The most commonly prescribed treatment for chronic pain can cost absolutely nothing, and the side effects include getting in better shape, deeper sleep and even a better outlook on life. Your doctor has probably told you about the benefits of exercise for treating chronic pain, but for you, it might seem daunting. How do you start an exercise program when you’re already in pain?
There are mild exercises to prevent pain. They can help you strengthen weak muscles that are causing pain in the first place. They can also help you learn and utilize proper form. We’ll help you find the right ones and get started.
One of the most important things to know is that you need to loosen ligaments and gain flexibility in your joints before embarking on an exercise program. This is particularly important if you have a chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis. Many exercise injuries occur during the first weeks of training, when patients haven’t taken the time to strengthen ligaments before attempting a strenuous routine. It’s important to work at a slow pace when you have a chronic pain condition.
A 2016 study found that a fitness program consisting of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises to prevent pain worked for patients with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. The effects were nearly immediate for fibromyalgia patients. Researchers also found that a regular exercise routine improved sleep and reduced inflammation.
Pace Yourself When Doing Exercises to Prevent Pain
Remember, you’re not in competition with anyone else but yourself. Strive to do better each day, rather than compete with others. Especially when those others have been working out for years. Take it easy on yourself if you have an existing health condition that causes pain, but not so easy that you don’t progress. In the study above, researchers noted that patients with chronic pain needed to work at low-intensity levels. They suggested levels well below current American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, They also warned against overworking, since it exacerbated symptoms.
“Chronic pain patients vary greatly in their abilities and limitations, goals and lifestyle, and appear to have greater success from guidance that is tailored to their specific needs, hindering the development of strict guidelines specific to chronic pain; nevertheless, daily activity should be encouraged, even if the intensity is low and duration is short.”
So, the goal for your fitness plan should be to improve circulation, flexibility, and strength at a mild intensity, in short bouts that are comfortable. Even if you have a chronic pain condition, a fitness plan with exercises to prevent pain is a form of preventative care. Increasing your mobility and strength will make it so much easier to get out and do those things you truly want and need to do.
The Importance of Warm-Ups and Stretches
Warming up and adequate stretching before activity is the most important tool in your arsenal for improving fitness with a chronic pain condition. In fact, many physical therapists will tell you that this should be the entirety of your routine for the first few days of starting a new fitness regimen. It’s also a good way to maintain flexibility if you’re having a flare-up. A few minutes of stretching exercises to prevent pain, along with a relaxing walk outdoors, when possible, can help reduce the length and intensity of a flare-up.
The University of Florida, College of Medicine Center for Musculoskeletal Pain Research has excellent suggestions for warm-ups and stretches for Fibromyalgia. Their physicians have the following recommendations:
- Stretch after your body is warmed up.
- Avoid overstretching.
- Avoid bouncing when you stretch – hold the position of slight stretch for 20 to 60 seconds while you relax the muscles.
- Move joints through full range of motion when performing an exercise.
Exercises to Prevent Neck Pain
There is a wide range of health conditions that cause neck pain. From arthritis to cervical stenosis to fibromyalgia. Tense muscles, as well as damaged joints, can cause neck pain that radiates to the shoulders, middle back, and even the hands. Neck tension can also cause headaches. This pain condition affects your mood and ability to function. You can do rotations and stretches, as well as resistance presses against your hand or a small exercise ball.
it’s very important that you consult with your doctor or physical therapist if you have a chronic neck pain condition. With a diagnosis of cervical spondylosis or cervical stenosis, you need to discuss any exercises to prevent pain with a health professional. Don’t jump into a routine of neck exercises without this important step. After the consultation, your doctor or physical therapist can provide recommendations for exercises for your condition.
Meanwhile, Harvard Health suggests that improved posture, particularly for women, can reduce neck pain. They have a list of helpful suggestions for reducing the pain.
- Don’t tilt your head forward or lead with your chin.
- Elevate the level of your desktop.
- Provide support for your lower back.
- Take a break when necessary.
- Re-adjust your work chair.
They also recommend improving your core strength to take the weight off your neck and reduce stress to neck muscles. Strong core muscles mean better posture, which results in a properly aligned neck that isn’t overworked.
