Exercise Helps with Chronic Pain
Research shows exercise is an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic pain. With reduced activity the muscles lose tone and can slowly atrophy. Any increase in muscle tone can help stabilize the body and support the skeletal system. Exercise helps with chronic pain because it releases endorphins to the brain which help heal the body.
Exercising does not mean a gym membership. It can and should be as simple as walking around your home, or utilizing more arm movement, range of motion. Make sure you regularly do exercises and stretches from any therapist you see. Perhaps it will begin as walking to the corner and back, then walking around the block. Slow and consistent progress is the goal. Your only competition is the person in your mirror.
"I began my journey towards recovery at the age of 52, on disability and weighing 212lbs. The most I had ever weighed in my life, before my back injury in 1987, was 143lbs. One day I looked at my body and decided that the weight was not doing my back any good. The excess weight was putting additional strain on my back. Unable to exercise and using no special diet I began my journey based on a conversation with a physical trainer I came across. Basically he said to go back to what man originally consumed which was meat, vegetation and water. I cut out dairy, carbs, sweets and fortunately I had already deveoped a love of drinking water about 90% of the time. Over the course of 12-15 months the weight kept dropping. One day, for whatever reason, 165lbs came to mind. I had never weighed that actual number, however one day I was on the scale and it was 165lbs. I decided to lose another 10lbs. For over the past 2 years I have been between 155 and 158lbs.
Confession: I did a poor job following the change in eating. It was a real struggle so I understand what one feels when facing this. Also, today my eating habits are not as good as they should be - but I'm working on it. It is all about starting, and then committing to the person you see in the mirror."
~ Jory Pradjinski
Please check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise or stretching program in case a movement needs to be avoided or an exercise needs to be modified.
We do not state, claim, or represent that any exercise and/or stretches will reduce or eliminate pain.
In addition, we want you to focus on your overall health without overexerting yourself.
Benefits of Exercise
Not only does exercise help in reducing pain, but also helps with engaging in enjoyable activities and regular life tasks. Exercise helps to keep your joints moving well, muscles strong, and improve mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Other benefits include improved blood pressure, heart efficiency, metabolism, and energy. Exercise has also been shown to help with sleep problems because active individuals are able to reach a deeper level of sleep for a longer period of time.
Inactivity Can Lead to Other Problems
Inactivity can lead to a "pain cycle" of more pain through tight and weak muscles and increased fatigue. Experts recommend around 150 minutes of physical activity each week. However, if that's too much for you, just start out slowly and work up to it. Any form of exercise is better than none.
Here are Some Tips on Getting Started with Exercising for Chronic Pain Sufferers
- Consult your doctor or physician before starting any exercise or stretching program.
- Start with some basic exercises or stretches that you are comfortable with and work up to more advanced exercises over time.
- Go at your own pace, don't compare what you are doing to what someone else is doing, just 10-20 minutes of exercise can be effective.
- Don't overexert yourself it will just strain your muscles and worsen your pain. If you need to take a break, due to severe pain, then take it, you are allowed to care for yourself. Just don't give up on an exercise plan altogether.
- Accept that some days you will be able to do more than other days.
- Keep up with a routine exercise plan and track your progress.
- Drink plenty of water and eat healthy (avoiding processed foods).
- Consider adding in relaxation activities like massages or baths.
- Make sure you have proper equipment such as good walking shoes, a yoga matt, or anything your doctor prescribes.
- Stretch after a workout to prevent sore muscles and get rid of waste products. Don't stretch before, instead warm up muscles with dynamic movements before exercising.
There are a lot of exercise options no matter what body you have, your condition, your pain level, or your financial situation. You can consult a physical therapist if you are unsure of what exercises or stretches you should try for your condition.
According to research, some great exercises for people with Severe Chronic Pain include:
Kelly. (2014, April 16th). You Brew My Tea/How to Exercise When Your Have Chronic Pain.
Richeimer, Steven, MD. Spine Universe/7 Tips for Exercising When You Have Chronic Pain.
Amirpour, Sanaz. (2016, October 3rd) Chronicality/The 5 Best Exercises for Chronic Pain.
Tatta, Dr. Joe. (2016, December 28th) Dr. Joe Tatta; Reset Your Brain for a Pain-Free Life/How and Why to Exercise with Chronic Pain.
