How exercise reduces the effects of chronic pain

Published by activeforlife on

How Exercise Reduces the Effects of Chronic Pain

PAIN is a pain in the butt… sometimes literally! This weeks blog is pretty close to my heart and speaks a lot to my inspiration for the way that I live. I never was an active kid and I never had that need to be super toned and fit…what did motivate me was maintaining the ability to move and deal with chronic pain.

When I was in my early 20’s I started getting bad pain in my hips. I tried all the ointments and pain killers, went to massage, physio and chiropractic. It all helped for a little bit, but the pain always came back. Those issues, on top of the fact that I was going to college (round one) and I was a young adult trying to find my way in the world, led to frustration, stress and a lot of anxiety.

I am grateful everyday for the classmate that dragged me along to the gym with her that first time. The relief that I finally got changed my entire outlook on physical activity and basically put me on the path I am now.

So today I felt inspired to share my story and just in case you might be living a similar situation, I want to try and convince you that getting active can possibly be the answer!

Ok first the typical disclaimer, as one must do…

If you are thinking about starting a new exercise program you should always check with your doctors first, especially if you are already experiencing muscle or joint pain.  A physiotherapist therapist can be a great resource for suggestions on how you can strengthen to reduce pain. Please remember that everyone is different and not all the advice you find below will be right for everyone. proceed with caution and when possible work with a professional.

Three Ways Exercise Reduces Chronic Pain

Decreases severity

Depending on what is causing your pain, regular physical activity could greatly reduce the severity of the pain in a couple different ways.

  • It increases blood flow which will bring oxygen and nutrients to an injured muscle or joint, helping it heal faster.
  • Strengthening the muscles helps them endure more. As you build your tolerance for the the pain, it will have less power over your life.
  • If your pain is posture related, you might be fixing the issue by fixing a muscle imbalance..for example, shoulder pain caused by poor posture can be helped by stretching the chest muscles and strengthening the back.
  • Exercise gives you a boost of all those feel good hormones in your brain that act as a natural pain killer! 

Check out: Strength Training With Limited Mobility 

Active for Life Online starts with a course on Being Active with Chronic Pain to help guide you on your adventure! 

Improves physical function 

When you’re in pain all you want to do is curl up under the sheets and hide, Right? I know it’s not just me. Well as it turns out that might not be the best approach. The sedentary lifestyle can do more damage than the original injury. Not only will your muscles and joints get stiffer and weaker, often increasing the pain right at the source, but your other systems will start to suffer. Innactivity can have a very negative effect on your cardiovascular system, increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and lead to weight gain (which comes with its own issues). Your whole body just works better when it’s in motion! 

Check out: Staying Active with Limited Mobility 

Improves quality of life 

I mean really, how can it not! When your in less pain, you will feel happier and less anxious. Maybe not so easy to frustrate. Cognitively you might find that you can problem solve and think through your issues like you couldn’t before (when the pain fog has hold of you). You will improve your flexibility and balance, making it easier for you to get through your activities of daily living. Overall improvement of your quality of life!

Check out: The Therapeutic effects of Exercise

Starting a Strength Training Program

Chronic pain can have such terrible effects on us, and often we make it an excuse instead of a reason. Often we fear re-injury or further pain. If you are considering giving this whole get active notion a try, please follow these tips to stay safe! 

  • Keep it low impact 

I probably don’t have to tell you this but if you are in pain or experiencing issues with your muscles or joints… box jumps might not be for you. You can just go right ahead and skip the skips…hops, jumps and bounces. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and keep it gentle.

  • Start slow

Start out slow and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Give yourself time to break through that pain barrier and ease into it. It is absolutely perfectly acceptable, and recommended to start with 5 min exercises everyday.. and work your way up from there. 

  • Warm up and cool down

Please don’t skip these steps. Take your time and let your muscles warm up before an exercise. If you have joint issues (arthritis etc.) a nice warm shower before you work out can really make a difference. If it is really bad consider working out in a heated pool. Go ahead and get your aqua fit on! Oh and make sure that you stretch it out after. Taking your muscles from 100 to nothing to quickly can cause them to sieze and the. You’ll be feeling it for days. 

  • be kind to yourself 

This is one of the most important rules. I always stress to my clients that the first thing they need to do is get to know their bodies, listen to them and understand themselves. To know the difference between pain and muscle burn. Know when you’re approaching the point of fatigue, and don’t push it over. 

And just generally talk nicely to yourself. It is not easy what you’re doing, taking charge of your health and working towards a better life. It’s brave and it’s challenging. You will have good days and you will have some less then good days. Accept them, smile at the lessons that you learn, and carry on.

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