If you suffer from chronic pain due to a health condition, it can be tempting to skip exercise altogether. However, while the idea of exercise may not entice you, it’s important to stay active in order to improve your health and quality of life. Physical activity can sometimes even help to reduce chronic pain. Here are our tips.
The Best Way to Reduce Chronic Pain
Do Plenty of Walking
Walking is a very simple but very effective form of aerobic exercise. It’s low-impact so it’s easy on the body – particularly the joints – but it has lots of great health benefits.
Regular brisk walking helps build stamina, boost energy, and can reduce stiffness and pain. Those suffering from chronic pain may find it helpful to walk in short bursts rather than long stretches. Try starting with three 10-minute walks a day.
Try Water Exercises
Swimming is arguably the best physical activity for people in pain because the water supports most of your body weight. This means it puts very little strain on your body and joints, allowing you to get a full-body workout without increasing your pain.
Even if you don’t know how to swim, a swimming pool can still aid your exercise routine. You can join a water aerobics class – the water’s buoyancy will help you do movements which would otherwise be painful.
Get Into Yoga
Some types of yoga are particularly well-suited to people with chronic pain. Hatha yoga, for example, involves relatively gentle movements and postures, as well as breathing and meditation techniques. The combination of stretches and breathing exercise can really help you manage your pain.
Just make sure you don’t push your body to do motions that aren’t comfortably within its abilities. It’s a good idea to ask your physical therapist or doctor to recommend a yoga instructor who will understand your needs.
Doing a few stretches daily will really help to increase your flexibility and loosen tight, stiff muscles. It will be easier on your muscles to stretch after exercise than before – stretching cold muscles can sometimes be more painful. You’ll be surprised how much these simple movements can make everyday tasks – such as looking over your shoulder or reaching for a high shelf – a little easier.
Whatever form of exercise you undertake, it is vital that you carry out post exercise stretches to minimise any aches, while also improving your flexibility.
These stretches will also help you cool down and slow down your heart rate. Here a selection you may like to try:
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Maintain a straight back while reaching towards your toes – even if you can’t touch them – and hold.
Lie on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Cross your right leg over your left thigh, grasp the back of the left thigh with both hands and pull that left leg towards your chest. Hold this position then repeat with the opposite leg.
Lie on your back and raise your right leg, keeping your left leg bent with your foot on the floor. Hold the right leg straight up in the air, then repeat with the opposite leg.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Sit down with your back straight and bend your legs inwards, putting the soles of your feet together while holding onto your feet. While holding this position, try to lower your knees towards the floor.
Lie flat on your belly. Put your hands on the floor and, pushing into them, straighten your arms – just as you would if doing a press-up. However, instead of lifting your whole body from the ground, you should arch your back, lifting your thighs from the ground but keeping your feet and the bottom half of your legs on the floor.
Stand about 10 inches away from a wall and place your palms on it. Step back with your right foot and bend your left knee, keeping the right heel down. Hold, then repeat on the opposite side.
Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs with the balls of your feet on the edge of the bottom step. Gently allow your heels to drop, and hold. Make sure you use a staircase where there are bannisters on both sides for you to hold onto for support. You can do one heel at a time or both at the same time – just take extra care when doing both!
All of these stretch positions should be held for around 10-15 seconds. The stretches are simple, and taking the time to do them will help your body reset to a natural position and posture, reducing the amount of soreness and stiffness you feel later on.
Over time, doing these stretches will also increase your range of motion. You don’t need to stretch every muscle after a workout – focus on ones that have been particularly tightened by the exercises you’ve just engaged in.
Living with chronic pain can be difficult but it certainly doesn’t have to mean ruling out physical activity. In many cases, the less you move, the more pain and fatigue you’ll feel. Exercise helps to manage your condition and will boost your mood and energy levels, significantly improving your quality of life.
The condition which is causing your pain may affect what type of exercise is safe for you to engage in, so speak to your doctor or physical therapist about what activities are best suited to you and will benefit you the most.
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