Exercise and Chronic Pain

4 reasons why exercise is good

Peer Reviewed

ExerciseExercise may be the last thing you want to do when you have chronic pain because it seems to add to your pain. But if you don't exercise, your body gets out of shape—muscles lose their conditioning, for example—and your pain actually increases because your body isn't functioning as well as it could.

Exercise and general physical activity, difficult as it may sound, is probably going to be part of your treatment plan for chronic pain. Gone are the days when the doctor would encourage you take it easy in bed. You may be told to rest for a bit (perhaps a day or so), but you'll also be strongly encouraged to get moving again.

There are many benefits to exercise, but some specific ones for chronic pain sufferers are:

1. It keeps your joints moving well.
That's especially important for patients with chronic pain caused by a form of arthritis.

2. It keeps your muscles strong.
Strong muscles support your body and bones better, and that's especially important for patients with chronic back pain. Your spine needs all the help it can get in cushioning your movements and supporting your weight, so you should work on keeping your back and core muscles in good condition.

3. Staying active is good for your mental health.
Chronic pain patients can struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues because it's difficult for them to live their life as they once did. Staying active can help boost self-esteem and make you feel like you're doing something to fight your pain and its effect on your life. Exercising with friends or joining a gym is a good way to both motivate yourself and reap the social benefits of exercise.

4. It helps you avoid obesity.
Extra weight can add to your pain, particularly if you have chronic back pain. By making healthy nutrition choices and staying physically fit, you can maintain an appropriate weight.

What Kind of Exercise to Do
Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about what type of exercise would be good for you. You do need to take into account your pain, fitness level, and activities you enjoy. A physical therapist can help you develop a regular exercise plan that you can stick with—one that isn't overwhelming.

Updated on: 12/11/15
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Interventional Chronic Pain Management
Steven Richeimer, MD
This article was reviewed by Steven Richeimer, MD.
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