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When your body hurts for weeks, months, or even years after an injury, it can impact everything in your life — including your mental health. When you’re suffering from chronic pain, you’ll reach for any relief. All too often, doctors prescribe painkillers to treat the pain. But painkillers are highly addictive and have negative side effects of their own.
While painkillers can help some people, others struggle with addiction or end up suffering even more than before. But there are alternative ways to treat your chronic pain. Exercise is a non-pharmacological treatment that can alleviate chronic pain, improve physical function, sleep, and cognitive function. Regular exercise promotes overall health and prevents disease. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of physical exercise for chronic pain sufferers and how you can get started with an exercise regimen that accounts for physical limitations and your specific needs.
The Importance of Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle can be a contributor to your chronic pain by allowing conditions to worsen from physical inactivity. While chronic pain makes it even more difficult to exercise, it is that much more important to keep working at it. The benefits of exercise for chronic pain sufferers include:
- Releasing endorphins that can improve mood and reduce depression and anxiety.
- Improved range of motion and strengthened muscles.
- Better cardiovascular health leading to increased energy.
- Stress release and improved sleep, including a deeper, more restful sleep.
Regular physical activity can help you manage your illness and potentially reduce symptoms, but overdoing it can cause an injury and worsen your pain. It is essential to ensure that you are exercising in a safe environment and that you’re not pushing yourself too hard, especially when you’re just getting started.
How to Get Started
Just like anybody else, chronic pain sufferers need exercise to lead a healthy life. But chronic pain makes it difficult to work out. When you’re starting out, you shouldn’t be worried about losing weight or gaining muscle mass. If your goal is to improve your chronic pain symptoms, slow and deliberate progress should be your focus.
It’s easy to get started when you only have to do a little. Start by taking a walk around your block, or a bike ride. Turn this into a daily routine so you’re getting up and moving at least a little every day. Consider your daily walk or bike ride your new prescription from your doctor. Getting started with your new active lifestyle is as simple as that.
Additionally, you should talk to your doctor about their recommendations for safe exercise activities you could start doing. Ask them about physical therapy and if you would benefit from a tailored routine specific to your needs and your condition.
Safe Exercise for Chronic Pain Sufferers
If you already have an injury or suffer from chronic pain, you’ll need to be extra careful in protecting your body when you exercise. If you can’t leave your home due to physical limitations or you’d just prefer to start off with a few home workouts, here are some ideas:
- Try a workout video: YouTube offers endless options of exercise and workout videos for any need. Just make sure to go easy and don’t strain your body at all. You’ll want to check with your doctor before starting as well.
- Create an indoor circuit routine: There are many ways to get additional physical exercise into your regular daily routine. You could go about your usual tasks but add an element of exercise to each one. For example, when you’re doing laundry, do a few arm lifts with the container of laundry detergent for added weight. Then walk up and down the stairs (if you have them) a few times and finish with a few push-ups if you’re ready for it.
- Dance!: What better way to get some exercise in at home then to turn up your favorite music and have a dance party? This is a great way to make exercise fun and get your family involved.
- Get a stationary bike: Or a pedal exerciser, or elliptical trainer for low-impact cardio workouts. Do a little time on it every day but don’t push yourself too hard.
- Use an exercise ball: Sitting on an exercise ball while you work at a desk or watch TV can improve stability and balance as well as strengthen your core. Also, use your exercise ball for support when doing squats, crunches, or stretching.
- Practice yoga: Yoga offers a low-impact activity that stretches and strengthens muscles all at once. Try yoga at home at your own pace or find a class specifically for chronic pain sufferers. Remember, yoga should never hurt so be sure to take a rest if you’re feeling any pain.
- Try swimming or aerobics: Water provides a gentle resistance and buoyancy that protects your joints and body while still strengthening your muscles. Warm water can also soothe pain.
We hope these light exercises help you heal from your chronic pain. Are there any activities you’ve used to alleviate your pain? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.