Swimming Can Relieve Painful Pressure
Swimming is the best exercise if you are concerned about over stressing your joints. The buoyance of the water reduces stress on all of the bodies joints. When submerged up to the neck water supports 90% of your body and 50% waist deep. Water provides 15 times more resistance than air building muscles and increasing endurance. When swimming your limbs and spine expand which relieves painful pressure. Swimming is a great form of exercise if you suffer from pain in your back, joints, or musculoskeletal pain. Whether you do slow strokes, move around with a floatation device, tread water, or do water aerobics, it's still exercise.
Benefits of Swimming Include:
• Improves cardiovascular health
• Greater muscle strength
• Stronger muscles in back, shoulders, legs, and core
• Improves balance
• Helps with coordination
• Improves posture
A study in 2009 published in Spine Journal studied how swimming exercises could help with chronic back pain and found that water exercises improved disabilities and quality of life better than land exercises. A 2013 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation showed swimming exercises reduced cancer survivors lingering pain better than land exercises. In addition, other studies showed swimming to be more effective for arthritis and fibromyalgia patients than land exercise.
Note: For anyone who suffers with chronic pain warm water is the best place to exercise because cold water can cause muscles to tense up.
H2X Fitness Swim Spas/Pain Relieving Power of Aquatic Therapy.
Dr. Pool. (2014, July 25) IN THE SWIM: Blog/Chronic Pain Relief with Swimming Exercises.
Prevention/5 Best Workouts for Chronic Pain (2011, Nov. 16th)
Amirpour, Sanaz. (2016, October 3rd) Chronicality/The 5 Best Exercises for Chronic Pain.
Stretching for Chronic Pain
Stretching is a great way to decrease chronic pain, fatigue, stress, and other symptoms. Many people find stretching helps to make daily activities and work easier.
Other Benefits of Stretching Include:
• Increases range of motion improving flexibility in joints and muscles
• Boosts circulation and blood flow
• Relieves stiffness
• Enhances posture
• Increases oxygen flow
• Improves balance and coordination
• Creates alignment to the joints reducing inflammation and increasing mobility
• Prevents injuries from occurring
• Improves how you feel
The Body Part in Pain May Not be the Source of the Pain
Often times the area you are feeling pain isn't the real source of the pain. That's why when you focus on stretching that pain area there is no real relief. This falls into the concept of treating the symptoms and not the cause of the pain. It can be rather difficult to find the real source of your pain. For example, the pain in your back could be caused by tight muscles in your legs, or tight chest muscles, or even problems with your feet. When searching for the actual cause of your chronic pain a chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopath are the best people to diagnose it. But, they don't always have the answer.
However, you can work to diagnose your own pain by stretching the different muscle groups around the area where you are feeling pain. This will also help if you are unable to stretch the central location of your pain because it hurts too much or causes more pain. You also want to create equal flexibility from one part of the body to another. So if you have tightness in one leg stretch those muscle groups until they have the same flexibility as the other leg.
Tips on Stretching
• Stretch once a day.
• Muscles and nervous system are extra sensitive with chronic pain so even if it doesn't feel like a stretch the movement is still helping.
• Wear comfortable clothes that won't restrain your body from movements.
• Tension when stretching should be minimal. Stretching should be relaxing and pleasurable. It should not cause pain, don't force your body into complex positions.
• Move into stretches slowly and move deeper into the stretch with slight position changes while holding the stretch if it doesn't cause any pain.
• Stay in a stretch position for at least 60 seconds that's how long it takes for the muscles and connective tissue to relax and lengthen and for joints to loosen, if this is difficult release some of the tension, or stretch in intervals holding 15 seconds than releasing for a few seconds and stretching again.
• Breath slowly and deeply while stretching it helps to relax the muscles, improve blood flow which pushes more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.
Decide on what stretching works best for you based on your condition. Listen to your body and try different approaches to stretching. Seek help from knowledgeable and helpful health care professionals including physical therapists, personal trainers, chiropractors, and massage therapists.
Here are a few resources you can check out for stretching exercises
StretchCoach/Reduce Your Chronic Pain by Avoiding These 3 Stretching Mistakes.
Larson, Ivy. (Clean Cusine/Stretching For Pain Relief and the Importance of Stretching.
Pain Pathways Magazine/The Important Benefits of Stretching for Pain Relief. (2016, Sept. 1st)