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Dr. Mark Hyman: Food and Exercises to Ease Chronic Pain


You know that eating the wrong foods can lead to weight gain and indigestion. But did you know that what you eat actually can ease pain - or exacerbate aches? Dr. Mark Hyman explains what to eat to relieve pain, plus exercises that can help as well.

Causes of Chronic Pain

The good news: You're not alone if you frequently feel pain. It's so common, in fact, that almost everyone has an occasional episode, says Dr. Hyman. Among the causes:

  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Repetitive motions (sitting at a computer all day)
  • Lack of sleep

And when it comes to the above pain triggers, Dr. Hyman says that the most common cause is "our inflammatory diet—processed food laden with sugar, trans fat, and refined oil. Hidden or subtle food sensitivities can also cause chronic inflammation. The most common triggers are wheat, gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut), and dairy." By kicking out those foods from your life for just two weeks, you may be able to reduce pain significantly.

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Do you experience frequent shoulder, back and neck pain? Skipping exercise combined with sitting over a computer are key causes of pain in those areas.
Lack of exercise and stretching and hunching over a computer all day are a big source of back, shoulder, and neck pain.

How much sleep do you get each night? Not enough sleep also can boost muscle pain and inflammation, according to Dr. Hyman.

Changes to Make In Your Diet and Lifestyle

Dr. Hyman recommends the following changes:

  • 1. Eliminate processed and junk food.
  • 2. Dramatically reduce or eliminate sugar.
  • 3. Do a two-week trial of an elimination diet, getting rid of all gluten and dairy.
  • 4. Try turmeric, taken as one 500mg capsule twice a day.
  • 5. Take 2–3 grams a day of EPA/DHA (fish oil).
  • 6. Exercise—walking 30 minutes a day is a good start.
  • 7. Sleep eight hours a night.


In addition, try these stretching yoga exercises:

  • Cobra or Back Extensions—hold for two minutes
  • Bridge Pose—hold for one minute
  • Pelvic Tilts—do 30 tilts
  • Knee To Chest—hold each knee for 30 seconds and both together for 30 seconds
  • Knee-Drop Side Twist—hold for 15–30 seconds
  • Hip Flexor Lunge—hold for 30 seconds on each side
  • Half-Pigeon Pose on Back—hold each side for 30 seconds
  • Cat and Dog Stretch—do 30 times
  • Yoga Mudra Shoulder Stretch—hold for one minute