    • Greek yogurt
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables
    • Nuts, seeds, beans
    • Whole grains
    • Lean protein sources
    • Healthy fats (including olive oil, flax seed and avocado)
  • Avoid foods that can result in rapid elevation in blood sugar.  Heavily processed foods, white bread, or other sweet/sugary foods can cause blood sugar to spike.  Multiple studies of patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain have demonstrated an association between high blood sugar high daily pain scores.  
  • Stay within recommended daily allowances of sugar per day (Men = 39 grams; Women = 25 grams).  Sugar is hidden in many of the foods we buy.  Reading food labels is a great way to educate yourself on the sugar content of processed foods.  Remember to consider serving size when you calculate your daily intake.
  • Hydrate!  Water is a primary component of cartilage and synovial fluid.   Adequate hydration helps maintain healthy joints and intervertebral discs of the spine.
  • Herbs and spices are great for making food more interesting and appetizing, but they also help to reduce the amount of salt needed.
  • Incorporate fish into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are found in fish, especially mackerel, salmon, herring, and tuna. Bake, broil or grill for the greatest health benefit.
  • Limit red meat when possible.  An elevation in inflammatory biomarkers has been associated with regular red meat consumption.

If you’re considering making a change to your diet, start with manageable goals.  The best type of diet is one that is sustainable!  Start with small changes and stick to your plan.  Eat a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.  Substitute vegetable oil with olive oil when cooking.  Eat baked or broiled fish once a week.  After you have success with those goals, set a few more and continue the process. You’ll be happy to see the impact that these healthy choices have on your pain control and level of functioning.