Food for Thought…and Pain

Food for Thought…and Pain

  • Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Diet and exercise is well known to keep your heart healthy, but more and more research is showing that what you eat can directly impact your pain levels. The link between food and pain lies in systemic inflammation, and decreasing your inflammation can help to decrease your pain. By eating more foods with anti-inflammatory properties, and avoiding those that increase it, you can add another tool to your pain management belt.

First, what is systemic inflammation? Throughout the body, there are several inflammatory mediators, which are basically the body’s defensive line when injury or ailment occur. These defensemen can be everywhere…in the joints, in the back, in the gut. When inflammatory markers are activated, they stimulate the perception of pain, to tell you that something is wrong. Whenever and wherever there is pain, chances are, there is also inflammation.

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Next, how does food affect inflammation? Free radicals and foreign substances cause oxidative stress, which leads to the activation of the inflammatory mediators. Free radicals come from quick and sharp spikes in blood glucose and lipids (or sugars and fats), or processed foods which the body interprets as a foreign substance. The resulting oxidative stress caused by these foods is similar in process to rust on an old metal bicycle, so the body takes this as an injury that needs to be taken care of. The inflammatory markers are sent to take care of the oxidative stress caused by the free radicals, and systemic inflammation occurs.

What kinds of food increase and decrease inflammation? The culprits for increasing inflammation is processed foods, and added sugar. Fats are not so bad on their own, but when paired with sugar, the combination of the two is even more damaging. These are found in high sugar foods, white breads and pastas, soda, alcohol, and processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, etc.).

As far as foods that can help with inflammation and pain, the keyword here is “antioxidant.” These are found in vitamin and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables. The other trick is to avoid that sharp blood sugar and fat spike. Foods that shorten this spike are those that are high in fiber, like beans and whole grains, or good protein, such as chicken, fish and lean beef.

Overall, taking care of chronic pain requires a multi-faceted approach. Physical therapy, procedures, even surgery are all common tools to treat and manage chronic pain. However, there is one more tool to add to the belt, and that is a pain relieving diet.

Good luck and let’s hear back with how you are doing!

For more information, recipes, and meal planning tools, check out these resources!


Bonakdar, R., Cotter, N. and Rhodes, C. (2019). Nutrition, Inflammation, and Pain. The Pain Practitioner, (November/December 2017), pp.10-12.

Briggs, M., Givens, D., Schmitt, L. and Taylor, C. (2019). Relations of C-reactive protein and obesity to the prevalence and the odds of reporting low back pain.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].

Stone, A. and Broderick, J. (2019). Obesity and pain are associated in the United States.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].

Thoracic Pain

While chest pain should always be evaluated to eliminate issues involving the heart, many patients exhibiting chest pain find that their pain is due to muscles and nerves in the upper and middle back. The thoracic vertebrae are the narrowest part of the spinal canal, making them the most susceptible to issues of injury. Carolinas Pain Center can evaluate your thoracic pain and begin a course of treatment to help you manage this difficult condition.

Shoulder, Arm, and Hand Pain

Pain in the shoulders and arms can be exhausting in addition to being painful. The act of reaching, typing, or carrying even the smallest object can be excruciating. Pain in the hands is just as debilitating and can affect even the most menial of tasks, like holding a glass, picking up a pen, or manipulating your computer’s mouse. The causes of these types of pain are varied and may include rotator cuff or inflammatory conditions, muscle spasms, or arthritis. Carolinas Pain Center can evaluate your shoulder, arm, or hand pain and get you started on a course of treatment to eliminate this pain from your life.

Pelvic Pain

Pain in the lower abdomen and groin areas can be incapacitating. While this pain can often have a surgical solution, it is not uncommon for the pain to persist even after surgery. It can affect such simple tasks as walking or sitting, making exercise or recreation almost impossible. In some cases, even sexual activity may become affected. The goal of treatment for this kind of pain at Carolinas Pain Center is to determine the cause, whether due to injury, infection, inflammation or nerve trauma, and then to apply a specialized, multidisciplinary approach to pain management that will have you leading a normal life as quickly as possible.

Pain in Children and Adolescents

Pediatric pain management must involve highly specialized and sensitive care for these unique patients. Pain in children is often difficult to assess due to the limited ability of the patient to verbally communicate what he or she is feeling. While an adult may ask for pain relief medication or therapy, a child often does not understand this option and does not ask for help. While an adult may tolerate an aggressive treatment plan, children often do not respond well to this. Adults are often able to continue to function in their daily routines of work and household management, even in social settings, but children are not able to function at this level. Missing school, and not feeling well enough to be with friends can often result in an unhealthy detachment. Their physical pain can lead to anxiety, depression, and even a withdrawal from the family members seeking their well-being. This makes treating pediatric pain even more challenging.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a difficult condition to bear, both physically and mentally. Carolinas Pain Center understands the devastating impact it has on patients. Our state-of-the-art treatments and multidisciplinary approaches to each individual case will help you manage your neck pain and return you to a normal life as quickly as possible.

Lower Extremity Pain

Pain in legs, hips, knees, ankles, and feet can be life-disrupting. Simple daily tasks become excruciating, and exercise or recreation must take a seat for awhile. Pain in the lower extremities can have causes ranging from wear-and-tear due to normal motion and function, to trauma or infection. This pain is manageable, and the Carolinas Pain Center can help you get it under control.

Low Back Pain

Almost everyone will suffer some form of lower back pain during their lifetime. It is the most common cause of job-related disability, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This often debilitating pain interferes with every aspect of daily life, from tasks as simple as getting dressed, to preparing meals, to sitting in a chair, let alone the more strenuous activities like sports and exercise or recreation.

Head and Facial Pain

Few things can be more excruciating than chronic head and facial pain. Simple daily tasks become unbearable chores. It can be impossible to focus on even the simplest mental task, and sleep becomes something dreaded rather than something restful. A thorough consultation can provide accurate diagnosis as to the cause, and a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to pain management can get you on your way to managing the pain and returning to a normal life.