Health Tips: Don’t let pain knock you off your game


When LeBron James twisted his ankle during a game with the Atlanta Hawks, even he couldn’t dismiss the pain. Writhing on the floor in agony, the All-Star joined the ranks of the 54% of Americans who report troubling pain -- and the increasing number who report joint pain. (It went up 21% from 2002 to 2018).

According to a 17-year study in Demography, Americans also have experienced a 15% increase in low-back pain, 16% rise in neck pain and a 13% increase in facial/jaw pain. For folks ages 25 to 44, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are fueling some of the increase in pain (not LeBron’s case), but the research shows it’s an increase in psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, that accounts for half of the chronic pain they’ve experienced lately.

Got pain? You want to identify its cause and reduce or eliminate the pain as quickly and safely as possible.

-- Make beneficial lifestyle changes, like avoiding foods that cause inflammation, such as sugars, red and processed meats and egg yolks; achieving a healthy weight; stopping smoking; eliminating excess alcohol consumption; increasing physical activity.

-- For medical attention, researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine advise that you don’t consult only your primary care physician about physical causes; see appropriate specialists, such as orthopedists, neurologists and pain management specialists.

-- To address psychologically triggered or amplified pain, one-on-one or group therapy, as well as stress reduction practices such as meditation, are effective.

So, get back into your game by taking those steps today.

Foods that chill you out

Our close relative, the orangutan, is a fruit lover -- the tasty treats make up around 90% of its diet. And overall, the big O feasts on more than 400 varieties of plants. Maybe that’s why they look so chill as they amble through the rainforest.

An Australian study in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that for middle-aged humans (ages 45-65), eating about 16.5 ounces of fruits and vegetables helps them amble too! Seems eating like that reduces your stressed-out-ness by at least 10% -- enough to make you feel substantially better.

The researchers theorize that vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids in fruits and vegetables reduce body-wide inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation is known to be related to mental health through disruption of your gut biome and through increased levels of stress hormones (they disrupt the gut and the brain). Runaway oxidation is essentially rusting your bodily systems, increasing risks for cancer and arthritis, for example, and amplifying stress responses.

So what do you have to eat to get 16.5 ounces of fruits and veggies a day? Not that much. An average apple weighs about 6.4 ounces. Two cups of spinach leaves equal a bit over 2 ounces. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a banana averages around 4 ounces, and one and a half cups of broccoli florets equals about 4 ounces. That’s it!

Making sure you eat at least that much shouldn’t stress you out. Once you get that down we recommend you relax into two to four more servings of fruits and veggies daily.