Chronic Pain? Three Things to Start Doing Today

Updated: Oct 28

Pain is a wonderful sensation, even though it often doesn't feel that way. Pain is the body's way of letting us know that something isn't quite right.

Without pain you wouldn't know that you had broken your leg or that there was a cut on the bottom of your foot. This could lead to a nasty infection or even death. While pain might not feel pleasant it definitely serves a useful function of letting the body know there is trouble. Pain also helps to prevent further injury.

Since acute pain can be helpful what about chronic pain, pain that never seems to go away? Is chronic pain helpful too or is it a sign that something is not quite right in the body? Can anything be done for sufferers of chronic pain?

Unfortunately, for 100 million Americans, chronic pain is an everyday reality [1]. Chronic pain is different from acute pain in that chronic pain never quite goes away.

It can last for weeks, even years and it can be debilitating and discouraging. For example, low back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45 [2] .

Why do some people experience chronic pain and others don't?

It seems that pain is a complex interaction between the central ( brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerves) nervous systems and the immune system.

For example, when the body is exposed to foreign pathogens immune cells such as macrophages, monocytes, and mast cells release many pro-inflammatory molecules into the bloodstream creating an “inflammatory soup” in the body that enhances pain sensitivity [3].

These inflammation generating molecules in the body also signal to the brain to induce responses like fever, lethargy, and decreased food and water intake. These classic symptoms occur when you are sick. Importantly, high pain sensitivity is considered to be an important part of being sick [3].

Chronic pain can occur in many different conditions ranging from neuropathic (nerve) pain to post-operative pain and inflammation plays a key role in chronic pain [4]. Since inflammation contributes to chronic pain, what can you do to decrease inflammation?

Here are three easy tips you can do today to start decreasing chronic pain and reduce inflammation:

1. Take a high quality fish oil supplement.

Fish oil supplements containing EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents. EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids and they are the precursors to molecules called resolvins which are anti-inflammatory.

They also compete with pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids decreasing inflammation even greater [5].

If you have a bleeding disorder or an upcoming surgery, then it is a good idea totally to your health care provider before starting fish oil supplements because they can increase bleeding.

2. Increase your magnesium intake.

Low magnesium intake is associated with increased free radical production, increased release of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body, and increased activity in the pain pathways of the body [6]. Low magnesium is also associated with muscle spasms.

Magnesium is an essential mineral for the body since it is required for hundreds of enzymatic reactions. You can increase magnesium rich foods in your diet like dark leafy greens, yogurt, and avocados while also using magnesium oil that can be absorbed directly into the skin.