Living with Chronic Pain
Living with chronic pain from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness, you’ve probably already heard that regular exercise can be beneficial for your health. Exercise can help ease your pain and give you an overall feeling wellness.
The body is meant to move. When you don’t let it move or are inactive consistently, then the body starts to function worse or you even lose function. There is the onset of pain, quality of life is affected, anxiety and depression set in, and it all becomes a cascading issue.
Believe it or Not, Exercise Helps Ease Pain
Pain is an interesting phenomenon. Normally, when you hurt yourself, your body automatically responds by stimulating pain receptors that release chemicals. Let’s say you jam your finger in the car door, for example. These chemicals carry messages directly to the spinal cord, which then relay those pain messages to the brain. This all happens so quickly that you feel the pain pretty much immediately stubbing your toe.
But for those who experience chronic pain that just won’t go away, the same pain process as acute pain from injury doesn’t apply. Chronic pain seems to affect the central nervous system, which can become overly sensitive to pain. Chronic pain causes impaired neuroplasticity, which is a term that describes the brain’s ability to change with experience and use. It allows the body to adapt to injury and disease. Without neuroplasticity, the nerve cells become so sensitive that the brain may perceive even a gentle touch as painful. This pain perception leaves an imprint on the brain, which means that over time, the brain feels chronic and persistent pain more intensely.
Exercise is not going to act like a Tylenol and immediately make the pain better, over time it will address the neuroplastic changes that cause pain and assist in helping people feel better.
The best exercises for chronic pain are walking, swimming, yoga, pilates and strength- training. Before you start exercising, please visit with your medical provider about your intention in the event you might need a fitness assessment. Best practice might me consulting with a physical therapist as well to give you some guidance for the best exercises for your particular issue.