How to Manage Chronic Pain & Appetite Loss

Chronic Pain Management

Chronic pain is a common problem that affects one in every five Canadians. That’s 6 million people nationwide! Causes include degenerative diseases such as arthritis, car accidents, neuropathic pain disorders and central nervous system malfunction. Chronic pain costs the Canadian economy an estimated $60 billion a year in health care and lost wages and taxes. Therefore, effective pain management is vital to the economy and to the patients affected.

Currently, there are many vitamins, herbal products and other nutritional supplements recommended for chronic pain. Unfortunately, there isn’t one particular diet or supplement that can be safely and appropriately recommended for chronic pain treatment since every patient is different and scientific evidence to support the use of nutritional supplements is lacking. If you are interested in natural remedies, talk to your healthcare professional for their recommendation based on your specific treatment plan.

Other useful therapies for dealing with chronic pain include:

  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi

Appetite Loss Management

Chronic pain often lowers your appetite or change the way food tastes or smells. This is due to the physical or mental weariness, sleep disturbance, diminished libido, and constipation – all of which can make eating difficult. Constant, unremitting pain may lead to depression and anxiety and interfere with almost all activities.

However, if you don’t eat enough, you may experience significant weight loss and increase risk of dehydration. It can also weaken your immune system and cause you to feel tired or lethargic.

Take these 4 steps to manage appetite loss, stay strong during treatment, and ultimately beat chronic pain:

1. Drink plenty of liquids
This is important, especially if you have less of an appetite. The last thing you need is to suffer dehydration, a dangerous condition. You may need to drink more liquids if you become weak or dizzy and have dark yellow urine.

2. Eat smaller meals 
Eat a little, even if you are not hungry. Since your appetite is lacking, it may help to have 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of 2-3 large meals. 

3. Choose healthy and high-nutrient foods
Most people need to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein and calories. People who have chronic pain especially need to eat a diet high in protein. Without enough protein, the body may take longer to recover from illness or chronic pain treatments.
Good sources of protein include:
lean red meat
dairy products
nuts and nut butters
dried beans
peas and lentils
soy foods

4. Be active

    There’s abundant evidence that exercise and eating right can help prevent people from getting chronic pain. The latest information shows that exercise for chronic pain patients can also keep the pain from recurring.

    The following types of exercise are low-intensity workouts – perfect for helping chronic pain patients get back into shape:

    • Flexibility exercises (stretching)
    • Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming
    • Resistance training (lifting light weights or isometric exercise) which builds muscle

    Every person’s situation is different. So before starting a moderate to vigorous exercise program, see your doctor for their recommendation.