Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Healthy Lifestyle with Chronic Pain - Healthy Eating

A Healthy Lifestyle with Chronic Pain – Healthy Eating 

A healthy lifestyle is extremely important for everyone, but for many of us living in chronic pain it can seem like we are hitting a brick wall and many of us give up, frustrated and feeling defeated. But, if we take smaller steps in the right direction, steps that are physically and emotionally possible for us, we can achieve the best health possible even living with the physical ailments and chronic pain we deal with every day! There are many things we just do not have control over, however, exercising as best we can, eating healthy, being as social as we can, as well as spending time practicing our faith are areas we do have control over. Not taking care of what we have control over can leave us feeling worse than we already do, leaving us weaker and feeling hopeless and helpless. We each need to seriously consider grabbing a hold of what we can and do the best we can with it to have the healthiest life possible in our circumstances! Please know I am not negating the fact that some of us are just starting this journey and are grieving horribly the many losses chronic pain brings us and do not have one care to exercise and eat right at the stage of grief your are in, please know all you can do is your best.


In a previous blog article, Making Attainable New Years Resolutions with Chronic Pain.  the many reasons exercising is beneficial was listed. We also looked at making SMART goals that were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely in order to have a good goal in place to help us achieve what we want, looking at ways to make it "doable" for us with chronic pain. You can find free PDF templates here with directions to help plan out your goals.

We looked at the unrealistic goal I originally made for exercising: I will walk 2 miles a day. I figured I would get on my treadmill and walk off into eternal bliss of healthfulness! I planned on achieving this in 2-3 sessions throughout the day, considering one long stretch was not physically possible for me. As it turned out, while going through physical therapy multiple times, I hit a wall; doing more than 5 to 10 minutes on the treadmill resulted in me spending 3 to 4 days in bed afterwards in severe pain.

At my next appointment with my pain specialist I discussed this dilemma to him. It was beyond painful, frustrating, and embarrassing for me not to be able to achieve what many “elderly” are able to do. Especially since I worked in rehab almost 25 years and watched literally thousands of elderly overcome their physical ailments from strokes, cancer, broken hips, shoulders, etc. and walk out to go home and be more independent than I was proving to be at this point! Talk about feeling like a major failure! Making eye contact with an 80+ year old while struggling to be on the treadmill and failing miserably at it = total embarrassment! I was not ready to admit my nightmarish reality even to myself. Nor give us fighting the brick wall I was hitting! Nerves don't care at all about your will power!

The pain doctor pointed out, that for me, due to my spine issues and the neurological disorder, Central Pain Syndrome, I needed to do 2 minutes, every 2 hours, 10 to 12 times a day. So I did what he suggested! And I could tolerate that! Of course it wasn't pain free, nothing is anymore, but I could do it without being in bed in severe pain 3 to 4 days after! All of us have to do, and can only do, what our physician or physical therapist recommend is safe for us! (No matter if we have 80+ year old eyes starring back at us - we have to be safe!)

Healthy Eating

What is best for all of us to choose to eat are whole, fresh foods and you will get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed for proper cell function, lasting energy and strong bones (well, "as strong as can be" bones for some of us). Some also require supplements as their bodies do not process some nutrients properly.  Many physicians may recommend certain vitamins or minerals for certain diseases and disorders. The best we can do is to aim for a balanced diet of healthy foods containing natural nutrition, dietary fiber, heart-healthy oils and muscle-building protein not found in processed food that is loaded down with sodium, preservatives and sugar (unlike the Bit-O-Honey I am chewing on right now hoping not to bust my teeth or pop a filling out! DAH! Playing Russian Roulette with a piece of candy and blogging about eating healthy? Hmmm...)  For more information on nutrition and healthy eating click here for Mayo Clinic's website that is packed with information! (which I seriously need to go back and reread where candy and soda fit in!
Image result for free images bit o honey


Self disclosure: One week into the New Year and I have been eating healthier, but I just happened to come across this box of candy in a drawer. It needed to join the rest of the junk food that was tossed on January 1st when I cleaned out my cabinets to help not have temptations around to help me with healthy eating. However, as many healthy eating programs state, we need to be able to enjoy SOME of this once in awhile! It is allowed! So don't be so demeaning to yourself as I tend to be towards myself! Enjoy a treat as you are allowed! Being a snacker, I do better by planning snacks and treats into my program so I don't feel deprived. 

Foods That Help Chronic Pain

Many are interested in foods that help chronic pain. This can be a controversial area that some say is helpful and others say not. I know that many of us suffering from chronic pain have had well intentioned people say to us, "If you would eat better and lose weight perhaps you would feel better!" There is no denying that eating healthy does make us feel better! However, there are many diseases and disorders that cause chronic pain that no matter what you eat, you will still have the horrid pain! Sadly, it is not a cure all!

