Whether it’s from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or another chronic condition, persistent pain is frustrating at best. There are many therapies available to help reduce discomfort, but one often overlooked lifestyle change is refining your diet. In particular, there are a few foods known for combatting inflammation, a key agent behind chronic pain. Try incorporating some of these foods and ingredients into your diet to see if it makes a difference with your pain levels. Here are some of the best foods to relieve chronic pain:
Soybeans have an anti-inflammatory
effect, which could be a result of their powerful, protective
phytoestrogens and omega-3 fatty acids. While soybeans are commonly found in
prepared products like tofu and soy milk, you can also enjoy them as a
protein-rich snack in the form of steamed edamame.
Experts have been touting the benefits of fish for decades
due to the food’s many health-boosting qualities. Cold-water fish, in
particular, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to curb
inflammation. Reach for varieties like tuna or salmon for the greatest
Delicious tart cherries are convenient, low-calorie snacks
loaded with antioxidants. They’re also good sources of cyanidin, which has
anti-inflammatory effects even stronger than that of vitamin E. The compound is
known for reducing pain caused by arthritis and gout, in particular.
Turmeric’s most active compound, curcumin,
is a potent anti-inflammatory agent which is believed to help control the
symptoms of arthritis. It can also help to improve depression symptoms and even
aid in the prevention of cancer, Alzheimer’s
disease, and heart disease. Try the seasoning with your eggs, rice, or even
in a smoothie.
Foods with Vitamin D
Interestingly, vitamin D deficiencies are very
common among people with chronic pain. While experts are still unsure as to
whether a deficiency could exacerbate existing pain or actually cause it in the
first place, getting ample intake of this nutrient is clearly important for
keeping discomfort at bay. With your doctor’s approval, consider taking
supplements or getting vitamin D from sources such as fatty fish and egg yolks.
Just try to steer clear of cow’s milk, which has inflammatory properties that
may worsen pain.
Chronic pain, that is, pain lasting for more than 12 weeks, is extremely common. As many as 1 in 3 Americans struggle with chronic pain, making it perhaps the most common physical condition that afflicts humans. Chronic pain is a source of significant suffering; it makes daily tasks more difficult, limits people’s ability to do the things they enjoy, and greatly diminishes the quality of life.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of chronic pain is that
there are usually no good treatments. Because the pain is chronic, patients who
try to treat chronic pain with medications must take drugs every day.
Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can
help take away some suffering, but they are usually only partially effective.
Opioids are stronger, of course, but have such a high risk of causing
dependence and addiction that few doctors will prescribe for chronic non-cancer
pain. Physical therapy helps some, but not most people. Surgery may be able to
treat people with certain types of chronic musculoskeletal
pain; however, orthopedic surgery is a major ordeal with no guarantees of
success. Consequently, most people with chronic pain are left with very few
Perhaps this lack of chronic pain treatment options is what
makes recent stem cell research in chronic pain treatment so exciting.
Researchers are learning that mesenchymal
stem cells appear to be able to treat people with chronic pain. For
example, in a study of patients with low back pain who received treatment autologous
stem cells (their own stem cell populations purified, expanded, and
re-injected in their bodies), their pain and disability
decreased to the same levels as people who underwent major orthopedic
surgery (spinal fusion or total disc replacement). Another lab in Japan showed similar results.
The same benefit may occur in knee arthritis (osteoarthritis),
as well. Researchers showed that autologous stem cells were able to increase
the size of the knee
meniscus cartilage in a patient with severe knee arthritis. It should be
noted that damaged knee meniscus cartilage is one of the main sources of
chronic pain in knee osteoarthritis.
Of course, the number of patients treated in these studies is relatively small. Larger studies will be required to confirm that mesenchymal stem cells can treat chronic pain. However, these results are intriguing, since a staggering number of studies show autologous stem cell treatment to be safe. Indeed, mesenchymal stem cell treatment is now widely available in clinics and medical practices.
Reference: Waterman R. et al. (2011). Treating Chronic Pain with Mesenchymal Stem Cells: A Therapeutic Approach Worthy of Continued Investigation. Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 2011, S2 DOI: 10.4172/2157-7633.S2-001.
A review in the Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy has summarized an array of studies that demonstrate that a specific type of stem cell – the mesenchymal stem cell – may be beneficial as a therapeutic approach to chronic pain. The authors point to the huge burden of chronic pain. It is estimated that more than 115 people suffer from the condition, which is more than those who suffer from diabetes, stroke, cancer, and coronary heart disease combined.
Chronic pain is also associated with significant losses in productivity. Given how extreme the burden of chronic pain has become, the National Institute of Medicine has suggested that finding effective ways to alleviate chronic pain should become a priority for the nation.
Regenerative medicine has offered an effective way to treat a variety of injuries and diseases, including some that are related to chronic pain. As the term “regenerative medicine” implies, much of the research into the clinical effects of stem cells have shown that they lead to beneficial outcomes by regenerating damaged tissue by replacing that tissue with new cells.
This new review looks at the potential of mesenchymal stem cells to specifically improve chronic pain through the ability of the cells to suppress inflammation. Given that inflammation is a common characteristic of conditions associated with chronic pain, a strategy that addresses this phenomenon could represent an effective way to help those with chronic pain that comes from things like degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis.
The current approaches to chronic pain are limited in their ability to reduce or control pain, so there is a great need to develop more effective therapies. Research thus far into the potential impact of mesenchymal stem cells on chronic pain has provided promising results regarding effectiveness and safety. Specifically, these stem cells have not been associated with adverse side effects, they lead to the development and growth of healthy tissue, and they appear to provide pain relief. Future research will help to clarify the mechanisms by which mesenchymal stem cells may confer their benefits to those with chronic pain and provide new insights into how can best use these cells to help chronic pain sufferers.
Reference: Waterman, R.S. & Betancourt, A.M. (2011). Treating chronic pain with mesenchymal stem cells: A therapeutic approach worthy of continued investigation. Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy, S2, 1-5.