Keep exercising despite chronic pain

elderly-woman-exercising

It sounds counterintuitive, but working out is an essential treatment.

Story: Dr. Victor Romano

Pain is a great excuse if you don’t like to exercise, which is certainly something many people with chronic pain would just as soon avoid. 

At the same time, exercise is one of the things that can help make that pain go away.

It can become a Catch-22 situation: we don’t want to exercise because we have pain, and yet exercise will usually help reduce the pain over the long run. 

Research shows that exercise is an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic pain. Lack of exercise can cause a downward cycle of deconditioning and worsening pain. But exercise can help those with chronic pain engage in enjoyable and essential activities of daily living with greater ease. Stretching, cardio exercise, and weightlifting are the three types of exercise most people should include in every workout. 

Doctors generally ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10. The average intensity of pain experienced for 12 or more hours over a 24-hour period is considered their baseline pain. If, during exercise, pain levels increase by more than two points from the baseline, you should stop immediately and modify that exercise to ensure you do not cause a flareup of your pain. 

Of course, a good diet is also important. A variety of foods can create inflammation and pain in the body or cause pain to worsen. Be aware of what you eat. For people who suffer chronic pain, try these exercise tips:

Try shorter exercise periods. It is better to exercise in short bursts than in one long workout. Even five minutes is better than nothing. Everything counts.

Weight training also is important for seniors and women. Research has proved that weight training is good for everyone, regardless of sex or age. Make sure to incorporate it into your exercise program.

Stretching is important. Go online and find some good stretching exercises and incorporate them into your daily routine, even if you don’t exercise that day.

Try yoga or tai chi. These programs have shown success with people with chronic pain.

Mind over matter. If you need to do an exercise that you know is going to be painful, start by taking some deep breaths and focus your energy. Take your time. 

Even though exercise for those with chronic pain sounds counterintuitive, it is very important as part of recovery therapy. You will, most likely, continue to have pain, but keeping muscles and joints moving will make it better.


These are five common physical ailments that produce chronic pain:

joint-pain-elbow

Tennis elbow: If you’re using more force on the elbow, it may be due to a carpal tunnel problem. Find the true source of the pain.

joint-pain-neck

Neck and back pain: Slumping shoulder and shoulder weakness are associated with neck or back problems and even obstructive breathing disorder. 

joint-pain-knee

Runner’s knee: The medical term is patellofemoral pain syndrome, a vague pain around the kneecap for prolonged periods. 

joint-pain-back

Sciatica: Affecting about 40 percent of the population at some point, this is characterized by lower back pain going down the leg.

joint-pain-foot

Achilles tendinitis: Sometimes the source can be foot maladies in the same or opposite foot, such as peroneal neuropathy and Morton’s neuroma.


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