The pain-free life guide

erika lemay

Cold bath, picture by Johnny Ranger

MILAN, Italy — Pain is part of everyone’s life, whether it is visiting once in a while or following you day and night. As a physical artist, I’m constantly exposing my body to a daily severe six hours training routine while travelling extensively across continents to perform, so inevitably, I have to put my body in a constant state of healing. Throughout the years, I have developed different tricks to decrease inflammation and pain as well as recovery periods.
The inflammatory process is initiated by the body as a response to physical, dietary, thermal or chemical stress. Some of us live with pro inflammatory diseases or an acute level of inflammation, which greatly reduce our quality of life. A lot of the pain we suffer is self-induced and can be controlled and reduced through simple lifestyle tools and techniques.
Whether you are simply wanting to improve and delay the painful ageing process, are an occasional sport adept, an elite athlete or a person challenged with an inflammatory disorder, this short guide on how to live a pain-free life should be of some help.

The pain-free golden rules


The role that nutrition plays in the inflammation process is greatly underestimated. As far as I’m concerned, an incorrect diet translates into pain, joint restriction and a possible performance debilitation. For a normal person however, the effect of a bad diet might translate into a headache, a back pain or eventually an arthritis.
Despite the overwhelming amount of information available on diet and lifestyle, small changes can actually make a big difference when it comes to the inflammatory process.
A natural law that prevails is to only eat real food. Learn to read the food labels and don’t ingest products if they contain terms that you can’t recognise. Lower your intake or simply avoid anything processed, fried, packaged, refined or high in unknown substances.
Here is a list of basic pro-inflammatory nutrients to pay attention to:

  • Most white starches
  • Refined Sugar: Sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, cane crystals and corn sweetener
  • Alcohol, especially beer and sweet cocktails
  • Vegetable oils rich in Omega 6: Soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame

It is now proven and reported that processed sugars and other high-glycemic starches increase inflammation markers in the blood. On the other hand, an increased amount of good fat has an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies. All fats aren’t the same; Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. Load your diet with raw nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines.
Eat plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables containing high amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as well as food loaded with vitamin E including nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.


Most muscular tensions can be partially released by soft isometric stretches, performed on a warm body. Stretching, if done properly, is one of the most powerful self-healing techniques. When stretching a given area, make sure you move in and out of the stretch very gently and that you maintain it for at least thirty seconds. Listen to your body, reach an uncomfortable level but never a state of pain.

Cardio exercising

It might sound counterintuitive to exercise when you suffer from joint stiffness, pain or any kind of muscular soreness, but a light aerobic exercise such as a brisk walk will help oxygenate your body and activate the blood flow, which will reduce inflammation, speed up recovery and decrease the pain.


Dehydration is one of the most basic and overlooked causes of disease. Even a body in a mild state of dehydration can produce an acute inflammation response. Simply drinking water and staying hydrated at all times will improve your quality of life and decrease all types of pain. Ingesting Magnesium in food or as a supplement form will also help your body to stay properly hydrated.


The lack of sleep will put anyone in an inflammatory state. If you’re triggered by inflammation due to an active lifestyle or stress exposure, you need to use quality sleep as a priority treatment. The more you exercise, the more you should sleep. Even healthy volunteers show elevated inflammatory markers and increased the pain experience when exposed to sleep restriction.

Get to know yourself

About 70% of our immune cells are in our digestive system, making direct contact with the food we enjoy every day. If the immune system is triggered by bacteria in food, a drastic insulin response or a simple intolerance, it will naturally react by a process of inflammation in order to protect itself. That is why, when it comes to nutrition, there is no universal formula. You must get to know your own body and how it functions best. A technique commonly called: “the elimination diet” consists of removing suspicious foods or ingredients from your diet while keeping the rest identical for at least a couple of weeks. Slowly introducing the specific food should give you an idea of whether or not it triggers allergies, intolerances or malfunctions.
For example, a great percentage of the adult population doesn’t digest dairy products properly and their consumption result in a mild to acute inflammatory reaction, even if allergy tests are negative.

The pain-free guide

Extending my thought on nutrition and personal diet, even if you are not allergic to any type of food, some nutrients will make you feel and perform better than others. For example, many athletes feel better by avoiding gluten. I’m not saying that many people is gluten intolerant, but I’m simply saying that gluten might trigger an inflammatory response for those already challenged. Test it and choose the diet that suits you best.


