How to Exercise When You Have Chronic Pains

You know that old saying about exercise—no pain, no gain? Well, it’s wrong.

We encourage all our patients to exercise. It can help keep your heart strong, relieve depression, help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen the muscles that support your joints, build bone strength, and improve sleep. 

But what if when you try to exercise, your pain gets worse? For chronic pain sufferers, that’s a real issue. There are no surefire answers to that problem, but we do have some tips that may help you increase your activity level more comfortably.

  • Start slow. If you’ve been completely sedentary, start with a leisurely 5 or 10-minute walk or something similar. Build up slowly to faster and longer bouts of exercise. If you’re lifting weights, use the same strategy. Start very light and add weight only as you become stronger.
  • Warm up. If your joints are complaining, apply heat for a few minutes before you start exercising to get them warmed up. And when you start exercising, take it easy for the first few minutes before building up the intensity.
  • Cool down. Use ice packs on painful joints or muscles after exercising to help calm down inflammation.
  • Lower the impact. Depending on the source of your pain, jogging, tennis, basketball, and similar activities that involve running and jumping may be too hard on your joints. Walking, biking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi may be better bets for you.
  • Get wet. When you work out in the water, your joints don’t have to bear the weight of your body. Swimming, water aerobics, or jogging with a water belt or swim noodle can be a great way to get some aerobic exercise without the pain.
  • Just say no. If you’re in an exercise class with other people and the instructor tells you to do something that hurts, STOP. This can be hard to do because there’s an element of peer pressure in group classes. Give yourself permission NOT to do a movement if it hurts.
  • Ask for modifications. If you’re taking a class, spend a few minutes with the instructor before or after class to discuss ways you can modify any exercises that cause you pain.
  • Get expert help. Work with a personal trainer or a physical therapist to make sure you’re doing your chosen activity correctly so that you won’t injure yourself or aggravate an existing injury.
  • Take a break. If you’re having a lot of pain, and exercise seems to be making it worse, take a day or two off. You know what your body needs. But do try to start again as soon as you can.

We know that when you’re hurting, moving may be the last thing you want to do. But the benefits of exercise are so immense that we encourage you to keep working with your doctor and a physical therapist to find some type of exercise program—even if it’s relatively limited—that works for you and your body. You deserve it.

If you are suffering, please do not hesitate to call us. Located in Fort Mohave, we serve patients in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Dr. Benjamin Venger, our pain management expert, is here to help. Call us now at (928) 788-3333 or request an appointment online and don’t live another day with chronic pain!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

Get tips on managing pain in the latest edition of Pain News