Exercises to Prevent Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common health complaints next to the common cold. Back pain or injury is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study of 2010. Most adults have suffered from either acute or chronic back pain at some point in their lives, with 25 percent having experienced it in just the last three months.
There are many reasons for back pain, from injury to inflammation. Once cleared by your physician, exercises to prevent pain can go a long way in finding relief. First, check with your health care professional regarding the safety of starting a routine. Lower back pain is very common, but can also be caused by other health conditions, like kidney stones, diverticulitis, endometriosis or urinary tract infections. Have your doctor rule these out before starting an exercise regimen.
Increasing the strength of your core muscles can go a long way in preventing injuries. Strong back and abdominal muscles better support your spine, as well.
Stretching your back muscles for flexibility and to increase blood flow can alleviate some pain. There are also specific exercises for increasing core strength that are gentle and therapeutic for those who have chronic pain conditions.
The “T-Tapp Twist” movement from exercise physiologist Teresa Tapp is an excellent exercise for both stretching your back muscles and building density and strength in your core muscles.
This 7-minute routine for back stretching exercises to prevent pain is also helpful.
Exercises to Prevent Knee Pain
Knee pain can be excruciating. It can keep you from enjoying many of the activities you love. Even when you’re feeling well overall and ready to face the world, knee pain can cause doubt. Such doubt can be crippling for those who suffer from chronic pain. Knee pain can have a number of causes, from arthritis to tendonitis to damage to the ligaments or cartilage.
Make sure you check with your doctor before starting an exercise program to ease knee pain. Some conditions can be exacerbated by the wrong exercises. A physical therapist can also help you devise a routine that will help relieve and prevent knee pain in the future.
Posture and Knee Pain
Proper alignment from the hip to the feet can also help prevent knee pain. Patients with a pronated stance, with the feet turned out too far, can often suffer knee pain. The knees are meant to bend and move forward, and pronated feet can put excess pressure on them to turn inward or outward. Good posture with the knees slightly bend, the hips tucked under, and the feet facing forward can reduce unnecessary twisting of the knee joints.
Walking “duck-footed” or “pigeon-toed” can also cause knee pain. (Health professionals call it “out-toeing” and “in-toeing.”)
Both pronation and in/out-toeing can lead to knee pain, as well as other chronic pain conditions.
Be mindful of your posture throughout the day, not just in the upper back and shoulders, but in the pelvis and legs. When you use good posture, the pressure of your body’s weight is better distributed. Instead of resting all your weight on the balls of your feet, for example, an upright posture with your hips and knees aligned distributes your weight in your pelvis. Keeping your knees slightly bent allows them to work the way they were designed — as shock absorbers.
The good news about your posture is that the more often you work to improve it, the stronger you become. The simple act of adjusting your posture is a mini-workout for all those small core muscles that keep your body properly aligned.
These exercises will help you improve knee pain caused by poor body alignment.
Strengthening the muscles that hold your kneecap in its proper place can also reduce pain.
Staying Fit with a Chronic Pain Condition
Staying active when you have a chronic pain condition can feel like a catch-22. You know you need to do mild exercise to improve your health and stay mobile. On the other hand, it can be difficult to do when you are already in pain before even starting. There are a number of exercises to prevent pain. Here are some other tips for staying active and getting fit with a chronic pain condition.
- Consult with your doctor before starting. She can help monitor your progress and adjust any medication.
- Consult a physical therapist if you have disabling joint pain for a regimen that will address that issue.
- Begin slowly, with just stretching the first couple of days. Increase your intensity gradually.
- Sneak in small exercise moments throughout the day that will improve posture and core strength. Just a minute or two as you go about your day will add up.
- Don’t compete with anyone else but yourself.
- Do some activity every day. When in doubt, walk it out. Just five minutes of walking improves circulation, lymphatic drainage, and mood.
- Realize that like most chronic pain patients, you will good days and bad days.
- Refrain from overexertion. You don’t want to be stuck recuperating from impatience.
- It’s important that you find an activity you really enjoy. It’s not work if you’re having fun. Find an activity you enjoy or can do with a friend or partner. It really makes the time fly.
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