Though research has historically shown how therapeutic exercise is for overcoming pain, when you are the one experiencing that pain, everything seems only to exacerbate it. As much as you might love playing sports or going on hikes, pain during the activity might now be preventing you from reaching your highest potential. Don’t get frustrated and throw out your favorite pairs of sneakers just yet! It’s time for some love/hate relationship counseling.
Regardless of what type of chronic pain you have or the intensity of it, regularly exercise breaks what is called “the pain cycle.” The sequence is generated by lessening your physical activity due to chronic pain, resulting in a more sedentary lifestyle. Because inactivity leads to muscle weakness and more aches producing from sitting for too long, you try to fix that by moving more. However, because now you are sore from not moving, you get depressed and return to inactivity, renewing the cycle. If it sounds like a downward spiral, that’s because it is!
Breaking the cycle takes motivation and determination, but you can do it. The proven benefits of daily exercise have been touted for curing some ailments.
Through exercise you can experience:
- Decreased pain (because of endorphins)
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduce joint and muscle pain (because synovial fluid lubricates the joints during movement)
- Decreased blood pressure through aerobic exercise
- Improved sleep
- Less anxiety and depression
- Enhanced feeling of well-being and self-worth
Not only does exercise flood you with feel-good hormones called endorphins, but certain activities can also lower cortisol, the stress hormone and elevate your overall mood. When you feel better about yourself and your condition, you will be able to transcend the pain. Choose activities that are enjoyable so that you can invest yourself entirely. Having fun is one of the key components to keeping your attention off of the chronic pain.
Listen to your body and be gentle. If you’ve been inactive for some time, start slow—walking, biking, yoga and tai chi, for example. Even with low impact exercises, you joints will lubricate themselves; your muscles will adapt, your stress will be released, and your pain tolerance will increase. As you begin to feel stronger and more confident, start to pick up the intensity. Consider consulting a fitness professional to learn proper exercise techniques to prevent injury.
Exercise plays a significant role in everyone’s health and wellness. Not only does exercise prolong lifespans, but it also has healing effects on human physiology. We are made to move. So don’t let chronic pain dampen your spirit. Fight back by staying active.