Chronic pain slowly robs you of your ability to move. The muscles get weaker, the joints stiffen. Your breath shortens, your posture becomes hunched. Even walking becomes difficult. But exercise is one of the few ways for chronic pain sufferers to improve their fitness. In fact, it has even been shown that exercise, especially training that focuses on improving cardiovascular fitness, can restore the fitness of people with chronic pain.
More than half of American adults have some type of chronic pain. If you are one of them, you know how frustrating and painful it can be to exercise. But the pain won’t go on forever. Exercise can help relieve your chronic pain, strengthen weak muscles and bones, and improve your overall health. It can even reduce the need for pain medications.
Unfortunately, many people who have chronic pain are either afraid to begin an exercise program or are afraid of injuring themselves.
What to do?
- Start slowly. There is no point in starting an exercise program, whether at home or at the gym, and then giving up after a few weeks.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try something else.
- Don’t fight pain with pain. When pain returns, take a break.
- Find an exercise partner. Having someone else to motivate you to exercise can be hard, but it helps. And having someone else to watch you while you exercise can also be helpful.
- Set short-term goals. Don’t expect to exercise every day or even every week. (Especially if it’s painful.) But if you exercise once a week, for example, that’s a good goal.
- Don’t expect immediate results. It takes several weeks of regular exercise before you notice a difference.
- Find exercises you like. Most people do better with workouts they enjoy rather than force themselves to try something that is too difficult or unpleasant for them.