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Some physical therapists may offer education on improving nutrition

What you consume can play a major role in your recovery process

When you visit a physical therapist for an injury, you typically expect to be provided with a program that includes various exercises, techniques and other treatments intended to reduce your pain and improve your physical abilities. What you may not expect is advice on nutrition and your diet, since physical therapy seems to be more focused on how the body moves. Focusing on patients' physical condition is certainly a big part of physical therapy, and it's for this very reason that some physical therapists are starting to offer nutritional education on top of their regular treatment as a useful tool to improve patients' overall health outcomes. Since what you put into your body will affect how it works and how well it moves, these therapists are realizing that proper nutrition should be considered an essential component of any treatment program.

Five conditions associated with pain that better nutrition can help address

Learning about nutrition and making changes your diet can result in a bounty of benefits that will improve your health in a number of ways. But there are several conditions associated with pain that can directly benefit from a better diet, including these five:

  1. Inflammation: many foods that are popular in the Western diet—like vegetable oils and fried foods—increase inflammation and can often make injuries worse; a Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, which is rich in healthy fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, and fiber, fights inflammation and can be beneficial for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  2. Obesity: being obese contributes to many other chronic pain conditions, and the pain can, in turn, lead to less physical activity and make the problem worse; this is why weight loss through proper nutritional health should become a crucial part of overall pain rehabilitation
  3. Osteoarthritis: patients who are overweight or obese have an increased risk for developing osteoarthritis, especially in the knees and hips; it's also been suggested that deficiencies of certain nutrients—including vitamins C and D, and selenium—contribute to osteoarthritis; this shows that focusing on nutrition may address osteoarthritis in several ways
  4. Autoimmune disease: approximately 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease, and new research is suggesting that dietary changes over the past 50 years may have played a part in increasing rates of these diseases. Moving away from a high-sugar, high-salt and heavily processed diet to a more nutritious one may, therefore, reduce the occurrence of autoimmune disease.
  5. Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: High pain levels in patients with type 2 diabetes can negatively impact their quality of life, physical function, and physical activity abilities. Diet is an integral part of managing diabetes, and improving it can yield a host of benefits.

How your physical therapist may be able to help

If you're dealing with any of the conditions listed above along with an injury, your physical therapist may be able to offer some professional advice and education on the role your diet may be playing. By asking you about some of your dietary habits, suggesting that you keep a food diary, and establishing some simple and attainable goals, they can start you on a path to better nutrition and better overall health, which will, in turn, result in a faster recovery from your injury. Following a course that focuses on proper nutrition will also set you up for a better functioning body and a reduced risk for injury in the future.
-Summarized from a Nov. '16 article published by theAPTA

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