7 Exercises for Those Living with Chronic Pain
March 08 2022
These Exercises Can Help Ease Chronic Pain and Lead to a Healthier Life
If you live with chronic pain, chances are you’ve already heard that regular exercise can benefit you. Not only does making exercise a daily habit increase your quality of life, but it can help to ease your pain.
Physical activity results in the brain releasing endorphins, which are called the “feel good” chemicals. This chemical both enhances your mood and eases pain signals. Regular exercise can also improve the quality of your sleep, which can further aid in reducing pain.
Before beginning any exercise regimen, it’s important to speak with your doctor or physical therapist first. However, here are 7 beneficial exercises for those living with chronic pain that you and your medical team may deem appropriate for you.
1 Gentle stretching can help increase flexibility and loosen stiff muscles. Not only can stretching help alleviate some of the muscle aches associated with chronic pain, but it can also help you warm up for more intensive exercise.
2 Walking is a great exercise because it is low impact and can be done from anywhere, including a treadmill or standing in place. Walking not only helps to ease chronic pain but studies show that it helps increase blood flow, which boosts oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. Walking is also considered a great cardiovascular workout because it is both load bearing and gentle, helping to reduce stiffness and pain in muscles and joints, especially in the core, back, and legs where chronic pain is often experienced.
3 Aquatic exercise is very low impact, which can be easier on joints. Water exercise can help relax the muscles and the buoyancy helps those suffering from musculoskeletal or joint pain. Both aquatic aerobics and swimming are good options. Swimming is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, stamina, strength, and flexibility and works every key muscle in the back, shoulders, legs and core.
4 Yoga can be just as helpful as exercises for strength as it stretches your muscles and works on balance. The addition of mindfulness-based meditation practices can also help you to acknowledge your chronic pain, further helping body awareness and pain management. There are some poses that involve the spine and other joints which may be too extreme for some participants. This makes it key that any beginner finds a qualified yoga instructor who can help you modify poses or stop an exercise if you experience any pain.
5 Pilates does more than just strengthen the mind and body; it can be very beneficial to those with spinal injuries or back pain. One recent study found improved core strength and stability, improved posture and balance, and reduced pain in people with lower back pain who took pilates classes three times a week for 14 weeks. Another study found that pilates reduced back pain more than other interventions using minimal physical exercise. However, like yoga, pilates requires instruction, so be sure to seek out an experienced and qualified teacher to guide you.
6 Lifting weights isn’t just for gym buffs. Muscle strengthening exercises and resistance training can help control chronic pain by strengthening the muscles around the joints, helping to take some of the stress of the joint when it is in use. It’s important to understand that strength training doesn’t always have to involve heavy weights. In fact, using your own body as a weight can be just as beneficial. Work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to find the right exercises for your condition and pain.
7 Another low impact exercise is biking. Whether you head out into nature, bike to town, or use a stationary bike at home, you can help ease chronic pain with this easy exercise. Try starting out with short intervals, rather than long stretches; you’ll get the same health benefits breaking your routine into chunks as you would one longer round of exercise.
A Few Tips
No matter the exercise you decide on, here are a few good tips:
- Always speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine
- Start slowly and gradually increase your efforts as you gain strength, flexibility, and confidence
- Move at your own pace; never try to keep up with someone else or a class if doing so is painful
- If possible, exercise every day
- Strive for a balanced routine of cardiovascular, strength, and stretching
- Accept that you will be able to do more on some days than others
- Be patient with your progress and know your limits; overexertion can worsen pain and strain muscles