Living with pain and fatigue make it difficult to exercise regularly. Physical activity often helps manage illness and reduce symptoms, but overdoing it can cause injury and worsen pain. Keep reading for tips on the best exercise for chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia, arthritis, or another illness.
Why should people with chronic pain exercise regularly?
- Improved range of motion and stronger muscles make future injury less likely.
- Exercise can release endorphins, improving mood and reducing depression and anxiety.
- Better cardiovascular health provides more energy throughout the day.
- People who exercise regularly tend to fall asleep faster and have deeper, more restful sleep at night.
Physical activity can improve your chronic pain symptoms, but overdoing it could make things worse. Exercising to the point of injuring joints or inducing a flare of symptoms makes it harder to stick to a daily exercise routine.
To prevent injury or overexertion:
- Start with small amounts of exercise and gradually add more as your strength and stamina improve.
- Do some physical activity every day, even if it’s a very small amount.
- Too much cardio can be exhausting and hard on the joints. Incorporate other activities like weight training or yoga.
- Break activity up into smaller chunks. Three 10-minute workouts might be less exhausting than one 30-minute session.
- Stretch after you exercise to prevent stiffness.
- Try not to focus on losing weight or altering your appearance. Instead, make note of what you do each day, and try to gradually increase your capacity over time.
Exercise for Chronic Pain
Working out at home can make it easier to keep up with a daily exercise routine, especially on days when you have more pain or less energy than usual.
These pieces of home exercise equipment could make your workouts easier:
- Pedal exerciser – Turns any seat in your home into a stationary bike, allowing you to pedal from the comfort of your favorite spot.
- Exercise ball – Popular with physical therapists, exercise or stability balls are great for strengthening core muscles even with minimal movement. Try sitting on the ball while watching TV, or use it to help cushion and support you during squats, crunches, or stretching.
- Foam roller – One of the hottest recovery tools, foam rollers are like a self-massage system that uses your body weight to roll over muscle groups. Most people use foam rollers to massage connective tissue either before or after a workout. Some studies have shown that foam rolling can stimulate pressure receptors and help relax the central nervous system.
- Elliptical – Looking for a big ticket item to add to your collection? Elliptical trainers are particularly helpful for people with chronic pain, offering cardio exercise without the high impact of running.
It’s impossible to make a universal recommendation for shoes, as everyone’s feet are different. The runners your friend raves about may have high arches that you find uncomfortable or a heel tab that digs into the back of your leg. To find shoes to help you stay active in the face of chronic pain:
- More than any other piece of exercise equipment, it’s important that you try shoes on to find the best fit for you.
- Add gel or memory foam insoles for extra cushion and support.
- If you have frequent pain in your feet, legs, or back, custom orthotics might help to improve your workouts.
- If you’re a woman with wide feet, shopping for men’s shoes may help you find a better fit.
- Wearing compression gear is one of the trendiest ways to work out, with some products claiming their infrared technology promotes circulation and speeds recovery.
- For people with fibromyalgia, tight clothing can be unbearable. Choose loose-fitting clothes that allow you good range of motion.
- Don’t put off exercise just because you don’t have the right clothes. If you’re working out at home, there’s no reason you can’t wear pajamas or whatever’s most comfortable to you.
- For exercise in colder weather, choose a soft, breathable material like merino wool or Tencel to keep you warm while wicking moisture away from your skin.
Taking care of your body after you exercise reduces soreness and makes it easier to sustain your daily exercise routine.
- If you belong to a gym or local community center, treat yourself to some post-workout time in the sauna or whirlpool.
- Exercising with chronic pain or illness should be gradual enough to avoid injury. If you do hurt yourself while working out, treating with ice afterwards can reduce pain and swelling.
- Use heating pads or a warm bath to relieve stiff muscles the day after you exercise.
- Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen may take the edge off of post-workout pain. Ask your doctor which medication will work best for you.
- Stretching after you exercise will limit stiffness the next day. Don’t stretch cold muscles, as this can lead to injury.
Best types of exercise for chronic pain
- Aquatic exercise and swimming are great for people with chronic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. The water provides gentle resistance and buoyancy to help strengthen muscles without taxing joints, while warm temperature soothes any pain you might be experiencing. Not a confident swimmer? Try a floatation belt to feel safe and comfortable in the water.
- Yoga offers low-impact activity, stretching, and muscle strengthening all in one. Look for a class geared towards people with chronic pain or illness, or try yoga at home where you can go at your own pace. There are many accessories that can help ease you into yoga, including supportive cushions and yoga blocks.
- Stretching itself can be your main source of activity on days when you have pain and fatigue. Do something to warm your muscles before stretching, even if it’s walking up and down your hallway or spending a few minutes on a stationary bike.
Things to avoid
- High impact activities like running can be hard on joints and muscles. If you’d like to try running, start with a lower impact exercise like walking or cycling and gradually work up to jogging.
- Sports that involve twisting (like golf and tennis) are more likely to cause injury.
- During weight training, be careful not to overextend limbs or lock joints into place.
Learning how to exercise with chronic pain can help protect you from injuring or overworking your body. Regular physical activity doesn’t have to be expensive, but buying a new pair of walking shoes or swim pass is tough for anyone on a tight budget. By ordering through CanadianMedCenter.com, you can save up to 80% on popular maintenance medications like Cymbalta and Celebrex. Click here to search for your prescription drugs and to find out how much you could be saving today.
DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.