If you’re constantly in pain, it can seem like too much effort to work out.
However, working out can help relieve chronic pain and improve your overall quality of life. Fortunately, you don’t have to run for miles or sign up for extreme sports to benefit from working out.
Workout out regularly can help reduce our perception of pain as well as overcome instances of limited functioning.
You’ll probably want to consult a physical therapist before you begin, but let’s examine the benefits of working out for chronic pain so that you can make an informed decision.
Stop your physical health from getting worse
When we have chronic pain, it is natural to want to avoid activity so not to cause further pain flare-ups. However, the problem with avoiding activity is that over time, our muscles weaken, and we are then able to do even less than before.
Not only do simple exercises such as walking become more difficult, but even ordinary, everyday activities such as housework become more challenging and perhaps more painful.
The more sedentary our lifestyle, the more likely our blood circulation will worsen, which can cause all kinds of health issues. Our joints also become more susceptible to injury as the muscles and ligaments surrounding them weaken.
Working out also helps improve our mobility. If your pain impacts your mobility, you’ll want to improve your mobility or at least keep it stable rather than have it potentially decline through inactivity.
Exercise also helps us control our weight. Excess weight contributes to many health conditions, and it puts an added strain on joints that might already be painful.
Improve your mental health
Often people with chronic pain can experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges since they can’t live their lives as they would like to. By staying active, you are helping to boost your self-esteem and your body’s production of endorphins.
Endorphins are the feel-good hormones that not only help us feel more positive but they lessen our experience of physical pain.
Even though it might be more difficult to start moving, it will be easier to keep going once you start. You may want to work out with a friend or exercise buddy to help you stay motivated.
Some types of exercise for chronic pain
Here are some exercises that many people have found to be helpful with chronic pain.
With any of these exercises, check with your health professional to see which ones could work for you. And remember to stretch afterward to cool down (not to warm up) and stop if your pain goes up more than 2 points above your baseline (on a scale of 1 to 10).
Gentle types of cardio exercise can help with chronic pain, and you don’t need lots of equipment.
You could try:
Swimming. Swimming is easy on the joints, and the buoyancy of the water can help you move more easily. Swimming is therapeutic as it can help clear your mind. You could also try some water aerobics, where you exercise while working against the resistance of the water.
Walking. If you can walk for 30 minutes a few times a week, you can see an improvement in your strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance. You may want to start slowly with a few minutes and work your way up to longer walks when you can. Take your cane or walker with you if you need it.
Note: If you want to walk using equipment in a gym, you could try an elliptical trainer (lower impact than a treadmill).
Cycling, particularly indoors. Cycling is another gentle cardio exercise that you can do either indoors in a gym or outside. Indoor cycling seems to be particularly effective for people with spinal problems, as there is less impact on your spine when on a stationary bike.
Stretching is excellent for relieving chronic pain in your muscles. You could try:
- Full arm circles
- Calf and hamstring stretches
- Hip stretches
- Floor stretches to target your legs and back
Gentle bodyweight exercises are an excellent way to build muscle strength. You can also use resistance bands such as booty bands to increase your flexibility while protecting your joints at the same time.
Core strength is essential if you are living with chronic pain. Your core muscles help you keep a correct posture and reduce the risk of injuries that could add to your pain.
You could try:
- Wall pushups
- Floor exercises such as leg lifts