Chronic pain

Every one on earth has experienced pain and we typically expect the pain to be short lived, so we can get on with our lives. This scenario is common for people when they are young. However, at some point in time, pain sets in and does not go away. 

For some, the pain was associated with a recent or old injury, and for others, the pain develops in multiple joints and muscle without any injury. For the latter, many interpret pain development with aging to be a normal part of aging; however, this is not true. People can live through their lives with minimal pain if they pursue proper behaviors. 

“Dietary injury” and chronic pain – “are you eating your pain?”

When it comes to injury, we only think of sprains and strains; HOWEVER, the body perceives the consumption of pro-inflammatory foods as INJURIOUS, which leads to the release of a host of inflammatory chemicals that cause PAIN. Figure 1 below illustrates this point. 

 Notice above in Figure 1 the nature of the painful foods compared to the pain-free foods in Figure 2.  If we eat anti-inflammatory foods (Figure 2), we do not release painful pro-inflammatory chemicals and the outcome is movement towards a painless or dramatically reduced state of pain, which leads to happiness.

Detailed explanation for how food causes your pain

In Part 1 of the audio version of the deflaming guidelines, I mentioned the term nociceptor, which refers to a specific type of sensory nerve fiber that functions largely to sense injury. The latin word “nocere” means “to injure” and so noci-ceptors are sensory nerve fibers that function as “injury” receptors, and they are found in nearly EVERY single tissue of the body, which is why it is possible for us to hurt in so many places.

Back in the 1980s, researchers decided to count the numbers and categorize the functional nature of the sensory nerve fibers in joints and muscles. Table 1 lists the sensory nerve fibers in joints and their function, and Table 2 does the same for muscles. As you can see, we only have at total of four different types of sensory fibers, which are designated as Group I, Group II, Group III, and Group IV. Here are the differing functions of the I and II versus III and IV:

  • Group I and II sensory fibers sense light touch, pressure, and body movements. The outcome of group I and II sensory input to the nervous system is the awareness of where we are in space (sometimes called spatial awareness or kinesthetic awareness).
  • Group III and IV sensory fibers sense injury and inflammation, and their activation leads to the experience of PAIN

Table 1. Sensory innervation of joints [630 fibers were counted (1)]

Nerve fiber # of fibers counted Sensory experience
Group I 0  
Group II 60 Spatial awareness
Group III 130 Pain
Group IV 440 Pain

Table 2. Sensory innervation of muscles [1515 fibers were counted (2)]

Nerve fiber # of fibers counted Sensory experience
Group I 215 Spatial awareness
Group II 155 Spatial awareness
Group III 145 Pain
Group IV 1000 Pain

 How should we interpret the data in Tables 1 and 2? Clearly, the majority of our sensory fibers in joints and muscles are involved in pain generation. 

  • 570 out of 630 joint sensory fibers are involved in pain generation
  • 1145 out of 1515 muscle sensory fibers are involved in pain generation 

 This pattern of sensory nerve concentration that favors the group III and IV sensory fibers indicates that we are wired to experience pain if we are not careful. However, a little known fact is that the same fibers that cause pain are also involved in the healing process, which leads to pain reduction (3). The reason for this dual function is that our group III and IV sensory fibers respond to the biochemistry we create via our lifestyle choices.

If we eat pro-inflammatory foods, we create inflammatory chemicals that stimulate the group III and IV fibers to create pain and more inflammation. Ultimately this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle and leads to more pain and inflammation. Examples of pro-inflammatory foods include grains, seed/legume oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, peanut, and soybean), obese meat, and trans fats (see full list in the Deflaming Guidelines).

Important Anti-inflammatory Educational Information

“Deflaming” is the term we coined to describe the process of inflammation reduction. We can deflame with both diet and supplements.

Click here for the Deflaming Guides, which will open as a PDF document that you can print. The DeFlaming Guidelines provide the important details about how to reduce inflammation (deflame) with diet and nutritional supplements.

We also have an MP3 audio version of the Deflaming Guidelines available.
Part 1 describes deflaming with diet. 
Part 2 describes deflaming with nutritional supplements.

 On the other hand, if we eat anti-inflammatory foods (see the Deflaming Guidelines), we create anti-inflammatory chemicals that lead to healing. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include fruits, vegetables, and lean or omega-3 animal proteins (see full list in the Deflaming Guidelines).

 Researchers have discovered different chemicals either stimulate pain or healing functions of group III and IV sensory fibers. Table 3 lists the many chemicals that have been discovered thus far.

 I do not expect you to gain clarity from this list of confusing terms. The purpose is to demonstrate the complexity. Figures 1 and 2 are designed to make the complexity into an easy and understandable concept.

Table 3. Chemicals that stimulate pain or healing activity in Group III & IV sensory fibers (3)

Glutamate Estrogen Bombesin Serotonin Enkephalin
GABA Glucocorticoids Angiotensin II Histamine Dynorphin
Acetylcholine CRF Neuropeptide Y Interleukin-1 (IL-1) Nerve growth factor
Norepinephrine Substance P Bradykinin Interleukin-6
Adenosine Neurokinin A Hydrogen ions Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Potassium Cholecystokinin Prostaglandin E2 (E1,3) 
Interleukin-10 Glial-derived neurotrophic factor
ATP Somatostatin Leukotriene B4 (B5) Endorphin Free radicals (ROS)

Notice in Table 3 that the abbreviation of five chemicals are highlighted in red. You only need to know that IL-1, IL-6, TNF, PGE2, and ROS are all pro-inflammatory. When produced in excess, they cause pain and malaise (feelings of sickness, fatigue, depression). And here is the key – we know that these five pro-inflammatory chemicals [as well as the other pro-inflammatory chemicals in Table 3] are produced in excess when we eat pro-inflammatory foods (see all the references in the research section on the doctors page).

Based on the text above and the figures below, it should be very clear that we can feed our pain system with pro-inflammatory foods, or we can eat ourselves into a pain-free, healthy, and happy state. The information at will help you to achieve the latter. Make sure to read the Deflaming Guidelines, listen to the MP3s, and sign up for the Anti-Inflammatory Newsletter.



1. Schmidt R, Schaible H, Mefslinger K et al. Silent and active nociceptors: structure, functions, and clinical implications. In Gebhart et al. eds. Proc 7th World Congress Pain, 1993, Paris, France. IASP Press: Seattle; 1994: p. 213-250.
2. Mense S. Muscle Pain. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2001: p.26-30.
3. Byers MR, Bonica JJ. Peripheral pain mechanisms and nociceptor plasticity. In: Loeser JD. Ed. Bonica’s management of pain. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2001: p.26-72.