Exercise with Chronic Pain and its Importance

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla – M. Phil (Psychology)

Last updated date : November 30, 2022

Chronic means long-term. Chronic pain lasts for more than 3 months. This pain might be constant or might come and go and can happen anywhere in the body. This can make it difficult to carry out daily activities such as working, household chores, social activities, etc. It can also interfere with taking care of oneself and others. Long-term pain can cause many mental health problems which can in turn make the pain even worse. That is why medical treatment of pain is important. Most people living with chronic pain are unable to exercise because of the fear that it will make the pain worse. In this article, we will discuss why exercise with chronic pain is necessary. We will also talk about how to exercise with chronic pain and which exercise would reduce the pain.

 

Chapter 1:

Chronic vs Acute Pain:

There are broadly two types of pains.

Chronic pain is long-lasting and sometimes happens for no apparent reason. While acute pain is what you feel when you get hurt. It stays till your injury is not healed and then goes away. However, exercises can help with both chronic and acute pain.

Chapter 2:

Causes of chronic pain:

Chronic pain can sometimes occur without any apparent reason but here are some of the common reasons for chronic pain-

  • Injuries- Some injuries can cause your body to become more sensitive to pain after they occur. This can go on even after that injury is healed, for eg, in a spinal injury the person might experience pain even after it is healed and this can hold the person back from doing many tasks.
  • Psychological problems- Sometimes pain is not because of some physical problem but rather because of psychological issues which have not been dealt with properly. Depression and stress have been found to lead to more long-term pain.
  • Certain diseases- Diseases like cancer and arthritis can also cause long-term pain.
Treatment

All the treatments of pain start with identifying the cause and then treating it. The pain management will start if the exact cause is not clear. The treatment depends on the kind of pain that you have, the cause of the pain, and your age and health status. The best treatment plans consist of medicines, lifestyle changes, and other exercises which help with chronic pain.

Medication:

Doctors give medicines for immediate relief but every medicine has some side effects. The patient needs to be aware of the side effects of such medications to avoid future problems.

Lifestyle changes:
  • Stress management: Stress can play a major role in pain so it is important to manage it. Stress management activities include meditation, exercise, relaxation exercises, and self-care.
  • Exercise: As we will discuss more later in the article, some exercises are very helpful in reducing pain. It can act like a stress buster and keeps the body healthy. A total of thirty minutes of exercise is necessary for everyone every day.
  • Diet: A healthy, balanced meal can boost your well-being and make a huge difference to your pain tolerance.
  • Sleep: A lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight, which could make your chronic pain worse. Getting quality sleep is also important for stress management.
  • Understand your pain: Pain is a disease in itself and not just a small part of an illness. Giving yourself to understand the pain can help you to deal with it better.
  • Nip the bud at the source: Finding out why the pain occurs and what is it related to along with your doctor can provide much-needed answers to you and can help your doctor to develop effective treatments.
  • Work on your thoughts: Thoughts have the power to influence how we feel and behave. It also affects how we understand our pain. Instead of experiencing hopelessness, focus on the efforts you are putting into managing pain. Focus on how you have made adjustments in life to manage pain and how has it helped to build your resolve to not give up in the face of problems.
  • Use proper language: Describing your pain accurately to the doctor or counselor can help you vent your feelings and discussyour experiences more richly. Don’t hold back, speak up! It will also help you to feel more understood by others.

Chapter 3:

Exercises for chronic pain

Here are some types of exercises for pain management.

Cardio:

Cardio exercises can reduce lower back pain and knee pain. It can be done anytime and does not require a lot of equipment. These are some exercises that are very beneficial with chronic pain.

Walking

Walking is a very good low-intensity workout that anyone can do. And walking for thirty minutes every day builds strength and mobility.

Swimming

Swimming is a very good exercise for people with pain as the water can cushion any painful movement while swimming. And it is easier on the joints and can be very soothing as well.

Stretching

Regularly stretching the muscles that support the spine is an important element of all back exercises. Stretching can also act as a low-intensity workout for people suffering from pain.

Strengthening exercises

Some strengthening exercises can be done for improving chronic pain. They help in building up the muscle groups in a particular region of the body. Make sure the exercises are approved by your doctor.

Chapter 4:

How to exercise with chronic pain? 

An important thing to remember is to go through the appropriate exercises with your doctor. Too much incorrect exercise can cause even more pain. Do not try to do exercises your doctor has advised against, for eg, if running is off limits then try a similar less challenging activity like cycling.

Tips for exercising with chronic pain:
  1. Consult your doctor before exercising.
  2. It is normal to feel anxious before starting exercise, you might be afraid that it would cause even more pain. Make a list of activities that you can do to get fitter.
  3. Make a list of things that might come in the way of your exercise regimen.
  4. Write down your goals and what you want to achieve after some time.
  5. Discuss your exercise plan with others.
  6. Try to exercise in a group or join a class.
  7. Always warm up before starting and start with easier exercises before moving on to difficult ones.
  8. Move at your own pace and be patient with yourself in this journey. Results will come with consistency.

Chapter 5:

Final word

Chronic pain can reduce the quality of life and interfere with the person’s ability to lead a normal life. Use the exercises discussed in this article for pain reduction. You can also go through our course ‘Chronic Pain‘ for more information on this topic.


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