PT’s Guide To: Pain Management Diets

Food as medicine is a well-known deep-rooted theory of which there is much debate and speculation. However it cannot be argued, as there is insurmountable evidence out there, that foods high in certain vitamins and minerals have healing abilities. No matter what side of the debate you’re on, physical therapists should consider adding a nutrition consultation session for the patients who don’t seem to be progressing with pain management. Below, we’ve listed 3 pain management diets to consider for patients struggling with pain. 

3 Chronic Conditions That Benefit From Dietary Changes

Over his career, Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, found how pain management diets relieved the pain caused by chronic conditions.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is often linked as a result of obesity, which is a condition that greatly benefits from lifestyle changes. In fact, obesity is the most modifiable risk factor in contributing to chronic conditions. So it comes as no surprise that there is a direct correlation between OA pain and diet. Studies have found that selenium and vitamins C and D deficiencies can contribute to OA, whereas omega-3 fatty acids can relieve its symptoms. And speaking of fatty acids, I think it safe to say that you cannot call yourself a true PT if you don’t know of their amazing benefits.

It is widely known that fatty acids, along with antioxidants, provide anti-inflammatory effects. This fact alone makes the traditional Mediterranean diet ideal for those who are suffering from pain caused by inflammation.

Autoimmune Disease

Nearly 90 autoimmune disorders are known, and millions of Americans suffer from it. Studies have proven that nutrient-poor diets aide and worsen the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. More specifically, deficiencies in selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, probiotics, flavanol, and vitamins D and A are the biggest culprits.


Genetics often plays a role as much as diet when it comes to diabetes. Therefore there is abundant of information of the suggested diets for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. But the general rule is: consume carbohydrates low on the glycemic index, fiber-rich foods, omeg-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Nutritional Assessment Tips

Just Ask

Obvious, but effective nonetheless, but just asking your patients about their diets can give the insight you need to better assist them. Get a general idea of the amount of vegetables, fruits, and junk foods they are consuming. Ask if they are taking any supplements while you’re at it.

Food Diary

If the answers to your questions were not enough or concerning, ask them to keep a food diary until the next session. Express the importance of truthfulness. It’s so easy for a guilty conscience to write down caesar salad instead of buffalo chicken pizza.


Once you get an idea of a suggested diet, be sure to set attainable goals. As you cannot assume how they’d take to drastic changes in their diets, start off small. Small and doable goals will inspire long-term changes and results. Better yet, their confidence will increase with every goal achieved.

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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