We don’t know about you, but we don’t believe living with chronic pain is normal. Pain not only affects your health but your daily life as well. In fact, it has become one of the most common health issues among people around the world.
According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, millions of people in the US were affected by chronic pain including arthritis or other joint pains (1).
Those living with chronic pain may need to look for ways such as medicine, acupuncture or even surgery to help manage their pain. But, exercise can also be very effective for the management of chronic pain (2).
In the past, people with chronic pain were advised to rest and lead a sedentary lifestyle. However, exercise is an excellent way to lessen the severity of chronic pain, as well as allow more extensive benefits, mostly to do with improved bodily functioning and overall physical and mental health (3).
Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, and not a punishment for what you ate! So approach it with joy and positivity. Finding fun ways to work out is key to making exercise a part of your daily activities.
Here are some amazing exercises that are shown to help with chronic pain.
The lightest and most basic of exercises may have numerous health benefits for all age groups. For beginners, it is good to start gradually – perhaps just 10 minutes a day – and work your way up to longer walks as you get more and more active (4). And trust us, if you are persistent, you will!
A 2010 study found that even modest improvements in your walking habits are better than no walking. And it may help support healthy body function and overall well being (4).
When in pain, walking may be considered an alternative to other physical activities. It may help enhance many health conditions such as pain, immobility caused by pain, and situations not being in the prime of health can lead to – such as avoidance of a normal life in general (5).
Yoga is a remarkable form of exercise that has physical as well as mental benefits. Because yoga incorporates multiple techniques – meditation, breath control, muscle strengthening, and stretching – the advantages of yoga on health are holistic (6).
Numerous studies have shown positive effects of yoga on chronic pain, especially low back pain. These studies have concluded that yoga can improve daily functions, mood, and psychosocial health, as well as increased mobility more than standard medication for chronic pain. (6)
People may experience better effects with modified Pilates based approach rather than usual care, when in chronic pain (7). However, it is important to understand Pilates for better results, as it requires movement control, body awareness, breathing, posture and proper education (8).
Stretching is considered to be a good option for improving your joint health. These equipment-free stretches may help with tension and stiffness, as well as improve overall mobility and facilitate proper movement. (9, 10)
Some simple stretching activities, especially for those that may not be accustomed to exercising, may help in providing numerous health benefits. The benefits may not be immediate and sudden, but they will be noticeable eventually and gradually. Improved joint range of motion, physical activities, eased muscle movement, and a reduced risk of injury are all possible thanks to stretching exercises. (9)
One of the advantages of water aerobics, an extremely enjoyable form of exercise, is that it can also be recommended for pregnant women to lessen their lower back pain (11). A study has concluded that exercise in waist-high warm water may reduce pain, improve health-related quality of life and strengthen the muscles in women with fibromyalgia. (12)
Another study published by the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation has stated that aquatic exercises are good for managing pain and improving physical function in people that suffer from aches and pains in the lower back. However, some more evidence is needed to support this statement (13).
You can also consider adding biking or cycling to your regular routine. It may help you manage your pain (14). The natural endorphins released while you pedal in the crisp and fresh air may help in providing temporary pain relief (15). But, ensure a comfortable ride – invest in the seat, proper biking gear etc. so that biking helps ease aches and pains, rather than compound them. However, further studies are needed to find more benefits (16). You may also want to take the opinion of your physician to ascertain whether biking or cycling are suitable forms of exercise for you or your particular health condition.
Inactivity may lead to stiff muscles, decreased mobility, and reduced strength. These results may worsen your chronic pain and its signs. Engaging in a regular exercise routine is good for managing your pain, and also for stimulating your overall health and well-being. You may also read our free ebook to understand chronic pain in a better way. This may also help you provide better options to deal with chronic pain.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements and/or product(s) described in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease, illness or health condition. It is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or dietary supplement program.
- Gaskin, Darrell J., and Patrick Richard. “The economic costs of pain in the United States.” The Journal of Pain 13:8 (2012): 715-724. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92521/
- Mior, Silvano. “Exercise in the treatment of chronic pain.” The Clinical journal of pain 17:4 (2001): S77-S85. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11783835
- Geneen, Louise J et al. “Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 4:4 (2017): CD011279. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461882/
- Murtagh, Elaine M et al. “Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention.” Current opinion in cardiology. 25:5 (2010): 490-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098122/
- Vanti, Carla, et al. “The effectiveness of walking versus exercise on pain and function in chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials.” Disability and rehabilitation. 41:6 (2019): 622-632. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29207885
- “Yoga for pain relief”. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/yoga-for-pain-relief
- Rydeard, Rochenda, Andrew Leger, and Drew Smith. “Pilates-based therapeutic exercise: effect on subjects with nonspecific chronic low back pain and functional disability: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy. 36:7 (2006): 472-484. https://www.jospt.org/doi/abs/10.2519/jospt.2006.2144
- Wells, Cherie, et al. “The definition and application of Pilates exercise to treat people with chronic low back pain: a Delphi survey of Australian physical therapists.” Physical therapy. 94:6 (2014): 792-805. https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/94/6/792/2735563
- Stretching: Focus on flexibility. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931
- “Effects of muscle stretching exercises in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a systematic review” Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition). 55:2 (2015): 167-173. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2255502114002089
- Granath, Aina B., Margareta SE Hellgren, and Ronny K. Gunnarsson. “Water aerobics reduces sick leave due to low back pain during pregnancy.” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. 35:4 (2006): 465-471. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0884217515343914
- Gusi, Narcis, et al. “Exercise in waist‐high warm water decreases pain and improves health‐related quality of life and strength in the lower extremities in women with fibromyalgia.” Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology. 55:1 (2006): 66-73. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/art.21718
- Shi, Zhongju, et al. “Aquatic Exercises in the Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Meta-Analysis of Eight Studies.” American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation. 97:2 (2018): 116-122. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28759476
- Susko, Allyn M, and G Kelley Fitzgerald. “The pain-relieving qualities of exercise in knee osteoarthritis.” Open access rheumatology : research and reviews. 5: (2013): 81-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5074793/
- Goldfarb, Allan H., et al. “Beta-endorphin time course response to intensity of exercise: effect of training status.” International journal of sports medicine. 12:03 (1991): 264-268. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1889933
- Priego Quesada, Jose Ignacio, et al. “The association of bike fitting with injury, comfort, and pain during cycling: an international retrospective survey.” European journal of sport science (2018): 1-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30556469