Recovery Messages & News

Exercising with Chronic Pain

By Sue Newton, RN

If you are in pain, there is a temptation to skip exercising. But exercise can often help reduce pain and improve your quality of life in the long run. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon to get back to the business of life and everybody can do something. Research has consistently shown that exercise allows people to reduce their perception of pain as well as overcome limited functioning.

In fact, experts are now saying that lack of exercise can actually be more detrimental for chronic pain sufferers. This is because when you are physically inactive, even the smallest physical activities will gradually become a challenge, such as climbing stairs or lifting objects. Here are some gentle exercise ideas that you can try to make your chronic pain more manageable and improve your overall health and life.

Consult the pros. When starting out, consulting with a professional who understands your limitations is key as you might not know how to exercise or what type of exercise is best for your issues without aggravating your pain.

-Start small. Start with simple exercises that target the less painful parts of your body.

-Make it social time. Work out with a friend, especially one who has the same kinds of pain issues as you do. Having someone there to encourage you to keep going especially when you really don’t feel like it can be a priceless workout tool.

Some gentle exercise options:

Yoga: Because yoga positions involve a lot of stretching, it allows you to improve your flexibility over time. Yoga also strengthens your muscles so you can build your endurance for more strenuous activities. The breathing component of yoga might be just as helpful to ease chronic pain as the movement and stretching.

Walking: A lot of people underestimate the benefits of walking, but the fact is it is one of the best exercises you can do, whether you suffer from chronic pain or not. Invest in a pair of good walking shoes that will be able to give you sufficient support. Start small by walking a couple of blocks in your neighborhood, then gradually increase the distance as you build your strength.

Swimming: is great for people who have osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal issues or any joint disease where any kind of impact may exacerbate an underlying problem. Swimming (and other forms of water exercise) defies gravity, so there aren’t any unpleasant and potentially damaging jolts to the joints.

Tai Chi: a good exercise for the young and old alike is tai chi, a martial art that originated in China and, like yoga, cultivates mindfulness. Tai chi helps reduce pain and stiffness and also helps with building strength, endurance, and balance.

Pilates: in addition to people with back pain, people with fibromyalgia may benefit from Pilates. Pilates generally requires some instruction, so look for an experienced teacher.

Lightweight strength training: Weight training is particularly helpful for people suffering from arthritis, as it can strengthen the joints around the injury and takes stress away from the joint. Weights from an ounce to 5-10lbs will help. However, it’s important to pace yourself when doing these exercises. Start with a can of soup, if you’ve been inactive for a long time, or try doing sit-ups or push-ups around the house.

 Chronic Pain Exercise