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Should I exercise if I suffer from chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a pain that keeps hurting weeks months and even years after an injury. Chronic pain is often defined as any pain that last for 3 to 6 months or even longer. For many that suffer chronic pain there are very real effects on your day to day life. Chronic pain can affect your mental health, activities of daily living, work life and social life.

What causes chronic pain?

Should I exercise if I suffer from chronic pain?

For some chronic pain may begin without any obvious cause however in most cases it starts after an injury or because of a health condition such as:

  • Past injuries or surgeries
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Arthritis such as Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Back problems
  • Fibromyalgia which is a condition where people feel muscle pain throughout parts of their body.

Chronic pain can range from mild to severe and can continue day after day as well as come and go. Most of the time chronic pain can feel like a dull ache, throbbing, burning, shooting or stinging type pain. Besides pain many sufferers of chronic pain may also feel very tired, having trouble sleeping, may experience mood changes, lack of energy as well as general weakness. The impact of chronic pain may also cause mental health issues as some may feel depressed, anxious, frustrated or angry as the pain can be relentless. Chronic pain may interfere with your sleep while raising stress levels.

Should I exercise if I suffer from chronic pain?

Exercise while suffering chronic pain may not take away your pain but there are plenty of reasons why exercising can help. If you suffer chronic pain you may not feel motivated or even can tolerate exercise. It would make sense to do what one can to exercise to improve your health but planning on exercising is a better pathway so that exercises (even gardening, walking outside even when rain) should be planned otherwise they may not get consistently done.

So what kind of exercises should be done? It is better to simply start a mild exercise program that may just include some walking as many suffer painful hips and knees. No matter what kind of exercise you choose do so with caution and not move too quickly, stretch or twist too much or do so much that your pain gets aggravated and becomes worse. Cardio exercises have several physical and mental benefits that may be particularly helpful for those who suffer with chronic pain. The good things about cardio is that it can be done at any time of day and requires little to no equipment. Some easy cardio exercises are walking and swimming. When walking try to walk for about 30 minutes a few times a week but try for 3 to 5 times per week. Walking will help increase your strength and endurance and will improve your heart health. Start slow and work your way up to longer walks as your endurance improves. If you use a walker or cane take it with you. Swimming is also good for caridio and is easy on the joints and muscles. Swimming can often be therapeutic and a great way to free your mind.

Should I exercise if I suffer from chronic pain?

What exercise can do to help chronic pain sufferers is to improve a person’s sleep pattern. Sleep problems are usually one of the main symptoms. Diminished sleep can lead to more pain and depression. Becoming physically active may help people sleep longer and more deeply than those that are inactive. Getting outside seeing the trees grass or along the water can also be very relaxing. Even in winter taking a walk in the cold weather can feel invigorating with the cold air in your lungs. Just getting up and moving can help.

Here are some helpful tips for exercising with Chronic Pain

  • Before you start an exercise program you should discuss it with your doctor or therapist
  • Use caution when starting a exercise program. Start slowly and gradually increase your effort as you gain strength, range of motion and confidence.
  • Move at a pace that you are comfortable with.
  • Exercise each day if possible
  • Note that on some days you may be able to do more than on other days. Know your limits and when you are tired or in pain then stop.
  • Try for a balanced routine such as cardio exercises such as walking, running or riding a bike. Some strengthening exercises can also be helpful.
  • Don’t overexert yourself as this may only make your pain worse. Be patient and work at your own comfortable pace.

With that said there of course are other paths to managing and treating your chronic pain. Besides moderate exercise and hopefully improve sleep patterns therapy can help not only manage the symptoms but help overall. Some therapies such as Physiotherapy may include modalities for specific pains and muscles as well as exercises that stretch and strengthen your body which can help reduce pain. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial and is an excellent treatment option for reducing stress which often plays a major role in chronic pain.

Should I exercise if I suffer from chronic pain?

Each person is assessed and a treatment plan is put into place for each individual according to their needs and plan. Our therapists will work closely with you and your doctor to help manage and treat your chronic pain.

For more information please contact Dynamic Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Inc. at 905-273-5433 or via our website.


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