Time and time again we are reminded that regular physical activity is a necessary weapon in the arsenal to combat chronic pain. For many people the idea of regular physical activity can seem tedious and inconvenient. For people who live with chronic pain, strenuous activity can mean increased soreness, stiffness, and pain. Regular physical activity, while necessary, is not always a simple request.

Many who suffer with chronic pain have spent years guarding those painful areas, overcompensating by putting more pressure on the parts of the body that are unaffected, and have a fear of further aggravating their pain symptoms or worse, adding additional injury to their already painful bodies.

This does not have to be the case. In fact, there are a number of workouts that can be done by everyone, including individuals who suffer from chronic pain. These workouts are generally low impact and should not cause excessive strain on painful or inflamed joints of the body if done properly. At the same time, these exercises promote mobility, activity and blood circulation.

It is important to remember that regular activity after a sedentary state can often yield soreness and aches for everyone. This is common and is to be expected to some degree. When first committing to regular physical activity, it is best to start at a very slow rate, limiting the amount of time you spend on your workouts. An example would be dedicating five minutes a day to physical activity with 1 minute breaks every 2 minutes, to allow your body to adjust and become accustomed to your new lifestyle. Once you are feeling comfortable, you can increase your workouts by 5 – 10 minutes every month or so until you are comfortably achieving 30 minutes of activity a day. You should always be aware of your physical limitations and you should never push yourself past your limit. The idea behind regular physical activity is to gain better control over your pain and to improve your overall health. Adding physical activity to your daily routine should never cause additional injuries. It should not amplify your pain long term or cause any physical harm. When taking part in daily physical activity you should go at your own pace and stay well within your physical threshold.

WALKING

Walking is an excellent low-impact aerobic exercise that can be done virtually anytime and anywhere. Walking not only can improve blood circulation, providing optimal oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the body, it can also increase energy, improve overall stamina, reduce muscle stiffness and thus help to decrease pain levels.

Walking also provides an opportunity to be outdoors or socialize with others who offer to go on walks with you. Walking can provide a mood boost and improved quality of sleep in addition to its physical benefits.

Walking is just one of many suitable low-impact aerobic exercises that those who suffer from chronic pain can take part in. Water aerobics is also a great way to be physically active, while having minimal impact of painful joints. Water aerobics is especially suitable for those who suffer from chronic back pain because of “weightless” effect that being in water offers. Heated pools offer a soothing and calming effect to sore, achy muscles.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Strength training is a great way to help manage chronic pain. When our muscles are weak, out body relies on our skeletal system to bear the brunt of our weight and motion. This can lead to painful and inflamed joints that are overworked. By increasing muscle strength, you can take the burden off of your joints and use your muscle strength to carry the weight and facilitate movements.

The stronger the muscle, the less effort it will take to use it. When muscles are weak, it can take much more energy to complete a simple task, such as reaching over your head. If you work to strengthen your muscles, these simple motions will require less effort on your end and a decrease in muscle pain.

You can achieve muscle strength by lifting light weights (1-2 lbs) 2-3 times per week, always leaving a day of rest in between muscle strengthening days. By leaving a day of rest in between your strength training, you are giving your muscles a chance to recover as well as pacing yourself to minimize the risk of further injury.

STRETCHING

Stretching daily can help increase your flexibility, loosen tight muscles, and make your workouts a little more tolerable. Stretch every day, especially before you take part in physical activity to reduce your risk of injury.

Keeping your stretches simple is the key. Stretches such as looking over your shoulder, reaching up above your head, and the slow, gentle rising of your legs while lying on your back are simple, yet effective stretches that you can do every day. Try to hold your stretches for 5- 10 seconds each time. Be sure not to push yourself past your point of comfort. Create a combination of stretches that are easy for you to do before and even after your workouts to both warm up, and cool down. Stretching relaxes your tight muscles and gets the blood circulating throughout your body.

YOGA

By combining slow, gentle movements, breathing techniques and meditation yoga proves to be a great form of exercise for people who are living with chronic pain. There are many forms of yoga that are available to practice. Be sure to find a form of yoga that is low-impact, and does not require you to put a strain on your joints.

A study published in the Journal of Pain Research found that yoga was particularly helpful in the management of fibromyalgia related pain symptoms.

Yoga has also been known to help with anxiety, mood stabilization and improved overall quality of sleep.

Tai Chi is another form of slow, rhythmic exercise that is low-impact. Tai Chi combines controlled gentle movements with meditation and breathing that has been shown to both improve core muscle strength and control, help with sleep, and decrease the level of pain in fibromyalgia patients. Tai Chi has ancient roots dating back many years, and its health benefits have been proven through a number of studies.

The idea of daily physical activity may seem difficult at first glance. Often time people who are already in pain are skeptical about pushing themselves any further. If you are committed to regular physical activity, and you stay within your own physical limits, you will see the benefit of daily exercise in no time.

Before starting a new exercise regimen you should always talk to your primary care physician for the appropriate guidance. Never push yourself beyond your physical limitations. Slow rhythmic motions are recommended to decrease the risk of injury. Rest after a workout is just as important as the workout itself. Go at your own pace and reap the full benefits of physical activity.