Exercise and Chronic Pain
Not too long ago, doctors were more likely to recommend to their patients with chronic pain to avoid exercise, as it was thought that there was a potential to damage the affected muscles and joints as well as increase the general levels of pain. Thanks to a great deal of research, we understand today that exercise can actually be beneficial for those that suffer from chronic pain, as it cannot not only improve the patient’s general health but also help reduce the pain. In fact, it has been proven that those patients that suffer from chronic pain and do not exercise are more likely to loose muscle tone and strength, which in turn makes their cardiovascular systems work less efficiently.
Why Exercise Can Help
Chronic pain is most often associated with structural problems occurring in the neck, back and joints. Exercise can be very beneficial as it provides extra support to these areas and can work to relieve some of the pain. For example, those with chronic lower back pain should work to strengthen their Erector spinae muscles, which are located at the lower back, through strength training and regular exercise. This will help form a natural brace which can actually reduce the stress on the bones of the spine, which is often the reason for the pain.
Exercise can also have a direct impact on the actual pain felt. When physical activity is performed, the body releases natural pain killers called endorphins which work to block pain signals from reaching the brain. The more endorphins that are released in the body, the less medication needs to be taken in order to fight the pain.
Finally, exercise also provides other benefits that will help keep the body young and healthy. Getting fit and losing excess weight will help reduce the stress on joints. Not only will the level of energy increase, but most people that exercise find that they sleep much better at night and that their levels of stress are decreased. Exercise can also help increase bone mass and can help prevent osteoporosis from affecting the body as it grows older.
Which Exercises Can help
Walking is one of the best exercises for fighting chronic pain and also gets the best results. Not only does it increase energy levels but it also helps the joints and muscles with flexibility, which in an important factor in fighting chronic pain. Water aerobics is a very popular method of fighting chronic pain because it is safer on joints than traditional aerobics but still allows an effective workout. A stretching program, including a modified pilates or yoga program, can be very effective in helping increase flexibility, which can help reduce instances of flare-ups. Cycling and traditional aerobics can also be beneficial.
Exercise does not have to mean a high intensity workout, but it is an important part of managing chronic pain. Always be sure to consult your doctor before starting an exercise regime and be sure to tell your exercise instructor about your issues to be sure that you get a good, effective workout without increasing your pain.