Have you been experiencing pain for longer than you expected, or for over 12 weeks? Is your pain impairing your ability to function at work, school, or in social settings? If so, you’re not alone.
Around 25 million Americans live with headaches, backaches, arthritis-related pain, pain caused by sports injuries, etc. If you are battling chronic pain because of an injury, a skilled, experienced personal trainer can help you undertake rehabilitation exercises once your doctors have okayed a workout routine.
Alongside diet, the right workout can play an important role in keeping pain down and reducing your need for painkillers.
The Connection between Body and Mind
Exercise is known to play two important roles when it comes to boosting mental health: it lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol, and boosts levels of endorphins (‘feel good’ chemicals that lift the mood).
A study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found that feeling depressed actually alters the pain experience, making it more severe.
Because exercise is an effective complementary approach to anxiety and depression, it can work to counter the mental effects of facing long-term of chronic pain day after day.
Personalisation is Key
You may not be able to perform your usual workout, or your personal trainer may suggest you focus on muscle groups which are not in pain or which are not affected by your condition. The important thing to do is to keep moving to an extent that is safe for your condition.
There are a plethora of exercises that can be adapted to any ability; chair yoga is one of them. Performed entirely in a sitting position, it is an ideal exercise for those who are battling osteoarthritis and in need of greater stability. Indeed, yoga and Tai Chi are two particularly powerful exercises when it comes to battling stress, owing to their mindfulness component.
A Low Inflammatory Diet for Pain
Pro-inflammatory diets (such as those which are high in sugar and refined fats) not only increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, but also increase pain. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce nerve pain, and tackle inflammation. This diet excludes alcohol, processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy trans fats such as refined corn or sunflower oil.
The consumption of a Mediterranean-style diet (comprising healthy lean proteins, Omega-3-rich fats, and seasonal fruits and vegetables) can help reduce chronic inflammation, which manifests itself as pain.
Which Nutrients to Focus On
We have mentioned refined foods and specific fats which, when consumed in excess, can worsen pain. However, a lack of specific vitamins and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D, can have the same effect, as can low consumption of phytonutrients (life-giving compounds found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains). Make it a point to consume foods which are rich in these nutrients and consult your doctor if supplementation is indicated for you. For your daily dose of Vitamin D, make sure to spend a few minutes daily in the sun. You could also look into adding CBD into your diet as a way to relieve your pain. Here is a great community for CBD advice if you’re unsure what it is but it well worth looking into.
Exercise and diet play an important role in quelling pain, but there are many complementary activities which have also been found to be useful. These include mindfulness, staying in a positive frame of mind, and considering therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in particular can help patients deal with the ‘automatic negative thoughts’ that arise when they are in pain, teaching them how to replace these thoughts with positive action.
About the author
Jane Epsom is a freelance writer with a special interest in researching natural and medicinal solutions to long-term pain.