How and Why to Exercise for Pain Relief
December 4, 2018
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain affects approximately 100 million U.S. adults and costs $560 to $635 billion per year in direct medical treatment costs and lost productivity. That information is pretty painful to hear, especially since there’s something very simple almost anyone can do to begin combatting this.
The answer is exercise, and it’s often a common treatment recommended for chronic pain. Depending on your current state of health, it may help decrease inflammation, increase mobility, and decrease overall pain levels, no additional medication required.
One key element here though is that exercise is more work than simply taking a pill. The results are often far better, especially when you work in a combination of cardio, relaxation, stretching, and strength exercises to your daily or weekly routine.
We often hear patients say that they actually avoid activity and exercise in an attempt to keep their pain from getting worse. However, those who experience chronic pain and do not participate in a more active lifestyle gradually become less able to complete even basic activities. Walking, housework, driving, and more can become much more difficult.
Why you need to exercise
We don’t want this to happen to you, so we want to stress how important exercise is. Research has shown that it can be an effective way to reverse this downward cycle of deconditioning and worsening pain. It’s an important strategy to assist in the pain management process.
How to exercise
In general, you should stretch to cool down, not warm up, and do short bursts of exercise rather than stretches. Remember that you need to start slowly when beginning an exercise program, and avoid pushing into stronger pain. It may be a good idea to use the 0-10 scale to monitor your pain levels while exercising. If your pain level increases by more than two points from baseline, you should stop and modify that exercise.
Relaxation exercises — Relaxation exercises are important for many people who live with chronic pain.
Stretching exercises — It’s important to stretch at least once a day to help increase flexibility, loosen tight/stiff muscles, and improve your range of motion. Stretching everyday will help ease your everyday movements. Yoga is a great option for many people.
Cardiovascular exercises — Walking, swimming, or bike riding provide light aerobic exercise, which provides many healing benefits. Cardio has several physical and mental benefits and can be done any time of day with little or no equipment. Walking 30 minutes three to five times per week can help increase strength, endurance, and heart health. Remember to start slow and work your way up to longer distances as you get stronger. If you use a walker or a cane, be sure to take it with you.
Swimming and water aerobics — These exercises are best done in warm water as it helps relaxes muscles. The weightlessness you experience while in the water also helps with movement and minimises the load on your joints. (Exercise in cold water can make muscles tense.) Swimming is a great alternative to walking if you have mobility issues.
The bottom line is that inactivity leads to stiff muscles, decreased mobility, and decreased strength. These effects can worsen the symptoms of chronic pain. Engaging in a regular exercise routine can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.
Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Specific exercises may vary depending on the origin of your chronic pain and your unique situation.
Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop for pain management with a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs. Southside Pain Specialists follows the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.