When chronic pain strikes in your back and joints, your first instinct may be to lie down and not move until the pain passes. More and more studies are finding however, exercise may be some of the best medicine when it comes to treating back and joint pain.
If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have already adapted to what’s called a “pain cycle.” This is when your body takes on a certain posture or movement to avoid pain. This posture may relieve the pain for a short amount of time, but it eventually causes your body to take on an imbalanced posture, and the pain to exacerbate. Exercise give your muscles strength to support more natural postures, leading to long-term pain relief.
How much you weigh could also be having an affect on your chronic pain. Extra pounds lead to more strain on your hips, knees and back. Regular workouts can help control your weight and prevent your joints from taking on unnecessary stress.
Exercise also increases your flexibility, a major benefit for stiff and aching joints. Stretching exercises, like yoga, help increase blood supply and nutrients to the joints. This leads to increased coordination and improved balance, which reduces stress in the muscles and decreases risk of further injury.
Besides the physical benefits, exercise can also improve your mental health, leading to better sense of control over your chronic pain. Workouts boost the production of endorphins, chemicals that increase our feeling of well-being and reduce our perception of pain. When you suffer from chronic pain, your pain threshold drops, meaning it takes less pain to make you feel more uncomfortable. Trent Nessler, PT, DPT, MPT says “Exercise improves your pain threshold… by using cardiovascular, strengthening and flexibility exercise(s).” An improved pain threshold makes it easier to live with chronic pain while still maintaining your daily activities.1
Chronic pain sufferers shouldn’t just jump in to an exercise routine. Misguided attempts can lead to flare-ups in pain or even more discomfort. A team of professionals, like the ones at the Washington Center for Pain Management, can develop an individualized exercise program to help retrain your body and lessen your chronic pain.
1Shaw, Gina. “Exercise and Pain Relief.” WebMD. Feature archive. Tue. 10 Dec. 2013