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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

Chronic Pain, Exercise can Help

It seems contradictory to suggest exercise or movement of some kind when we are in severe pain. Our instinct tells us to rest, put our feet up or go to bed. The days are long-gone for the most part when bed-rest is prescribed by your doctor because movement is essential to keeping us alive. It’s how our bodies are built. If any of you have had surgery of almost any kind, the nurses will have you up and out of bed and at the very least taking a short walk in the corridor either the same day of your surgery or the day after. It may be hard to digest and accept when chronic pain makes us feel unable to move but the answer really is to keep moving. Your physiotherapist can help with this making sure that any exercise prescribed is the right and suitable one for you. You may have to start very gradually but unquestionably, once into your routine, you will find your pain easing up. Human beings were not meant to live a sedentary lifestyle and yet most of us live exactly that way. Chronic or severe pain is not limited to the older population, many young people leading a very inactive lifestyle and generally overweight may find themselves suffering from various pains and perhaps illnesses through lack of movement but there is no question that if left untreated, the aging process will advance or complicate the issue.

More dangerous to health is inactivity and it has a name and it has ramifications for our future well-being. It is called Disuse Syndrome. Periods of inactivity can be caused by lack of physical exercise; sedentary jobs or lifestyle; joint disease in bones. If we don’t use the muscles in our body they become weak and the muscle mass decreases and this loss of strength can lead to chronic pain. It can also lead to other serious medical problems such as weight gain, nervous system changes, depression, memory loss, lack of concentration, slower mental processing and anxiety. Physical activity of any kind leads to stronger muscles, a stronger core helping with balance and everyday movements and a host of other benefits such as: Improving the ability to perform daily activities and prevent falls. It strengthens bones and muscles; improves mental health and mood; manages body weight and tackles obesity It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases.

Clearly it is not easy to even think about exercising when we are suffering from chronic pain but it is wise to trust our doctors and physiotherapists. They understand the mechanics of our bodies far better than most of us. It becomes a question of trust and confidence not only in our therapists but in ourselves; that if we do the work, it will become easier over a period of time and we will be able to overcome the pain. We need to be determined to work towards our goal of reducing or vanquishing pain altogether. It will be transformational and who doesn’t want a pain-free life?

PT. Hannah Foster

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