Exercise is an essential component of a chronic pain treatment program. There are several components to this program: stretching, strengthening, and endurance training. An exercise program needs to be customized to your own specific type and location of chronic pain, and adjusted over time to match your needs and level of conditioning.
People who have had untreated or under-treated chronic pain usually become de-conditioned due to their desire to minimize pain by avoiding any activities or positions that aggravate pain. This can result in too many hours in bed, in a chair, or on a couch. Too much rest actually worsens the pain by allowing the muscles to contract and stiffen, by stiffening the joints, joint capsules and ligaments, by the loss of flexibility and circulation, by progressive weakening of the muscles, and by the loss of cardiovascular conditioning.
Sometimes, a person’s workstation or job description needs to be adjusted to reflect the limitations that the pain creates or to remove aggravating movements or postures that worsen the pain. For example, if you work at a computer for hours a day, you may need to have an ergonomic specialist consult to adjust the height of the chair or desk, or replace your chair altogether. Other workplace accommodations can be recommended depending on your job.
It is usually best to start the day with a stretching routine before beginning activities. Yoga may be an appropriate form of stretching if you are interested in this popular activity. A daily routine of walking or the performance of some other aerobic exercise will help to improve stamina, circulation, and mood. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for strengthening and endurance training. It has the advantage of being weightless on the joints and back for those with back, hip, or knee pain. If you can’t swim, many King County pools, YMCAs, and private clubs with pools have an Aquarobics class where you perform supervised exercises standing or walking in the water. Physical Therapists are trained to create exercise programs that are specifically designed for each pain condition. Some personal trainers may also have such training to help you. As part of my treatment program, we will discuss what exercise regimen would best suit you.