Exercise and Chronic Pain

Get Moving To Get Your Body Pain-Free

By Janet Smith, PEERtrainer Health and Fitness Writer
For years, if you had chronic pain, the primary prescribed therapy was rest. The consensus among physicians has changed.  Edward Laskowski, MD and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, says, “Years ago, people who were in pain were told to rest.  But now we know the exact opposite is true.  When you rest, you become de-conditioned—which may actually contribute to chronic pain.”  

But what if exercise is too painful? It’s natural to worry about producing more pain or injury.  The first thing to do is get the guidance of your physician.   Your physician can recommend, stretching, aerobic and strengthening exercises to help, not hurt, your pain. 

Getting started is the toughest part of beginning regular exercise with chronic pain.   As you begin, don’t try to accomplish everything at once.  Modest goals in the beginning will help you see benefits and won’t make you feel as though you aren’t accomplishing anything. 

Stretching is an important part of any exercise routine.  Make sure to tailor your stretches to match your current condition.  Be sure to stretch before and after each exercise session. 

Since your body is not used to exercise, initially you may have some sore muscles. Soreness will ease as you gain muscle strength and flexibility.  One important rule to follow is to alternate your daily routines so that you are not exercising the same muscle group every day.  Your muscles need time to rest between workouts.

Obviously you will want to pay special attention to the area of your chronic pain, but you will also want to focus on exercising all muscle groups as well as some form of aerobic activity.  Taking this approach will not only help to alleviate pain, it will also help you in other areas. 

Exercise benefits include achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, improving depression, lowering blood pressure, enhancing your immune system and a host of other benefits.     

Continuing with regular exercise over a period of weeks and months should help with your chronic pain.  Build up your stamina and strength gradually.   As muscle strength and flexibility improves, your body becomes more able to handle daily activities without additional pain or stress.  

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