Exercise for chronic pain, can it be that simple, as it does not requires expensive medication and frequent visits to pain specialists. After all, when you are in pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise. Shouldn’t you just rest? Well, no, according to research studies. Exercise is beneficial and may help you if you are suffering from chronic pain.
Generally speaking, non-malignant chronic pain, the pain that this article will focus on has these characteristics;
- It is pain that lasts for three months or longer.
- It is pain that is on-going on a daily basis.
- The pain is due to non-life-threatening causes.
- The pain has not responded to other available treatment methods.
- Finally, the pain may continue for the remainder of your life.
Chronic pain, no matter where it is or whatever the cause, can consume your life. It can be extremely debilitating. And it is being suffered by millions of Americans. It is a growing problem for which researchers and medical professionals are scrambling to find a solution.
Why Exercise for Chronic Pain
It has long been recognized that exercise for chronic pain can have a positive effect as a form of treatment. Though it may hurt initially, certain amounts of controlled exercise can effectively reduce discomfort and speed recovery. Take a sprained ankle, for instance. In the recent past, the recommended treatment was staying off of the ankle and resting to allow it to heal. However, new research discovered that gently mobilizing a badly sprained ankle will reduce discomfort and hasten recovery. This same principle can be applied to situations of chronic pain.
Normal movement is associated with normal function. When you have chronic pain, your natural tendency is to not move. Not moving will tighten the muscles and joints, leading to an inability to move within the full range of motion and increasing pain with any movement. Lack of exercise will increase your pain. Chronic pain sufferers who have restricted their movement because of the pain, will experience increased pain with exercise. They then tend to validate their reason not to exercise because ‘it hurts to exercise’. And it does, initially!
Benefits of Exercise for Chronic Pain
The physical benefits of exercise will
- Improve muscle strength
- Improve endurance
- Increase flexibility
- Breakdown adhesions
- Prevent contractures
- Improve the ability to manage your everyday activities
All of these benefits will help to reduce chronic pain. Exercise can stimulate a release of your body’s natural pain-reliever, the endorphins. Endorphins have been described as a natural narcotic. It is a chemical produced by your body in response to things like exercise, sex and even hot peppers. You can read more about endorphins here.
The Side Effects of Rest
If you confine yourself to bed, you will lose 1-3% of your muscle strength each day. After a week, you will have lost 10-15% of your muscle strength. After a month, you will have lost about 70% of your trunk muscles. In the long term, immobility is very dangerous for those suffering from chronic pain.
In fact, physical inactivity can lead to chronic pain. Being inactive will, by increasing the inefficiency of your muscles, make even simple tasks more painful and near impossible.
Exercise For Chronic Pain Relief
Before you begin an exercise for chronic pain relief program, you need to be assessed by professionals who specialize in pain. Look for a pain specialist in your area or a pain clinic. There are a series of tests they can use to measure your current physical functioning in order to develop the best program for you. These tests include:
- A walk test
- A speed walk
- A stand-up test
- Balance test
- Arm endurance
- Grip test
- Peak-flow measure
While early intervention is a key to success in managing exercise for chronic pain, simultaneously participating in cognitive behavioral therapy can provide increased pain-relieving benefits.