"Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you have chronic back pain because it seems to add to your pain,” says Miriam Parker, clinical team leader at Revitalize Wellness Center in Scappoose. “But if you don't exercise, your body gets out of shape—muscles lose their conditioning, for example—and your pain increases because your body isn't functioning as well as it could.”
“Exercise and general physical activity, difficult as it may sound, is probably going to be part of your treatment plan for chronic back pain,” Parker continued. “Gone are the days when the doctor would encourage you take it easy in bed. You may be told to rest for a bit (perhaps a day or so), but you'll also be strongly encouraged to get moving again.”
Parker reminds us that there are many benefits to exercise, but some specific ones for chronic pain sufferers are:
- It keeps your joints moving well. That's especially important for patients with chronic pain caused by arthritis. You need to keep those joints moving, even when they are stiff. Walking and gentle yoga are a couple of great ways to get started.
- It helps to keep your muscles strong. Strong muscles support your body and bones better, and that's especially important for patients with chronic back pain. Your spine needs all the help it can get in cushioning your movements and supporting your weight, so you should work on keeping your back and core muscles in good condition.
- Staying active is good for your mental health. Chronic pain patients can struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues because it's difficult for them to live their life as they once did. Staying active can help boost self-esteem and make you feel like you're doing something to fight your pain and its effect on your life. Exercising with friends is a good way to both motivate yourself and reap the social benefits of exercise.
- It helps you maintain a healthy weight, lose weight and avoid obesity. Extra weight can add to your pain, particularly if you have chronic back pain. By making healthy nutrition choices and staying physically fit, you can maintain an appropriate weight.
Talk to your health care provider or physical therapist about what type of exercise would be good for you. You need to consider your pain, fitness level and find some physical activities you enjoy. They can help you develop a regular exercise plan that you can stick with -- one that you enjoy and isn't overwhelming.
If you are among the 50 million Americans living with chronic pain, a full and active life may seem like an impossible dream. But don't give up. If the pain treatment you have tried doesn't provide relief, one of our partner wellness clinics may be able to help.
A wellness clinic is a health care facility that provides the information, tools and resources you need to reduce pain and return to the things you enjoy. To learn more, please view our pain clinic listings..