Many people suffer from musculoskeletal pain and must manage 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.
Musculoskeletal pain can come from various conditions, 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?
- The body’s pain relievers derive 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.
Wondering how to 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.
Keeping tabs on calories and carbs
Be sure to monitor 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.
Why do your joints get inflamed? 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.
You also need to keep an eye on refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and trans fats. 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 for joint health
Our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids to stay healthy. Unfortunately, they’re not made by the body, so we need to get them from our diet.
Research has shown 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.
Maintaining a good level of vitamins
Ensuring we get enough 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.
Firstly, 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.
For cartilage metabolism and cell survival, vitamin K is highly important. Get your intake of vitamin K through green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and beans.
Finally, consider 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 is just a snapshot of the ways a change in diet can help with 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.