How low-impact exercise can improve chronic pain

March 1, 2021

low impact exercise for chronic painGone are the days when your doctor will tell you to stay in bed and rest when experiencing chronic pain. You definitely won’t hear that from us at Southside Pain Specialists! While we have many treatment options, including wonderful new technologies, taking an active approach to daily living is often very beneficial. 

Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you have chronic pain, but low-impact exercise that is cleared by your doctor and/or physical therapist can make a huge difference.  

Benefits of Low-Impact Exercise for Chronic Pain

Exercise is a common treatment for chronic pain. Depending on your current state of health, it may help decrease inflammation, increase mobility, and decrease overall pain levels. Physical activity results in the release of natural endorphins (chemicals in the brain that enhance mood) while also easing pain signals. Regular exercise helps improve sleep quality and may result in a reduced need for pain medications.

There are many benefits to exercise, but some specific ones for chronic pain sufferers include:

It helps keep your muscles strong and joints moving well.

Strong muscles support your body and bones better, which is especially important when you have chronic back pain. Your spine needs help in cushioning your movements and supporting your weight, so you should keep your back and core muscles in good condition. Joints are also often a culprit of pain, and moving them regularly can greatly improve these conditions.

Staying active is good for mental health.

If you have chronic pain, you may also struggle with depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and other mental health issues because it’s difficult to live life as you once did. Staying active can help boost self-esteem and make you feel like you’re doing something to take control over your pain. Exercising with friends or joining a gym are good ways to motivate yourself and enjoy the social benefits of exercise.

It helps maintain a healthy weight.

Extra weight can add to your pain, particularly if you have chronic back pain. By making healthy nutrition choices and staying physically fit, you can maintain an appropriate weight.

What low-impact exercises may be appropriate for those with chronic pain?

Before starting any kind of new exercise, we recommend talking to your doctor or physical therapist. We can make sure your plan is appropriate and advise you on how to get started and how to progress. Here are the types of low-impact exercises that are often beneficial for our patients:

  1. Walking — This low-impact aerobic activity is safe and effectively provides the muscles with oxygen. By increasing circulation, exercise often decreases pain and stiffness. You can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime; no equipment necessary. Walking 30 minutes 3 to 5 times per week can help increase strength, endurance, and heart health. If walking is challenging for you, start slow and work your way up to longer walks as you get stronger.
  2. Swimming and water aerobics — Gentle exercise in warm water often helps decrease chronic pain symptoms. This may be due to the low impact on the joints and muscles in water based workouts.
  3. Stretching and yoga — Stretching and yoga are often valuable exercises for the improvement of chronic pain. Maintaining good posture, gentle stretching, and relaxation exercises are helpful pain-reduction tools.
  4. Strength training — Strength training can ease chronic pain and benefit overall health. It is important to start slowly and build strength gradually to prevent injury.
  5. Activities of daily living — Sometimes more formal exercise isn’t possible for a variety of reasons, but making an effort to increase everyday activities and perform daily chores can also make a big difference in pain levels. Routine activities, such as doing laundry, getting the mail, cooking, bathing, and dressing are ways to incorporate movement throughout the day.

Inactivity leads to stiff muscles, decreased mobility, and decreased strength. These effects can worsen the symptoms of chronic pain. Engaging in a regular exercise routine can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall health. Let us know how we can help you come up with an appropriate exercise plan!

Start your pain management journey by scheduling an appointment at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.