A great many of us are affected by musculoskeletal pain. In fact, there are over 10,000 GP consultations in the UK each year for musculoskeletal problems. For some, these issues can lead to long term chronic pain conditions. Common conditions that fall into this category include osteoporosis, back pain, and osteoarthritis. Although these conditions may never be fully cured, there are some things that can help such as medication and gentle exercise. And when it comes to diet, what changes can reduce musculoskeletal pain?
Diets that contain a large amount of protein are good for those looking to relieve some pain. According to one paper, four reasons for this are:
- Our pain relievers come from proteins — 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.
- Muscle–cartilage needs protein to grow — Amino acids are needed to build muscle which can go on to protect your bones and build strength.
- The activation of glucagon — Glucagon increases blood glucose levels and blocks glucose storage as fat. This can prevent a rise in insulin levels, carbohydrate cravings, and pain flares.
- Decreasing inflammation — Protein containing foods such as fish and green vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties, lowering experiences of pain.
Thinking about adding some more protein to your diet? 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.
Calories and carbs – keeping a watchful eye
Another way to help manage musculoskeletal issues is by monitoring your calorie and carbohydrate intake.
Weight gain is caused by eating a surplus amount of unhealthy foods and calories. 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.
When the body suffers pain, it sends white blood cells to an area, causing it to appear redder, this is known as inflammation. 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.
In addition to excess calories, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats can cause inflammation too.
Simply keeping an eye on your diet and making simple measures can help with decreasing the chances of weight gain. 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
These are paramount to a healthy body. Unfortunately, they’re not made by the body, so we need to get them from our diet.
In particular, research has shown that high doses of omega-3 can provide some relief to musculoskeletal pain conditions and joint health such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. Again, this is an anti-inflammatory which deals with the issues mentioned earlier.
Other than taking capsules, 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.
Are you getting enough vitamins?
Making sure that we have enough vitamins in our diets is a requirement for everyone — they each have their own benefits that keep us healthy. But some musculoskeletal conditions are a result of vitamin deficiencies, and certain vitamins can keep pain at bay.
Vitamin B helps keep 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.
First is vitamin D — absorbs calcium which is needed for strong bone and teeth 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 plays a large part in cartilage metabolism and is a promoter of cell survival — both important processes in the body that can prevent musculoskeletal issues. Get your intake of vitamin K through green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and beans.
There are many more ways that your diet can reduce 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.
The research and creation of this article was carried out by Lee Dover, on behalf of a specialist provider of pain relief products. Lee Dover is a senior copywriter at Mediaworks with an interest in health care as well as researching into healthier ways of living. He has a BA (Hons) in Magazine Journalism.