How Exercise can help with Chronic Pain

We know – exercise is the last thing you want to do when you’re in chronic pain but the evidence shows structured exercise can actually reduce your symptoms of chronic pain and improve your quality of life

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain is a signal. It is a warning system from the brain that’s detecting a threat of danger. It’s similar to a smoke detector. It will go off every time there’s smoke, whether it is from a fire that might burn down the house or the burnt toast you left in the toaster. No matter the risk, the detector will go off. 

Chronic Pain is characterized by pain that persists more than 3 months. As the pain persists, it becomes more about protective mechanisms and less about tissue damage. That means your smoke detector gets super sensitive…and now likes to go off every time you cook in the kitchen, whether you burn the food or not. (Not that you would ever burn the food, right?). 

How can exercise help with my Chronic Pain?

Well, it’s actually really clever. Exercise turns down your body’s protective pain systems, so your body learns to handle everyday stressors in a more controlled way. Evidence shows regular exercise over a period of weeks and months helps:

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve function in your everyday life
  • Improve your quality of life. 

Exercise can increase your body’s ability to deal with chronic pain and teach the tissues not to be as sensitive with movement.

There is no reason to avoid exercise if you have chronic pain, unless you’ve been told not to exercise by a medical practitioner. The right type of exercise and intensity will not do more damage to your original injury. In fact, evidence shows working within a low range of pain is still safe. Trust us, your tissue can handle it.

What IS important, is that you find exercise you enjoy and find meaningful. For you that could be walking, swimming, bike riding, dancing, playing a sport, gym – you get the idea! 

Working with a qualified practitioner like the PPG team lets you safely exercise in the areas of pain or work around the pain to build up strength in other areas.

Some exercise guidelines

Here are our top tips to exercising with chronic pain:

  • Start slowly, and work on gradual exposure, especially around the injury site.
  • Set achievable goals. Understand that not all exercises will be “pain free” but that’s okay!
  • Stay flexible, as symptoms can vary day-to-day. You may need to adjust the type and intensity of exercise on the fly.
  • Pain Intensity guidelines:
    • Pain is a 4/10 during or 24hrs following exercise – stop, rest, consider trying something a little easier.
    • Pain is 3/10 or less, keep going slowly as tolerated.

Always seek help if you’re unsure. Corinna, Dan or Molly can help you determine the best type and intensity of exercises you can be doing for your condition.

Keep moving!

At PPG, all our Physiotherapists and Molly, our Exercise Scientist, can help you manage your chronic pain. We can design a tailored exercise plan for you, show you how to exercise safely and answer any questions you have. 

To book, just call the lovely Di on 0497 111 127 or book online.