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Exercise with Chronic Pain


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I was interested in hearing what other people who deal with chronic pain do to motivate themselves to exercise. I suffer from a lot of pain and can't push myself too hard, but when I get no exercise whatsoever I get worse from the lack of movement. I gain weight, my muscles become more stiff and sore than usual. But exercising is so difficult and often seems like a lot of effort for little return.

 

What do those of you with chronic pain do to motivate yourselves, and what types of exercise works for you?

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Have you tried exercising in a pool?  It takes the pressure off your joints and muscles, and there is not much pain when you exercise.  When my hip was healing, I would walk in a pool to help get the muscle built back up.  And it didn't hurt like walking on the ground did.  I couldn't feel anything.

 

What motivates me is that I really do feel better after exercising.  If I haven't gone out for 3 days or so, I can feel myself going into the not-wanting-to-exercise mind-frame, but I force myself and then after that I am on track again.  For me it's knowing that my muscles will get flabby if I don't go out and walk -- I hate that feeling, which is enough to get me out and doing something.

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I garden; cook; bake; can; make art when possible. I hang laundry on the line and fold each piece as I take it off the line. It is impossible for me to currently engage in formal exercise, however it i simply to turn everyday day tasks into stretching and increasing movements.

 

You might be surprised at the number of arm and shoulder muscles used in chopping and especially mincing vegetables. Kneading a one or two pound lump of dough to develop the gluten and get the yeast ready to make those chemical changes is another great way to use arms and shoulders.

 

Vacuuming and mopping are always a challenge for me, yet done in short time frames can provide a great workout.

 

Even changing the sheets on the bed and scrubbing down the shower CAN BE good exercise.

 

I do not have access to a pool, alas, nor can I afford a "gym" membership or a trainer, yet I work out every day.

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I do not have access to a pool, alas, nor can I afford a "gym" membership or a trainer, yet I work out every day.

 

This is what works for my friends and family with chronic pain. You do what you can while you can when you can.

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Although I thankfully don't have chronic pain, I've had a slipped disc for over a month and I just wanted to second melissa's idea of exercising in water. I have been swimming quite a few times with this injury and I feel no pain in the water. I also don't feel depressed in there for some reason. I haven't tried the hydrotherapy pool because I'm not sure what to do in there exactly.

 

The main exercise I do is some physiotherapy stretching/yoga type things prescribed by my physical therapist. I also try to get a walk in every day as the PT said that would be helpful, too. I find it relatively easy to motivate myself to do these things because it really does reduce the pain and I don't have much else for pain relief at the moment. I'm pretty good with doing my stretching stuff (3 x a day) because all I have to do is roll out the yoga mat and flop down on the floor but walking and swimming are harder because I have to leave the house so they don't happen every day. 

 

I'd highly recommend yoga and hydrotherapy (or swimming, if safe) , if you don't do them already, but maybe check out with your doctor or physical therapist whether it is safe for you.

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I am the world's worst swimmer. I mean, I don't drown immediately, but it is only a matter of time. I tried to take a pool aerobic class in college, which I thought would be with one of those kick boards, but was mostly treading water. I basically swallowed half the pool. It's too bad, because I have a lot of joint injuries. But I hate getting wet anyway.

 

I basically walk around the back yard with Violet several times a day, which is more of a "get fresh air and sunshine" thing.

 

Then about a couple of times a week, we take Violet for a walk, although I am liking the direction we take less and less, because there always seem to be loose, unattended dogs. Jason walks her most days, and isn't as concerned with the other dogs.  She pulls like a husky for such a small dog.

 

And hanging laundry is surprisingly active. We don't have a dryer, but have a really lovely clothes horse, I can squeeze two medium-sized loads onto it. I just wish dog hair came off in the washing machine.

Edited by crtclms
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I've done swimming which I like, although the hassle of getting changed and showering is a disincentive.

 

I'm out of shape again due to a recent injury, but before that I read a book on my condition that described how to do pacing. Essentially I picked a distance that I would be able to walk even on a bad day, and did that every day. It was frustratingly short - about 3/4 of a km to start with. I did it every day even when I felt more fatigued or had worse pain. I gradually increased by .5 km/week until I was walking 3km. 

 

I'm jealous of people who enjoy exercising, or feel good afterwards. I feel more exhausted and achy afterward so there's little intrinsic motivation. I've been rewarding myself with points for meeting my exercise goals, and then I can trade them in for rewards.

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HI all,

 

I also walk because I used to run but ended up with bursitis in my hip so, if I want to hurt more than after an hour of walking, running will bring on the pain badly! I miss it though, as I only recently (@ 3-4 months ago) developed the bursitis.  I guess I just have to persevere.  The worst is when I have to go up hills as then my bursitis starts playing up.  It aches at night in bed and can hurt even going up stairs.  I wish I could swim and there was a decent pool here but alas to both of those.  Any exercise is better than none! :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think my motivation comes from knowing that if I do nothing I will get even more stiff and have more pain. To a certain extent I have to just find a way to do it....... much easier said than done.  I have a dog so I get daily walks but sometimes even 20 mins feels like a marathon. Plus unlike some others, I almost never feel better after exercising - the best I can hope for is to feel less 'stiff' after doing some stretching or a gentle walk, but I normally feel exhausted for a good few hours any significant exercise. 

 

I gave up going to the gym after getting a bicycle. Cycling seems a good 'natural' way to get some exercise and fresh air and it doesn't leave me in as much pain as using the elliptical at the gym. It is a very fine balance though.... do nothing = more pain, do too much = WAY more pain, but the 'just right' sweat spot is tiny and seems to change week to week. Plus no amount of exercise actually seems to improve overall fitness - I do wonder if that is due to the chronic pain, the body just can't put energy into building new muscle or whatever? 

Edited by crazyguy
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  • 5 months later...

I'm with crazyguy on this. I have muscular dystrophy (not related to MS), as well as a permanent joint injury that makes it ridiculously painful to do basic things (sitting, walking, driving, etc). The only thing that motivates me is knowing if I stop exercising, I will deteriorate slowly and the pain will get worse. I was strength training for a number of years, and it had a positive impact on my chronic pain. But I was advised to stop exercising by my doctor due to heart complications. During the year I didn't exercise, the pain got really unbearable. Now that my medication has helped some of the symptoms caused by my disease, I am beginning to exercise again. Even if it hurts, I know exercise does wonders for the body from personal experience. Just gotta keep pushing through it.

 

One word: stretching! You'll be surprised how well that works over time. Using a foam roller and runner's stick also help to release the acid and tightness from the muscles. My orthopedic surgeon recommended yoga, stretching, and Pilates. Maybe those would be good options too. Good luck!

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