Exercise to Manage Chronic Pain
Joe Fleming provides ten tips for working out with chronic pain.
More than 1.5 billion people worldwide currently suffer from chronic pain, and many of them are taking various medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to help combat their pain. It is important to note, though, that medication is not the only option for these individuals.
Research shows that regular exercise can be very beneficial for people who suffer from chronic pain. Not only does it help minimize feelings of pain, but it also helps improve physical function and sleep quality, reduces fatigue, boosts mood, and combats inflammation that could be making the condition worse.
That being said, if you are one of many chronic pain sufferers, you know how difficult it can be to manage daily tasks like climbing the stairs or washing the dishes. When doing these tasks is a challenge, how on earth are you supposed to go to the gym and get a workout in?
If you are interested in utilizing exercise to help manage your pain, read on for ten tips that will help you ease into working out with chronic pain, so you can start seeing the benefits without making your condition worse.
Choose the Right Kind of Exercise
While exercise can be very beneficial for people with chronic pain, it is important to note that some forms of exercise are better than others. For example, running and high-impact aerobics are not ideal for chronic pain sufferers. Walking, on the other hand, is a great low-impact option.
Other good types of exercise for people with chronic pain include:
Work with a Professional
No matter what type of exercise you choose, it is important to work with a professional. Whether you are lifting weights with a personal trainer or taking yoga classes from an instructor who has experience working with people with chronic pain, having a knowledgeable professional on your side can help you avoid injury and see improvements faster.
If you are not sure where to turn, talk to your doctor. Let him or her know that you are interested in taking up exercise and ask if they know any trainers or instructors with whom they can put you in touch.
Choose the Right Time of Day to Exercise
Everyone is different, of course, but many people with chronic pain find that exercising in the mid-morning or early afternoon is best. If you are currently taking pain medication to help manage your symptoms, it will probably be at its peak effectiveness during this period.
Mid-morning to early afternoon is also a good time to exercise because your body will be warmer, and you will likely have more energy. First thing in the morning, your body tends to be stiff and you may be extra tired, especially if your pain keeps you up at night. And, working out in the evenings can be difficult, especially if you have a family to take care of.
Do not be Afraid to Go Slow
There is nothing wrong with starting slow and easing into working out. In fact, it is preferable.
Not only will you avoid injury this way, but you will also create a lasting habit. When you take your time getting into a new routine, you are more likely to stick with it long-term. Remember, it is better to ease your way in than to dive in head first and get overwhelmed or frustrated.
While it is helpful to start slow, it is still important to be consistent. Even if you start by only working out two days a week, commit to those two days.
To help yourself be consistent with your workouts, make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. Be realistic about what you can expect from yourself. You can always add more workouts later, but the goal at the beginning is just to keep showing up as regularly as possible.
Use Braces and Other Aids
Depending on where you feel pain the most, you may be able to utilize braces and other aids to help reduce your pain and make you more comfortable as you work out. For example, people who struggle with hand and wrist pain may benefit from using braces designed to manage tendonitis pain. Knee braces or wrist straps can also provide support and help you maintain proper alignment as you exercise.
Remember that Daily Activity Adds Up
You do not necessarily have to be in the gym for activity to count as a workout. Daily activity like cleaning the house or walking your kids to the bus stop all adds up.
It is important to note, too, that this daily activity can sometimes be more important than your workouts. If you are sedentary all day except for your 45-minute workout, that workout is going to be a lot more difficult since you are not used to just moving throughout the day. Your body also may not respond as well, and it may take you longer to see improvements.
For every kind of exercise, a proper warm-up is essential. Taking the time to get your body primed for the workout will help you avoid injury and allow you to perform exercises with more ease.
A good warm-up should include both some light cardio to increase your body temperature and some dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for the type of exercise you are about to do.
Change Up Your Routine Regularly
It is important to be consistent with your workouts, but it is also important to make sure you are challenging yourself and changing them up regularly.
This could mean adding more reps, more weight, or doing a completely new type of cardio. It is especially important to make changes if you feel like you are no longer seeing improvements.
Finally, remember to be patient with yourself and the process. As much as you would probably like to, you are not going to see dramatic improvements overnight.
Be consistent, follow your trainer or instructor's guidelines, and, over time, you will see the changes you are looking for.
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About the Author
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. With a goal to inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.
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