It is estimated that 25 million people deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, meaning they have had this pain for greater than 3 months. Pain is a complex and individualized experience and one of the most common reasons why people seek medical care or consultation. Unfortunately, since 1999, while the amount of pain Americans report has not changed significantly, the prescriptions for opioid pain medication to treat pain have quadrupled.¹ With side effects like withdrawal symptoms, depression, overdose, and addiction, this new public health crisis of opioid use has moved the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release prescription guidelines earlier this year.
While there are times that opioid prescriptions are appropriate, such as for cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute pain situations, the CDC recommends non-opioid approaches including physical therapy for their benefit of managing chronic pain without the harmful side effects.
The best remedy for chronic pain is to address it head-on and seek professional help immediately. What may seem like small annoyances can manifest over time and before you know it, pain can incapacitate you in more ways than just the physical sense.
For chronic pain sufferers, exercise doesn’t come easily, but by building your endurance, you can learn to move past pain and reap all the benefits that aerobic training can offer. In a study recently performed at the Cleveland Clinic foundation, patients who suffered from chronic pain participated in a 3-week aerobic training program. They all reported that their pain became more manageable with consistent exercise. They felt better prepared to deal with their pain, which resulted in an improved mood and self-confidence.
Some great exercise tips for dealing with chronic pain are:
- Walk: A simple walk to the mailbox may not seem like a lot, but this is a great place to start.
- Start slow! Most plans tell you that 20-30 minutes of continuous exercise are required, but even 5 minutes of continuous movement is better than none!
- Create a goal: Set attainable goals, but always be willing to adjust if necessary.
- Play Favorites: Pick an exercise you enjoy! You are much more likely to continue doing something if you like it.
- Be Buoyant! The buoyancy of water provides many benefits that make exercising less painful on joints and therefore more effective. Try a water aerobics class! It might be more engaging than just swimming lap after lap.
Starting an exercise regimen can be a hard road, especially for chronic pain sufferers. However, implementing an exercise plan can put you on the path to recovery. If you don’t know where to start, contact a physical therapist for a consultation. (A physician’s referral is not necessary for therapists who are Direct Access certified.) Physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts who can find and treat the source of your pain. They will be able to educate you about what might be causing the pain and suggest ways to minimize or, in some cases, eliminate the pain.
For more information about exercise plans specific to your needs make an appointment with one of our Physical Therapists today!