Exercising with Chronic Pain: Is it Worth it?

Author: Brian Jones, Clinical Pharmacist Walking feet

Pain alerts you when something is wrong. In many cases, this helps keep you safe. For people who live with chronic pain, however, pain is often part of everyday life. Chronic pain is common among U.S. adults. A report from the American Academy of Pain Medicine says that chronic pain affects about 100 million adults in the U.S. alone.

When your body already aches, it may seem natural to rest. While rest is an important part of healing, exercise is an effective way to manage chronic pain for many people. People with chronic pain who exercise regularly often benefit from improved physical and mental health. Keep reading to learn more about exercising with chronic pain. Before you start a new exercise program or make changes to your physical activity, always consult with your doctor.

Start Slowly

It takes time for your body to build up strength. Start slowly and listen to your body as you begin a new exercise routine. If your pain level reaches an uncomfortable level during a workout, take a break or modify your movements. Stop exercising if your pain becomes severe. Some people find it easier to exercise in bursts with shorter workouts multiple times a day.

Dynamic Warm-Ups

Spend a few minutes warming up your muscles with dynamic or active stretching as you begin a workout. Dynamic stretching is an effective way to get your blood flowing and your heart pumping. Movements such as high knees or lunges are common dynamic stretches. The Arthritis Foundation lists seven dynamic warm-ups you can try before your next trip to the gym.

Focus on Your Breathing

Your body breathes naturally, without you having to think about it. During exercise, however, you may notice it takes more effort to breathe normally. Be sure to focus on deep, controlled breaths before, during and after your workout.

Switch Up Your Workouts

Include different kinds of physical activity into your exercise routine to maximize the benefits. This could include a variety of cardio, strength and flexibility workouts.

Cardio Exercise

Cardio or cardiovascular exercises get your heart pumping. There are many benefits of cardio exercises such as heart health, increased blood flowing to your brain and more. You may want to start with low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming or biking to reduce the shock to your joints.

Strength Workouts

Strength training keeps your muscles strong and improves body function. Start with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, or reps. Switch up your workouts, focusing on different areas of the body such as arms, legs and shoulders. Don’t forget to include core strengthening exercises, which help with balance, posture and stability.

Flexibility Training

Greater flexibility helps prevent injury from exercise and can make your daily activities easier. Stretching regularly as part of your exercise routine will improve your flexibility and help prevent stiffness. It can also ease sore muscles after a workout, so you may want to include this in your post-workout cooldown.

Cool Down and Relax

At the end of physical activity, allow your body to cool down. Breathe deeply, slow your heart rate and stretch your muscles. This helps your body recover from a workout. Not only does the cooldown benefit your physical health, but it can also ease your mind. Your cooldown can be a time of relaxation and recovery, which helps you de-stress. The American Heart Association offers tips on good warm-up and cooldown technique.

If you’re living with chronic pain, you know that some days are better than others. It may take time for you and your doctor to develop an exercise routine that works best for you. When you listen to your body, however, exercise can be a good way to manage chronic pain. If you have questions about managing your chronic pain, call your Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions pharmacist.