When it comes to supplementation, there is no formula that fits all, but a few basics help decrease inflammation. High quality multi-vitamins, Omega 3, vitamin D and Magnesium are on the top of my list. Additionally, a good source of collagen protein to provide you with the right source of amino acids should be considered.

Cold therapy

Cold therapy on athletes is known for its direct and powerful effect on recovery. As unpleasant as it can be, a full body cold bath will reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels, draining out the blood, getting rid of toxins and lactic acids build-up. When getting out of a cold bath, your system will provide a fresh flow of nutrient-rich blood to aid recovery.

The pain-free guide for the Zealous

erika lemay

The pain-free guide for the Zealous

Increasing your glutathione level is a key component in brain and body health, decreasing the chances of inflammation related diseases and an early ageing process. People that do intense workouts will use more glutathione because they produce more oxidative stress in their system. Apart from supplementing with liposomal glutathione, try turmeric.
Monitor these blood markers regularly:

  • C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) < 0.5 mg/l
  • Leukocytes (white blood cells) > 3500cmm but < 6000 cmm
  • Homocysteine (HcY) < 9 mcmol/l (5-15)
  • Vitamin D – 25(OH)D > 50 and < 100 ng/ml, 80 is excellent
  • Vitamin B12 (> 450 pg/ml, 600-2000, 1000 is optimal), B6 and folic acid (B9)
  • RBC Magnesium (in red blood cells) 6.5 mg/dl

Consider infra red sauna therapy and cryotherapy. I would also suggest laying down on a plastic needles mat (bed of nails) for thirty minutes a day.

Advice I would give to all of you is to learn to live with your own body and adapt to its needs. There is only one version of it among more than seven billion people inhabiting this planet. If you listen carefully to your body, you’ll discover that it’s a brilliant machine. Treat it as a treasure and it will respond nicely. Pain is often a consequence of your past and present actions and the good news is that you have control over these mechanisms, so use your knowledge accordingly!

Erika Lemay About the author

Internationally awarded performer and public personality. Her ability to move any type of audience, her artistry and stunning acrobatics, makes her today, one of the most revered artists around the world. Visit Erika Lemay FG Special Guest Profile »


  1. As a stunt clown and physical theatre performers I can honestly say this article is spot on. Many thanks regards Steve

  2. Thank you very much for sharing this with us.
    Inder bajwa

    • Dear Inder, I hope it was useful to you. Is there a particular part of the article that you found beneficial?

      • inder bajwa :

        Dear Erika, i loved the whole article , food and stretching was a reminder for me, as a sports man i had couple of injuries, i know the fact that only stretching can heel and prevent me from the injuries, its was hard to stand after long workout, but from that i manage to stand and do stretching.
        i completely agree with your this line….

        ;;;;learn to live with your own body and adapt to its needs,,
        thanks a lot

  3. Thank you for sharing this Erika. Most of the time people don’t realise how alcohol is very damaging and how much sugar it actually contains.

    • It’s my pleasure Nicholas! There is so much more I’d like to say concerning nutrition; simple things often make a huge difference on overall health. My next article might be on implementing these new good habits for ourselves. I found that a lot of people already know what they should be doing but are overwhelmed by the mountain of sacrifices it seems to represent.

  4. France Goulet :

    Just went trough surgery for knee replacement (total) because of arthrosis and there is no way I will have the other one replaced. Changes in nutrition and exercising are being made right now for me and my husband. It took time for us to realize that what we eat and do is what we are. Time and effort will lead us to healthiness. Thanks Érika, this confirms the search I have been doing, and earing it from you proves it true to me.

    • There is so much more in our hands than we often believe and in itself; that’s great news, isn’t it? When one becomes aware of his or her self power, the results can be life-changing! Healthy recovery to you!

  5. Adell Hanson-Kahn :

    Thank you so much for this article! It feels like you were holding back in the interest of brevity. I would be personally interested in what daily rituals you have, what a week in the life looks like (sleeping, eating, training, active recovery, performing, self care,…?), and how you view habit formation and self actualization ????☺️

    • Indeed I was.
      I feel I already spoke publicly ad nauseam about my daily routines but as you say self actualization might have changed the whole picture already.
      Thank you for the feedback Adell!