While many have heard time and time again that physical activity is vital to our health, this is particularly true for those who are living in persistent pain.
Being physically active is not easy when we are in pain. The initial instinct is to protect the painful area and limit the amount of movement to that area. We instinctively guard the painful area to aid in the healing process. When dealing with chronic pain however, the objective changes from resting the body with the intention of allowing it to heal itself, to preventing the potential deconditioning that can arise from inactivity, as well as increasing the ability to carry out day to day physical tasks.
When taking part in exercise it is important to remember the 3 “rights”: The right person, the right place, and the right time.
THE RIGHT PERSON: The right person is someone trained in both body mechanics as well as pain. A physiotherapist for example would be an excellent resource to help guide you through the most appropriate exercises to help tone, stretch and strengthen your muscles while being careful not to over do it. Many physicians who specialize in managing chronic pain are also a great knowledge base for several safe exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home.
THE RIGHT PLACE: Any place can be the right place for exercise, provided you have each of the following:
- Enough space to be able to move around with ease
- A space free of clutter that could be a potential hazard
- Easy access to washroom facilities
- Regulated temperature.
The right place can be at the gym, in a physiotherapy center, at a chronic pain center, or even in your very own home.
For those who have moderate to severe pain, a pool can be the right place. Water aerobics done in a pool can offer the benefit of being physically active while relieving the pressure from the joints of the body. Heated pools add the extra comfort and can help relax tense and aching muscles.
THE RIGHT TIME: The right time really revolves around your body and your pain. For the most part, muscles can be stiff and painful first thing in the morning. In the evening after a busy day, pain can be at its worst. For this reason, a mid afternoon workout is ideal for many people who live with chronic pain. Pay attention to your body cues.
Some safe exercises you can do at home include:
- Walking – walking is a great aerobic exercise that is low impact and can be done anywhere!
- Strength Training- Lifting small 1-2-pound weights every other day increases muscle strength and can even help reduce pain!
- Yoga- Slow, controlled movements combined with breathing and mediation are the perfect combination for strengthening the body and combating stress and anxiety!
- Stretching- Stretching is indeed an exercise! Stretches such as looking over your shoulder, reaching up above your head, and elevating your legs while lying flat on the ground can increase flexibility, loosen tight muscles and are great ways to warm up and cool down after a workout.