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Exercise to Manage Chronic Pain

Joe Fleming provides ten tips for working out with chronic pain.

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide currently suffer from chronic pain, and many of them are taking various medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to help combat their pain. It is important to note that medication is not the only option for these individuals.

Research shows that regular exercise can be very beneficial for people who suffer from chronic pain. Not only does it help minimize feelings of pain, but it also helps improve physical function and sleep quality, reduces fatigue, boosts mood, and combats inflammation that could be making the condition worse.

If you are one of many chronic pain sufferers, you know how difficult it can be to manage daily tasks like climbing the stairs or washing the dishes. When doing these tasks is a challenge, how are you supposed to go to the gym and get a workout in?

If you are interested in utilizing exercise to help manage your pain, read on for ten tips that will help you ease into working out with chronic pain to start seeing the benefits without making your condition worse.

Choose the Right Kind of Exercise

While exercise can be very beneficial for people with chronic pain, it is important to note that some forms of exercise are better than others. For example, running and high-impact aerobics are not ideal for chronic pain sufferers. Walking, on the other hand, is a great low-impact option.

Other suitable types of exercise for people with chronic pain include:

  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Resistance training
  • Cycling

Work with a Professional

No matter what type of exercise you choose, it is vital to work with a professional. Whether lifting weights with a personal trainer or taking yoga classes from an instructor who has experience working with people with chronic pain, having a knowledgeable professional on your side can help you avoid injury and see improvements faster.

If you are not sure where to turn, talk to your doctor. Let them know that you are interested in taking up exercise and ask if they know any trainers or instructors with whom they can put you in touch.

Choose the Right Time of Day to Exercise

Everyone is different, of course, but many people with chronic pain find that exercising in the mid-morning or early afternoon is best. If you are currently taking pain medication to help manage your symptoms, it will probably be at its peak effectiveness during this period.

Mid-morning to early afternoon is also a good time to exercise because your body will be warmer, and you will likely have more energy. First thing in the morning, your body tends to be stiff, and you may be extra tired, especially if your pain keeps you up at night. And, working out in the evenings can be difficult, especially if you have a family.

Do not be Afraid to Go Slow

There is nothing wrong with starting slow and easing into working out. It is preferable.

You will avoid injury this way, but you will also create a lasting habit. When you take your time getting into a new routine, you are more likely to stick with it long-term. Remember, it is better to ease your way in than dive in headfirst and get overwhelmed or frustrated.

Be Consistent

While it is helpful to start slow, it is still essential to be consistent. Even if you start by only working out two days a week, commit to those two days.

To help yourself be consistent with your workouts, make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. Be realistic about what you can expect from yourself. You can always add more workouts later, but the goal at the beginning is to keep showing up as regularly as possible.

Use Braces and Other Aids

Depending on where you feel pain the most, you may be able to utilize braces and other aids to help reduce your pain and make you more comfortable as you work out. For example, people who struggle with hand and wrist pain may benefit from using braces designed to manage tendonitis. Knee braces or wrist straps can also provide support and help you maintain proper alignment as you exercise.

Remember that Daily Activity Adds Up

You do not necessarily have to be in the gym for an activity to count as a workout. Daily activities like cleaning the house or walking your kids to the bus stop add up.

It is important to note, too, that this daily activity can sometimes be more important than your workouts. If you are sedentary all day except for your 45-minute workout, that workout will be more complicated since you are not used to just moving throughout the day. Your body may not respond as well, and it may take you longer to see improvements.

Warm-Up Properly

For every kind of exercise, a proper warm-up is essential. Taking the time to get your body primed for the workout will help you avoid injury and allow you to perform exercises with more ease.

A good warm-up should include both some light cardio to increase your body temperature and some dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for the type of exercise you are about to do.

Change Up Your Routine Regularly

It is important to be consistent with your workouts, but it is also essential to make sure you are challenging yourself and changing them up regularly.

This could mean adding more reps, more weight, or doing a completely new type of cardio. It is vital to make changes if you feel like you no longer see improvements.

Be Patient

Finally, remember to be patient with yourself and the process. As much as you would probably like to, you will not see dramatic improvements overnight.

Be consistent, follow your trainer or instructor's guidelines, and, over time, you will see the changes you are looking for.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FLEMING, J. (2018) Exercise to Manage Chronic Pain [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.