#006 Six Strategies to Reverse Inflammation and Chronic Pain

I thought I would never live another day without pain. Every step hurt. Like 100 million other Americans I lived with chronic pain.

Something always hurt. My left knee was always in pain, my neck hurt to turn, and my lower back hurt.

I could only take a few doses of ibuprofen or naproxen before my stomach would start to hurt. Celebrex (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID) was my answer at the time for the pain. I took Celebrex daily and my autoimmune disease was very active. Although I was just in my mid-40s at the time, I just kept wondering, if the pain is so bad now how on earth am I going to survive to retirement?

The Dangers of NSAIDs

While Celebrex did raise my blood pressure 5-10 points, fortunately I did not have any severe complications from taking my daily NSAID. NSAIDs will not only raise your blood pressure but they are also known to increase your risk of bleeding, strokes, kidney failure, and ulcers.

NSAIDS May Cause Heart Attacks and Atrial Fibrillation

It has been known for quite some time that taking these anti-inflammatories increase the risk of a heart attack. Depending on what study you look at, this risk is any where from a 2-4 fold increase.

While it is not clear exactly how NSAIDs cause heart attacks, it is likely due to their effect on how our blood actually clots or the increased blood pressure that is a known side effect of these medications.

Recently there was yet another study published linking atrial fibrillation to the use of NSAIDs Yes, that little ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, etc. pill can also cause atrial fibrillation. In this study, NSAIDs increased the risk of atrial fibrillation by 76%. Even more frightening is that there was an increased risk of atrial fibrillation for up to one month after taking the NSAID!

Is there anything else I can take for pain?

Unfortunately, the other pain medications are not without risk either. There are now increased warnings of potentially life-threatening liver complications from acetaminophen. Not only can the opiate pain killers cause addiction issues but they can also cause people to die from a cardiac arrest due to prolonging the QT interval on an EKG.

When I was in severe pain, I did not see any other way to fight the pain than to take my Celebrex. I knew I was increasing my risk of heart problems but if I did not take Celebrex there was no way I could have even gone to work. Today, I realize that there are lifestyle changes that you can make now to prevent the pain so that there is no need for NSAIDs. Fortunately, everything turned around for me over time. This turn around did not happen over night. It took many, many months for the pain to finally go away. I have not taken anything for pain in a long, long, time. I never thought this was even possible.

How do we know if our bodies are inflamed?

There is a simple blood test which measures the level of inflammation in our body. This test is called C-reactive protein or CRP. High levels of CRP have been linked with many chronic diseases such as atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, and Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a test that can be easily ordered by your physician.

6 Ways to Reduce Inflammation and Pain

How can we reduce the inflammation in our bodies so that we don’t need anti-inflammatory drugs? Let me give you 6 ways we can reduce our inflammation.

1. Stay Physically Active

Physical activity helps to reduce inflammation. If something hurts, there are physical things like stretching, yoga, or strength training that we can do to help relieve the pain. Withdrawing from all physical activity just because something hurts only makes the pain worse long-term.

2. Avoid Foods That Cause Inflammation

We know what these are. Sugar, processed foods, wheat flour, and excessive amounts of animal meats can all cause our body to become inflamed and hurt. By eating real food we can allow our bodies to heal over time.

3. Eat Foods Which Reduce Inflammation

Did you know there are many anti-inflammatory foods? Yes, fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), oily fish, nuts, seeds, and whole grains except for wheat flour can all help to reduce inflammation and pain.

4. Maintain An Ideal Body Weight

Fat cells secrete many hormones and other substances which cause inflammation throughout our bodies. Also, the extra weight causes a lot of wear and tear on our joints over time. As you get lighter the pain the pain will lessen or even go away.

5. Get Your Stress Under Control

Stress causes inflammation and magnifies any pain in your body. Make sure you do something each day to help you get your stress under control.

6. Discuss Alternative Treatments For Pain With Your Physician

There are many anti-inflammatory supplements, like fish oil, or herbs will not only make your food taste even better but they can also reduce inflammation. Also, acupuncture and massage therapy can be extremely helpful for long-term pain challenges.

What have you found that works for managing pain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Wow I am so excited to find your site. Even before I discovered you Dr Day I had given up refined sugar. I have 2 chronic diseases, one atrial fibrillation and bronchiectasis, and from what I read giving up on sugar would be a good move. This was 4 months ago and since that time I have not had a chest infection!
    The big news is that I have halved my AF medication, anti arrhymia drugs and beta blockers, under supervision from my Cardiologist. My aim is to be able to go off these drugs and if I do get an attack, take a flecainide to help me. I seem to get one major attack every 18 months which takes 36 hours to revert. This has been going on since 2008! Brought on by pneumonia. I have also brought more plant based foods into my diet and since finding your site, working on reducing my stress levels. I take your point that it seems that so many people who have AF also have the personality that could bring it on.
    I also for 2 years have a pacemaker for sinus node malfunction. I think you said that it is never too late and I am now a 71year old female.

  2. hi John
    yes I agree very interesting. I have developed Plantar Fascitius after my Afib diagnosis. Is this a sign of inflamation in my body?

    • Not sure there is a link here. My plantar fascitis went away with arch support. Hope you can find a solution to this painful condition!!!


  3. Thank you for this article which confirms my belief that it might be possible to get rid of my afib. Inflammation seems to be my main problem.

    • Hi Cantrell,

      Yes, inflammation is the cause of many chronic medical conditions. Reducing inflammation can also help with Afib treatment!


  4. What a great read. Can’t believe no one has commented before me. Thank you for this article.