Many people with chronic pain are afraid to exercise due to the fear of increasing pain or damaging their joints further. But did you know that exercise can actually help to reduce your pain?
Here are some reasons why you should exercise even when you have chronic pain:
1. Exercises help to decrease joint pain as they strengthen muscles so they can support joints better and prevent future injuries. It is recommended to begin with some gentle yoga, tai chi or aqua exercises for low impact exercises. Gradually introduce core exercises to help with joint stability.
2. Exercise can also help to lengthen tight muscles that together with the correct strengthening exercises can help to ease muscle imbalances in the body.
3. Most chronic joint pain arises from loss of the joint cartilage. Cartilage is avascular, i.e. it does not have a blood supply. It depends on joint movement to get nutrients in the joint fluid. Movement can helps to lubricate the joint cartilage and slow down degeneration.
4. Exercise activates the body’s endogenous opioid system. This system releases neurotransmitters such as endorphin, enkephalins and dynorphins, which act as painkillers. An additional advantage of these endogenous opioids is the euphoria or high that we experience after exercise, which leads us to stick to a workout routine.
5. It is a well known fact that exercise decrease stress. Stress can make people more sensitive to pain. So when we exercise we can modulate the perception of pain by the body, thereby reducing pain.
6. Additional benefits of exercise are improvement in the quality of sleep, improvement in mood and reduction in depression and anxiety. Exercise can improve self-efficacy and confidence which in turn can help ease pain too.
However, when you start with any exercise routine start off slow and don’t push into the pain. A good way to monitor this while exercising is to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. If the pain increases by more than 2 points from baseline, stop and modify that exercise. This will ensure that your pain does not flare up.
If you are suffering from chronic pain start off with small chunks of time for exercises and slowly progressing with the duration of exercises. Once the duration is set, you can gradually increase the intensity or frequency of the exercises.
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