How to Exercise With Chronic Pain
We know living with chronic pain is hard. In fact, it can be downright debilitating and can impact nearly every area of your life. Some days, it can feel like you’re really missing out on the world happening around you.
But did you know that movement can help with your chronic pain?
Once upon a time, experts believed that no exercise at all was best for patients with chronic exercise. Still, in recent studies conducted over the last few decades, we’ve learned that being inactive can actually reinforce pain and sensitivity pathways, while exercise can help reduce it almost immediately.
And most people may be surprised to know that exercise can often outweigh the benefits of activities like massages and stress management. Even in small doses, light exercise done right can do a lot to help you.
But… when you’re in pain and you don’t feel like moving, the science doesn’t matter. It hurts! We get it — and we’re sharing tips on getting in some easy movement that relieves the pain rather than exacerbates it.
You don’t have to dive into a long exercise session immediately. Start in small increments and work your way up depending on how your body feels.
Some soreness is normal and to be expected, but if you are constantly feeling like you are more sore or stiff after exercise, it’s best to put a pause on things until you feel better. And then, when you begin your routine again, scale it back a little bit to prevent more pain.
You may not feel like jogging around the park or lifting heavy weights at the gym, and that's totally fine! The main thing is to find something that works for you, and many people find success by starting out with lower-impact exercises.
Examples of these include:
Core strengthening exercises
These exercises can help you improve strength, flexibility, mobility, and balance — all key components of reducing pain in the long run — without overdoing it.
Nothing happens overnight — and reducing chronic pain certainly won’t. If you don’t feel like any improvements are made immediately, that’s perfectly normal! In fact, it typically takes several weeks before you start seeing results.
Staying consistent can also improve muscle memory and reduce your risk of soreness or injury. Your muscles are pretty smart, and once they’re got the hand of a certain type of movement, they’re more adaptable to it, meaning the chances of improvement are higher the more you move them.
We’re constantly being told to “grit our teeth and bear it.” especially as folks with scoliosis and chronic pain, but that’s not a good sentiment if you want to find a healthy balance of movement and exercise with chronic pain.
Pushing through pain is tiring on every single part of the body (even your brain because of the mental energy required to keep things going), and you won’t last long. It simply isn’t sustainable for the long haul.
Your body will tell you when enough is enough — and it’s okay to listen to it!
This is probably one of the most important things you can do for exercise and chronic pain. The biggest difference is doing exercises that are safe and won’t cause more pain, rather than doing a generalized exercise program.
If you aren’t sure what this looks like for you, you can always schedule an appointment with us!
The Scoliosis Strength Program is an online exercise and lifestyle coaching program for adults with scoliosis or a spinal fusion who are ready to take their strength and wellness into their own hands. It’ll help you find custom solutions to your unique curve and lifestyle, and help you find ways to exercise even with your chronic pain.
Basically, you’re getting a personal PT (who also has scoliosis and deeply understands what you’re going through) at your fingertips to help you find answers to your scoliosis questions.
Beth Terranova, PT, DPT
Start today on an exercise program that helps you become empowered, strong, and confident in your scoliosis curve.
129 W 29th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001