Unfortunately, musculoskeletal pain isn’t uncommon. 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?
Keeping an eye on calorie and carbohydrate intake
One way to keep musculoskeletal issues at bay, is by monitoring your calorie and carbohydrate intake.
As many of us are aware, consuming excess calories 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.
What exactly do we mean by inflammation? 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.
As well as consuming too many calories, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats can lead to inflammation too.
By counting calories, you can maintain a healthy weight and avoid putting on weight. From doing this, you could see an improvement in your musculoskeletal problems. In fact, one study found that weight reduction of more than 10% has the potential to lead to important changes in pain and function.
The importance of vitamins
Having enough vitamins is a requirement for all people, not just those that suffer with pain. Each vitamin has its own benefits that help to keep us in good health. But some musculoskeletal conditions are a result of vitamin deficiencies, and certain vitamins can keep pain at bay.
Why is vitamin D important? This helps with the absorption of calcium which is essential for 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.
And, vitamin K? This 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.
You must also monitor your vitamin B intake. 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.
Increased intake of protein
When people are sufferers of chronic pain, high-protein based diets are advised. According to one paper, four reasons for this are:
- 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.
But, what sort of things should you be eating to add high levels of protein into 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.
Although omega-3 fatty acids are essential to our diet, they’re not made by the body naturally. So, we need to get them from our diet.
Studies discovered 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.
How can we find omega-3? It 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.
Aside from these recommendations, there are other ways that your diet can reduce musculoskeletal problems and offer relief for back 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.