Regular Exercise for Pain Relief?

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Regular Exercise for Pain Relief?

If you’re in pain, your last thought may be to attempt exercise. However, exercise can often be what helps to reduce pain and improve your quality of life.

Regular exercise may alter how a person experiences pain. The longer we work out, the greater our tolerance for discomfort grows. Scientists have known for some time that regular exercise briefly dulls pain. This is because when we exercise for a prolonged period of time our muscles ache, and typically, our body will then release endorphins and other substances which dampen the discomfort. This is known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia, and usually begins during the workout, then lingers for perhaps 20 or 30 minutes post workout.

High-intensity aerobic activity has been shown to decrease pain significantly, a phenomenon referred to as exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH, or runner’s high).

“Everybody can do something,” says Perry Fine, MD, a board member at the American Pain Foundation. Exercise not only helps to reduce the perception of pain but also to overcome limited function.

Just remember to pace yourself and consult a physical therapist for advice. Here are just a few of the ways that exercise relieves pain:


// Post Workout Muscle Pain

Sore muscles are common after physical activity. It is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and can occur when embarking on a new exercise programme or changing up a current routine.

When our muscles get worked harder than usual or are used in a different way, it is believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which results in muscle soreness and stiffness. DOMS typically lasts between 3 and 5 days and the pain can range from mild to severe, usually occurring 1 or 2 days after the exercise. Allow the muscle time to adapt to new movements to help minimise soreness.

You CAN still exercise with DOMS, although it may feel uncomfortable, to begin with, once you get going the soreness should go away after your muscles have had the chance to warm up. Although, the soreness will most likely return after exercising once your muscles have cooled down. Alternatively, you could focus on exercises targeting the muscles that are less affected, and allow the most affected muscle groups time to recover. Having a gym routine which focuses on different muscle groups on different days is a great way to do this.


// Individualised Pain Management

The way in which we respond to pain is highly dependant on our individual pain threshold (the point in which we start to feel pain), pain tolerance, and the amount of time that we are able to cope with the pain for before we cease doing what is causing it.

The longer that we stick to an exercise programme, the less physical discomfort we feel from it, even if the effort increases. This occurs because our brain learns to accept that we are tougher than it had originally thought, and so allows us to continue for a longer amount of time although the pain itself is not lessened.  So, developing the right exercise to help you manage your pain may take trial and error.


// The Technique

The correct exercise technique will help you isolate the desired exercise muscle or muscle group.

If you are experiencing serious pain as a result of an exercise then you should stop this immediately. If you are unsure on the technique consult a personal trainer or physiotherapist as they will be able to guide you to the specific exercise that will target the problem area. If you’re not using the correct technique you could risk causing more damage, in the same way, that posture is crucial when building muscle.


// The Contrary

“One of the worst things you can do for pain is exercise”, on the contrary, one of the best things you can do for your pain and overall health and wellbeing is to stay physically active. A regular, and varied, exercise program can ease pain and stiffness, strengthen your muscles and your bone, burn calories, improve flexibility, increase energy, increase your sense of well-being, and reduce your risk of certain diseases.

If your pain is so uncomfortable that you are not able to exercise, consider speaking with your doctor or a physical therapist about the most appropriate exercises for you, from there just take it slow.

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