My Pain

Nutrition and Exercise

Nutrition

Good nutritional habits are essential for health and can have a positive effect on pain. Eating a well balanced diet aids digestion, reduces heart disease risk, helps control weight, reduces blood sugar levels and is thought to ease pain. What you eat can be helpful in conjunction with medication and traditional medicine. Current studies focus on how food may help relieve discomfort.

Increase Omega 3 Fatty Acids

These are essential fatty acids, meaning the body cannot produce them so they must be ingested. The typical western diet has too many omega 6 fats that promote inflammation  and is found in processed and fast foods and too little Omega 3’s  that are in cold water fish. When that balance is out of proportion, inflammation sets in; inflammation that can lead to increased pain and other chronic conditions. Omegas 3’s are also thought to boost heart health, control triglycerides and lower blood pressure.

Fruits and Vegetables

The average person should eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables each and 2 cups of fruits each day. The phytochemicals (natural chemicals found in plant foods) are believed to reduce inflammation. Antioxidants, which reduce free radical damage, are found in abundance in colorful fruits and vegetables. Various colors of fruits and vegetables are important as each color has its own specific antioxidants. The more colors of fruits and vegetables in your diet, the broader the range of nutrients. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide the wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals your body uses to maintain energy levels and reduce inflammation and risk of chronic disease.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough liquid is essential to keeping your body functioning properly. As we age, the thirst mechanism weakens. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Lack of water can trigger fatigue, difficulty focusing and mild short term memory loss. Try to keep the 8 by 8 rule; Drink 8 eight ounce glasses of water per day or other non-sugary, non caffeinated beverages.

Maintain Sufficient Vitamin D Levels

Not getting enough Vitamin D can contribute to chronic pain. A study done by Dr. Greg Plotnikoff in Minnesota found that of 150 people who came to the community health clinic complaining of chronic pain, 93% of them had extremely low Vitamin D levels. Normal levels are between 30-50 ng/mL. Most of the people in the study had a Vitamin D level around 12 ng/mL. Once the levels were normal, reported pain significantly decreased. As more studies are completed, the evidence is convincing that Vitamin D plays a role in decreasing chronic pain.

Most people need between 800-1000 IU of Vitamin D per day, although these levels are expected to rise. Vitamin D is found in fatty fishes, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Vitamin D is produced naturally by the body with proper sun exposure. However, the use of sunscreen, your proximity to the equator, age, obesity, and skin color can all interfere with the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. A blood test or 25OHD level is essential to knowing whether or not you are Vitamin D deficient. If a deficiency is found, your health care provider may recommend Vitamin D supplements. Never start a supplement without consulting your healthcare provider first.

Other helpful healthy eating tips include:

  • Limit processed foods and simple sugars

  • Avoid aspartame additives and preservatives

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine

  • Eat a varied diet of fresh whole foods

  • Sample programs thought to reduce chronic pain

    • Anti inflammatory

    • Elimination/Rotation

    • Blood Sugar Regulation

Print Sample Food Diary

The U.S. Department of Agriculture website MyPyramid.gov is a valuable interactive website to assist you in making healthy food and physical activity choices.

MyPyramid_Site.jpg 

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Exercise

Regular exercise and physical activity can help your overall health and fitness as well as help you manage pain and improve the ability to cope with pain. Regular exercise also has been shown to:

  • Reduce risk of heart disease

  • Improve cognitive functioning and decease cognitive decline

  • Reduce depression

  • Keeps weight under control

  • Prevent and reduce high blood pressure

  • Prevents bone loss

  • Help prevent falls

  • Boost energy level

  • Help manage stress

  • Improve ability to fall asleep

  • Increase muscle strength

  • Improve or help delay many chronic conditions

Even short periods of mild to moderate exercise can significantly improve your health and fitness and improve your mood. If you currently do not exercise or have not exercised for a long period of time, it is best to:

  • Seek advice from your healthcare provider about which exercise program is right for you

  • Consider getting a prescription for physical therapy from your healthcare provider. A physical therapist can teach you exercises that will benefit your physical condition and improve your fitness level.

  • Start slowly! Start with as little as 5 minutes per day and gradually increase the time and intensity of the exercises. If you get tired, rest! You do not want to cause more severe pain.

  • Listen to your body. If an exercise hurts, stop doing that exercise. Forget about the saying “no pain, no gain.” If you are having pain in specific joints or muscles, move these areas gently.

The physical activity guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2008) recommend adults should do 2 hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity endurance exercise per week. Adults should also do muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week. Although these guidelines seem difficult, it is important to remember that some activity is better than none. The health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. Inactivity should be avoided!

When developing your exercise program, be sure to include the 4 main types of exercise:

Endurance exercises increase your heart rate and  improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. These include:

  • Walking

  • Jogging

  • Dancing

  • Mowing

  • Raking

  • Swimming

  • Biking

  • Stair climbing

  • Playing tennis

  • Playing basketball

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Strengthening exercises help to increase and/or maintain muscle strength. With inactivity, muscles weaken and shrink, making it more difficult to manage activities of daily living such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Strengthening exercises include:

  • Lifting weights

  • Resistance band exercises (available for free at Just Keep Moving)

Flexibility exercises allow you to move your joints and muscles more comfortably, through a full range of motion. Limited flexibility can increase pain and risk of injury and makes muscles less efficient. Exercises to increase your flexibility include:

  • Shoulder and arm stretches

  • Calf stretches

  • Yoga

Balance exercises reduce the difficulty of walking as well as reduce risk of falls associated with balance loss. Loss of balance increases with certain chronic conditions and is more common as you age. Many lower body strengthening exercises will also help to improve balance. Examples of balance exercises are:

  • Standing on one foot

  • Heel to toe walk

  • Tai Chi

  • Tandem stand

  • Posture exercises

You may prefer to exercise in a group setting. Having fun and socializing are the main reasons people give when asked why they exercise.

Developing a physical activity action plan will help you to be realistic and stick to your exercise goal. Remember that for each exercise or physical activity you choose, you should include:

  • What kind of activity you want to do

  • Why you want to do it

  • When you will do it

  • How often you will do it

Keeping goals short term, daily or weekly, will help to achieve your goal. Be sure to reward yourself when you reach your goal.

It is important to be safe when exercising. Stop exercising and call your healthcare provider if you experience the following symptoms or conditions:

  • Dizziness or loss of balance

  • Chest pain or pressure

  • The feeling your heart is skipping, racing or fluttering

  • Breaking out in cold sweat

  • Muscle cramps

  • Blood clots

  • Infection with fever

  • Retina or eye surgery

  • Hernia

  • Recent surgery of any kind

To avoid injury and exercise safely:

  • Begin your exercise program slowly, always with “warm up” and “cool down” exercises

  • Wait 2 hours after eating to exercise

  • Wear appropriate shoes

  • Drink water before, during and after exercising

  • When outdoors, consider the weather, walking surface, and neighborhood. Pay attention to your surroundings.

  • Plan your exercise session when you have the least pain, stiffness and fatigue and when your medication is most effective

Be sure to set realistic, achievable exercise goals and enjoy your success. As you become more physically fit, note how you feel. You will have more energy and it will be easier to do your daily routine. You will sleep better at night and will experience less pain. Remember, the benefits of exercise and physical activity outweigh the risks! When it comes to your exercise program, stay motivated, stick with it and celebrate your successes!

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