Exercise is not just a great way to de-stress and get those endorphins going. It is also an excellent way of managing chronic pain and reducing your body’s need for pain medications. Prevention magazine recommends adding the following to your workouts:
- Light aerobic exercise- walking, swimming, biking, elliptical trainer, water aerobics in a heated pool. Breaking up these workouts into several shorter sessions makes them more manageable, while still maintaining the same health benefits of one longer session.
- Stretching- at least once a day; helps make regular everyday movements, like looking over your order or reaching for an object, easier. Stretch after you’ve done some light warm-up exercises since stretching ‘cold’ muscles can lead to injury.Get into a position that makes you feel a stretch in the muscle and hold the stretch for one minute
- Strength Training- use light weights (start with 1 – 3 lb); work out each major area (legs, chest, shoulders, back, arms, abs) 2-3 times per week, giving yourself at least a 1-day break in between. Reduce the range of motion in strength training moves. A bicep curl, for example, has a first phase, when you bring your hand up to your shoulder, and a second phase, when you lower it back down to your thigh. Phase 2 can lead to discomfort and make pain worse; studies have shown that shortening that phase can help decrease muscle soreness.
- Yoga & Tai Chi – Hatha yoga, which is more gentle than other types, can do wonders for the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain. The fluid, graceful combination of movements performed in Tai Chi can relieve pain better than stretching can, suggests a study by Tufts Medical Center. You can make modifications to a position if it is painful. For example, resting on your forearms instead of the wrists in downward dog will allow you to decrease pressure put on the wrists while still getting the benefits of the pose
Work with an instructor who understands your needs; your physical therapist or doctor may be able to recommend one.
- Everyday Activities – playing with your kids, gardening, chores such as mopping and sweeping Spread your chores out throughout the day and allow yourself to take a rest when you need it!
*Consult with your doctor prior to beginning a new exercise regimen.