There are foods that are known to help with inflammation and thought to bring some pain relief.
 Fight Chronic Inflammation by Changing the Way You Eat
The chart on the left is from an informative article titled, Fight Inflammation by Changing the Way We Eat, by HealthPositiveInfo.com. For me, I do know the foods I am intolerant to.  I get intensely achy, sluggish, and feel bloated, as well as other extremely unpleasant symptoms, when I eat many of the foods on #2 in this chart, so I do avoid them. My body is very aware when I try to sneak them in! I have tried many foods and some supplements to help with the Central Pain Syndrome and the other pain issues I deal with due to multiple spine diseases. However, as these are caused by nerve damage, as well as other congenital and degenerative neuromuscularskeletal issues, I have not had success for the types of pain I have.

This is an article by Livestrong.com that also explains how healthy eating affects our bodies, as well as another article by Everyday Health about foods that help fight pain that you might find informative.  Make sure you discuss with your physician to decide what is right for you, for only you and your physician know your body and what your chronic pain is caused by. Sadly, some do not know what is causing their chronic pain, which is where I was for 19 years prior to my first cervical surgery. It is difficult not to have a diagnosis.

Like state above, a well rounded diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, protein, fiber, healthy fats and good carbohydrates is what we need to try to follow.

Below is a chart that describes the nutrients our bodies require, what function they serve, as well as the food sources that provide them. (I like charts because they tend to make things easy to look at as compared to paragraphs of written text).

This chart breaks down the amount of each food group recommended for our daily intake. Of course, there are many with food allergies, diabetes, heart disease, etc. that need to follow a special diet. Be sure to discuss what you require with your physician or nutritionist for what is healthy for you.

We all know that carrying extra weight is not good for our bodies, whether one has chronic pain or not. Eating healthier and trying to lose at least a percentage of one’s weight has many benefits. For many of us, no matter how much we weigh, we will always have the dark cloud of chronic pain to deal with gripping our nerves and muscles. Although we may not have control over many things living with chronic pain, we still have control over how we treat our bodies.

Top Ten Benefits of Losing Weight

Here are the top ten health benefits we can expect after losing 10 percent of our weight as given by
Spark People.com. In no particular order, they are:

  • Better blood pressure
  • Improved heart health and lower cholesterol levels
  • Decreased risk for diabetes
  • Enhanced sex life
  • A better night’s sleep for those with obstructive sleep apnea
  • Less pain associated with arthritis, joint disease, and lower back pain.
  • Better breathing
  • Decreased risk for colon and breast cancer
  • A healthier gallbladder
  • More energy

I know what many may be thinking about some of these! You may think it won’t help much! But, yes, having your body carrying excessive weight does cause issues. It may not be the main reason you have chronic pain, but it can definitely have contributing factors!

I know I have excess...but fortunately, I am not one of the many sufferers out there that have physicians that tell them, "If you'd lose weight your pain should be better!" when there are potentially other issues going on! 

Many of us struggle with weight issues. It is an epidemic in our world. It is especially hard when we are dealing with chronic pain to make healthy snacks and meals when we struggle to retrieve all the ingredients from the refrigerator and cabinets, as well as perform the tasks involved in preparing the foods. I'll be researching some meal plans and recipes that can help all of us in this area. I do know that there are not many meals that are any easier to prepare than a bowl of cereal, a peanut butter sandwich or crackers and cheese! Yes, I fall back on making these simple things everyday! These do get old after a few years though! Cooking dinner for our loved ones in the evening is especially difficult, as many of us know! One of the many struggles in our new "normal".

If any of you would like to share what simple meals you fall back on, please feel free to share them with us! I will be sure to give you credit when used! Blessings to you!

This blog is for all of us with chronic pain! Do you have a favorite topic on chronic pain, documentary, book, video or even a blog to share you'd like me to cover in this blog? I'd love to hear about it! Share in the comments below.


  1. Thanks for sharing these details regarding healthy lifestyle with chronic pain. There are various therapies for treating chronic pain and chiropractic care is one of best among all. Have tried it and got treatment from a reputed chiropractor in Mississauga. Got huge relief.

    1. Rebecca, I too had used chiropractic care for many years prior to my first surgery. 19 years! Due to my Central Pain Syndrome and the many issues with my spine it is no longer an option for me thought! If you work with a Chiropractor or are one, I would love to have you share about it for chronic pain for my blog! Let me know!

  2. If you want to change your healthy lifestyle, don't think only about food and exercise but sometimes focus on your mental health too Learn More

    1. Jade Graham, we definitely need to have a multifaceted approach! That’s why I’ve many different articles in my blog!

      Thank you for visiting to share with me. If mental health care has helped you please contact me as I am very open to hearing others’ opinions and ideas, as well as how they’ve been helped!

  3. Good post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!
    learn how to juice

    1. Thanks for visiting and letting me know you felt this article was helpful! I’ve been meaning to revise this article as I’ve done a Whole 30 program several times since last June and want to share about it. Also, juicing has been used by many friends and family. So if you’d like to share some information on that I would consider including it. Personally, I don’t do juicing, not Because it is like or any reasons against it. I just haven’t done it. Again, let me know if you would like to share!


As always, please feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or give suggestions!