Movement is as vital for health as is eating and breathing.
Exercise is important for lessening pain. The old saying is true – if you don’t use it you lose it. So walk if you are able. Pain increases if you stay in bed. But be reasonable with exercise. When it hurts, stop. The “no pain no gain” concept is counterproductive. Exercise helps stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural painkillers, called endorphins.
Being active at all is definitely better than lying in bed. In bed, you can not help but focus on the pain. Exercise is a good prescription for handling pain. And coordination, which includes balance, stability, and agility, is important for pain sufferers in order to avoid re-injury. In addition, there are many connections important to healing which need to be made. The mind-body connection is strengthened through movement.
The Trouble with Starting
There is a ‘fear-avoidance model’ which is a theory about people with chronic pain. It suggests that some of the primary factors related to pain moving from acute to chronic may be related to changes in behavior. These changes in behavior are due to the fear of pain and movement (kinesophobia) associated with pain.
In other words, the fear of the pain stops activity because of a memory of past pain.
Furthermore, the fear trigger is then implanted, and months later when doing the same thing, pain happens because of what the brain learned from a painful experience. Now the task sets off the fear of the pain which is like a ‘pain tune’ similar to how a love song could remind of a breakup, thus making one sad.
Avoiding activities (and even particular contexts and environments) then starts to lead to serious changes in daily life. This may start a cycle of increasing pain and disability.
Knowing where to start after a period of inactivity can be daunting. People in chronic pain often find it hard to move on some days more than others. Learning how to ‘pace’ your activity level and exercise helps. Most of all it should be enjoyable. Each day is a new opportunity. Start by practicing getting out of bed without causing pain.
Even with persistent pain, do your best to keep moving or at least start to move. It decreases pain. When it comes to what exercise, it seems not to matter. Do something you like!
Also, don’t be put off by the word ‘exercise’. Any type of movement is exercise. To begin with, muscles might be tense, so it is important to choose the level of exercise which suits the body at a particular time. “Pain is not gain!”
- Take a careful, step-by-step approach. Don’t jump into high volume or intensity exercise; gradually build up to more complex and difficult movements.
- Pay attention to pain, but don’t baby the pain either.
- Completely avoiding pain also seems to make things worse.
- Think not about ‘sucking it up’, but more like ‘finding a way that works’.
This might start off with walk in the house or apartment. Then a walk to the end of the street and back. A local park is also a good option, particularly if it has benches so that you can rest along the way.
If you feel able to walk further there are many local walking or hiking groups offering different levels of difficulty for beginners and upwards. Look at information about local groups in the area. Check out meetups.
Static Balance / Stability:
Simply stand on one foot for 10 seconds at a time, and repeat 5 – 10 times. Make progress by holding for longer times continuously, instead of the repeating short times. Then hold for a full minute. Start trying something harder.
With exercise balls, you can strengthen abdomen and back muscles, improve posture and even lose weight by sitting on an exercise ball anywhere. Because the ball is unstable, it requires the body to maintain stability mostly through the abs and the back.
For hand and arm coordination choose a ball like a sky bounce or use Chinese medicine balls or Baoding balls. Begin practicing with the two balls. Rotate them clockwise and counterclockwise within your palm. Do it easily without creating pain. After becoming comfortable at this level, proceed to a more difficult exercise.
Try rotating the balls smoothly, without them coming apart and clashing together again. As an alternative, try rotating them without them touching. This will work fingers a little more and is difficult if the balls are a little large for the hand.
Another alternative is to turn your palm downwards and rotate the balls. This will build some finger strength and dexterity, much like rotating the balls without touching. Be inventive and try cascading them one over the other, etc. Practice for more than fifteen minutes with one hand. You will soon notice that your forearm, shoulder, and hands are receiving a substantial workout.
The stone or metal balls help to heal because they work on the meridian system, like acupuncture or shiatsu massage. According to Chinese traditional medical theory, these meridians (Jingluo) are channels or pathways through which vital energy (Qi) circulates within the body. Acupuncture points are also distributed along these Jingluo meridians. By means of the Jingluo, the ten fingers are connected with the cranial nerve and vital organs of the human body including heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, stomach and intestines. By stimulating these points with the Baoding balls, each meridian is stimulated, which in turn can create better circulation of vital energy and blood within the body. Exercise daily for months and years. In turn, you will beget good brain health, a better memory, relieving fatigue, worries and prolong your life.
Exercise at home or really anywhere there is music or sound
Dancing/moving to sound or music either sitting down or standing up, or a mixture of both is a great way to exercise. Just listen to whatever and move to the music. Enjoy!
Wii fit This is a popular video game which allows you to exercise at home alone, or with friends and family. The Wii fit exercise options are split into many categories: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. Start with a limited amount of exercise and increases when you feel able to do more. There is also Wii Fit ‘sports’ video with which you can try tennis, bowls, football, etc.
Exercising in the pool – Aquatherapy
You don’t need to be able to swim. Aquatic therapy for pain relief is water-based treatments or exercises of therapeutic intent, in particular for relaxation, fitness, physical rehabilitation and other therapeutic
benefits. Techniques are many and include Tai Chi, Aqua Running, Bad Ragaz Ring Method, Burdenko Method, Halliwick, and Watsu. Therapeutic applications include neurological disorders, spine pain, musculoskeletal pain as well as many others. Treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water. The buoyancy of the water makes movement and exercise easier than on dry land. Slow movements are best and to begin with only spend 10 – 15 minutes in the water.
Exercise with others
Look at the notice boards in stores and online for what is available for groups. You will find information about yoga, tai chi, exercise classes in the gym and pool, Zumba, spin, pilates and much more. Remember and ask what level of exercise each class offers.
Ask for an Exercise Referral
Many healthcare professionals can refer patients to an exercise program which has been set up specially to help people become more active. These programs are often based at a local sports centers with exercise specialists on hand to give advice and to help people work out an exercise program which suits them.
Ask your friends, doctor or any health care professional you trust to tell you what is available in your area.
Don’t know where to start?
Begin activities at an easy level, building up to more demanding exercise options. See what’s available near you. A group or a club might suit you better. Clubs and teams are involved in activities from archery to yoga.