True or false: avoiding physical activity will help to reduce your pain. The correct answer is, FALSE. Avoiding physical activity doesn’t usually reduce pain; it exacerbates it. This may seem counterintuitive. Someone with back pain, for example, would probably assume that resting the back would bring the most relief. This is an understandable conclusion. However, too much rest only makes bodily pain worse.
Do you have some type of chronic pain? Do you attempt to keep aches at bay by avoiding activity? If so, you may be unknowingly making your pain worse.
Exercise Truly Does Reduce Pain
Numerous credible sources tell us that physical exercise lessens various forms of pain. Here are a few examples:
- A Member of the Mayo Clinic Staff writes, “Exercise is crucial for people with (arthritic pain)…lack of exercise actually can make your (arthritic) joints even more painful and stiff. That’s because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones.”
- A 2013 clinical study found exercise to be effective for controlling pain in patients awaiting hip replacement surgery.
- Researchers at the University of Western Ontario recently reported that physiotherapy (which certainly involves exercise) combined with medication was just as effective as arthroscopic surgery in treating osteoarthritic knees.
- In her article 6 Ways Physiotherapy Can Relieve Aches and Pains, Susan Catto explains, “A Danish study of women with osteoporosis whose chronic pain was linked to spinal compression fractures found that patients used significantly less pain medication and reported improved quality of life after just 10 weeks of a physiotherapy program designed to improve balance and stabilize the lumbar spine.” Again, exercise is a critical aspect of physiotherapy. This confirms that movement, not stillness, quells pain.
Why Does Movement Lessen Pain?
Obviously, many sources concur that exercise is better medicine for pain than rest is. Perhaps you’re convinced but want to know how movement resolves pain. The simple answer is, “‘Exercise improves your pain threshold,’ says Trent Nessler, PT, DPT, MPT, a vice president with Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala. ‘With chronic pain, your pain threshold drops — in other words, it takes less pain to make you feel more uncomfortable. With cardiovascular, strengthening, and flexibility exercise, you can improve that pain threshold.’” Also, exercise increases endorphins, which are capable of helping further dampen pain.
Sometimes It Is Necessary to Be Sedentary
Although being sedentary generally increases pain over the long haul, sometimes it is necessary to rest your body. Your healthcare provider should advise you on whether or not rest is in order. (It is highly recommended that you see a healthcare professional before you begin any type of exercise program.) Consulting with a physiotherapist is also a great choice for those who struggle with chronic pain, as physiotherapists are experts in this subject.
Lack of movement may very well be what is keeping you hurting. What steps will you take today toward leading a more active, pain-free lifestyle?