Exercises for People with Chronic Pain
Exercise is often a recommended treatment for chronic pain as it reduces inflammation, increases mobility and decreases pain levels. Cardiovascular, relaxation, stretching and/or strengthening exercises are commonly included in a pain management plan.
Sensible cardiovascular exercises for people with chronic pain include walking, swimming and water aerobics. Walking for 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week builds endurance and strength. If mobility issues are a factor, water exercises are gentler on the joints and muscles.
Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and visualization, are useful for pain reduction. Deep breathing involves slowly breathing in through the nose as the belly expands and out through the mouth as the belly deflates. Visualizing pain leaving the body with each exhale is especially effective.
Stretching exercises decrease tension and stiffness and increase range of motion. One stretch to try is the lower back and glute stretch. While lying on a flat surface, such as the floor, bend the knees toward the chest and gently hug the legs while slowly rocking side to side.
Strengthening exercises help maintain proper posture and balance and reduce the threat of future injuries. Utilizing the “dead bug” exercise, lie on the back and extend the arms as if reaching for the sky. Raise the feet slightly off the floor and bend the knees at a 90 degree angle. Use the body’s core by relaxing the rib cage and drawing the belly button toward the floor. Exhale and extend the left leg fully without letting it come into contact with the floor. Simultaneously, slowly drop your right arm toward the floor above your head. Hold for 1 second. Repeat 10 times per side.
It is imperative to talk with a health care provider before beginning any exercise program. Working with a physical therapist to develop a personalized exercise plan is recommended.