Eating against pain: how diet can help to ease musculoskeletal pain

by Football XI Editorial | Posted on Friday, November 2nd, 2018

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There are a significant number of people suffering from musculoskeletal pain, managing it on a daily basis. In the UK alone, over 10,000 GP consultations are for musculoskeletal problems. Such problems can be a catalyst for longer-term pain conditions.
Various conditions can cause musculoskeletal pain, from simple back pain to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Where a cure may not currently exist, there are certainly methods offering relief for back pain and other associated aches and pains. For instance, have you considered taking a look at your diet?


Counter chronic pain with more protein

Chronic pain conditions can be reduced to some extent by a high-protein diet. According to one paper, four reasons for this are:

  • Proteins act as the body’s pain relievers — Amino acids make their way into the bloodstream through the intestine (where what you eat is absorbed). They then act as building blocks for compounds that help with pain relief.
  • Musclecartilage grows with the help of protein — Amino acids are needed to build muscle which can go on to protect your bones and build strength.
  • The activation of glucagon stabilises pain — Glucagon increases blood glucose levels and blocks glucose storage as fat. This can prevent a rise in insulin levels, carbohydrate cravings, and pain flares.
  • Reducing inflammation — Protein containing foods such as fish and green vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties, lowering experiences of pain.

There are many foods can help up your protein intake. Add foods such as beef, fish, and eggs to your plate to up your protein intake. For vegan diets, make sure you’re eating enough pulses (lentil, beans, and soya products). There are protein supplements out there too in the form of drinks and snack bars.

Be mindful of your calories and carbs

Work on monitoring your carbohydrate and calorie intake. Consuming excess calories by eating unhealthy foods, or overeating, can cause weight gain. This can then lead to excess weight carried around the waist and obesity — both of which can make musculoskeletal pain worse. This is due to extra pressure on joints and inflammation.

Understanding why your joints get inflamed can help you to manage your pain. In general, it’s part of the body’s immune response to fight infection. But, there are cases when inflammation doesn’t shut down — this becomes chronic inflammation. It is this which is the underlying cause of many diseases, health problems, and pain.

Keep an eye on the volume of refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and trans fats you’re eating every day. Monitoring calories and eating the appropriate amount can therefore lead to weight maintenance or weight reduction which could help musculoskeletal issues. In fact, one study found that weight reduction of more than 10% has the potential to lead to important changes in pain and function.

Omega-3 fatty acids are key to great joint health

Do you make a conscious effort to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to stay healthy? Unfortunately, they’re not made by the body, so we need to get them from our diet.

Interestingly, research shows how a high dose of omega-3 is particularly useful against conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. Again, this is an anti-inflammatory which deals with the issues mentioned earlier. Where can omega-3 be found? Omega-3 can be found in oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), calamari, olive oil, and some plants and nuts. A mixture of these things should ensure that you’re getting enough of the fatty acid.

Increase your intake of vitamins

Making sure we get plenty of vitamins in our diet is very important. But some musculoskeletal conditions are a result of vitamin deficiencies, and certain vitamins can keep pain at bay.

For starters, vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption and bone growth. Eggs are a great source of vitamin D and are easy to incorporate into your diet. Another way to up your intake is with safe levels of sun exposure.

Vitamin K is also highly important for cartilage metabolism and cell survival. Get your intake of vitamin K through green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and beans.

Also consider increasing your intake of foods rich in vitamin B. One benefit of this vitamin is that it keeps amino acid homocysteine under control. High levels of this could be linked to lower bone density and therefore musculoskeletal issues. Increase your intake of vitamin B through chicken, turkey, fish, oats, and more.

This guide is really just a snapshot of the may different ways a change in diet can help and make a difference with managing musculoskeletal pain. Always speak to your GP and nutritionist before changing your diet and for more advice on how the foods you eat can ease chronic pains.

Image – United States Air Force Academy ( Public Domain ) 

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