Health Benefits of Antioxidants & Chronic Pain

January 31, 2023

For too many Americans, chronic pain is an excellent motivator. As recently as 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that upwards of 20.4% of US adults suffered from a chronic pain issue. Without an easy remedy or a collaborative physician to hear them out, many patients take matters into their own hands. Herbs, hot compresses, and meditation come up in research, but they’re dead ends at worst or distractions at best. So, what can you do at home to reduce symptoms and achieve relief?

More and more, studies are demonstrating the role that antioxidants play in reducing inflammation. When combined with other effective medical treatments, an antioxidant-friendly diet can move the needle for those suffering from oxidative stress and painful swelling. Here’s what you need to know.

Antioxidants & Inflammation – A Guide for Chronic Pain

At Southside Pain Specialists in Birmingham, AL, we leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of an enhanced quality of life for our patients. We find that a multimodal approach to the complex issue of chronic pain works best. Here’s just a sliver of the latest research concerning antioxidants and chronic pain. To learn more, schedule your appointment with us today!

What are Free Radicals & Why are They Bad?

You may remember a few details about protons and electrons from a high school chemistry class. You might also remember that molecules generally come with pairs of valence electrons for stability. When molecules lack a pair of valence electrons, they become volatile and start stealing electrons from elsewhere to balance themselves out. In the body, these molecules are called free radicals.

According to the National Institutes of Health, free radicals may result from “exposure to X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals,”—all common occurrences in modern life. Regardless of their cause, free radicals can contribute to something called “oxidative stress” within the body.

What is Oxidative Stress & How is it Related to Chronic Pain?

An abundance of free radicals in the body can lead to cell damage, disease, and other long-lasting or painful side effects. Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals steal electrons from healthy tissue and cells. Chronic oxidative stress contributes to a likewise state of chronic inflammation in many patients, or even diabetes, and cancer in others.

Oxidative stress may not be the primary driver of your chronic pain issue, but it certainly isn’t helping. The inflammatory response caused by free radicals could be dumping fuel on the fire, contributing to more days on average with seemingly unmanageable pain or swelling that keeps you sitting or lying down in bed.

How Can Antioxidants Prevent Chronic Inflammation?

In a bit of good news for your body and your chronic pain symptoms, free radicals have a direct opposite in the form of antioxidants. Essentially, antioxidants stand in for healthy tissue by offering their electrons to free radicals instead. This spares your body the cellular damage that increases the rate and frequency of inflammation. More antioxidants in your body translates to less cellular damage and inflammation from free radicals.

Luckily, you can boost your number of antioxidants in a couple of easy ways—through foods or supplements primarily. Antioxidants are common among several accessible food groups, including:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sunflower oil
  • Leafy, green vegetables
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • More

When Do You Need Antioxidants?

Most of us can’t naturally tell that we’re suffering from increased oxidative stress. But certain lifestyle choices may contribute to the this form of stress, including:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Excessive exercise
  • Too many processed & refined foods
  • Foods with certain dyes

Of course, these aren’t the only causes of oxidative stress, but they are the most commonly preventable causes. You may also encounter oxidative stress after radiation exposure, exposure to harmful chemicals or pollution, and after certain instances of tissue trauma.

For those of us with chronic pain and chronic inflammation, it’s generally best to err on the side of caution. Simply put, making long-term changes to your daily diet can help in more ways than one. And when all the other internet fads for chronic pain treatment reveal themselves as bunk, you can always fall back on leafy greens and lifestyle changes—as another experiment if nothing else.

Getting Help with Pain Relief

If you’re suffering from chronic pain, antioxidants combined with medical treatment may be the solution you’re looking for. While a balanced diet containing antioxidants can decrease discomfort and inflammation, everyone has different health needs. Visiting a pain management specialist or a pain clinic can help you to get the treatment you need and get you back to living life to the fullest!

Your Trusted Chronic Pain Experts in Birmingham, AL

With highly specialized training and various pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians standards, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, effective pain. Contact us online today or at 205-900-3927 to schedule your appointment today!