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Safe Exercises for Reducing Chronic Pain

August 15, 2022

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John Hopkins Medicine describes chronic pain as “long-standing pain that persists beyond the usual recovery period or occurs with a chronic health condition, such as arthritis.” Usually classified as pain lasting more than three months, the International Association for the Study of Pain reports that chronic pain is a common condition, affecting an estimated 20 percent of people worldwide and accounting for 15 to 20 percent of all physician visits.

Beyond being uncomfortable, chronic pain can prevent you from participating in activities you enjoy or even affect your level of independence. For years, rest was considered the best treatment for managing chronic pain, but most recent research shows that staying active and performing certain exercises can be beneficial for reducing the severity of chronic pain.

At Franciscan Ministries, we understand how important maintaining independence is, and we know the impact that chronic pain can have on performing the activities of daily living. Our senior living communities in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio offer various senior care services, including skilled nursing and rehabilitation, that help individuals manage symptoms of chronic pain and improve their overall wellness. Our team wants to help you do the same by highlighting different types of exercises that can be good for reducing chronic pain.

Aerobic Activity

Meaning “with oxygen,” the American College of Sports Medicine defines aerobic exercise as “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature.” This type of exercise increases your rate of breathing, gets your heart rate up, promotes circulation, and helps your body use oxygen better. Because of this, aerobic activities, such as a brisk walk can decrease muscle stiffness and help relieve chronic pain.

With this being said, some aerobic exercises are better for managing and reducing chronic pain than others. For instance, swimming versus running. While both are classified as aerobic activities and can be beneficial, swimming is the better option for minimizing your chronic pain since it is easier on your joints. Due to increased mobility in water, people with chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, or those recovering from a stroke or surgery may benefit from water-related therapies.

Other safe and effective examples of aerobic activities include:

  • Using an elliptical
  • Cycling
  • Stationary bike
  • Dancing

Stretching Exercises

Even though stretching may not seem like an exercise, it is a good way to keep your body moving, and can go a long way in managing chronic pain. Stretching exercises and programs, such as yoga and tai chi, help to:

  • Relieve muscle tension and stiffness
  • Keep joints flexible
  • Help maintain range of motion
  • Improve mobility

While stretching may not be a high-intensity exercise, the focus of reducing chronic pain is staying active and stretching exercises keep you moving.

Additionally, depending on your flexibility and skill level, yoga and tai chi programs have varying levels of intensity, allowing you to challenge yourself and get more of a workout, if you choose to do so.

Strength Training

Building muscle can help stabilize your joints and prevent future injuries, so strength training exercises are also beneficial for reducing chronic pain. Healthline states,“for people living with chronic pain, adequate core strength is especially important. It helps you maintain proper posture and balance and reduces the risk of injuries that could lead to more pain.”

When people think of strength training, it is common to assume you have to go to the gym to get the maximum benefits. However, while you can use the free weights or machines found in a gym, using your own body weight or doing resistance exercises at home are also good options for strength training and building muscle.

Throughout our senior living communities in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, our skilled nursing and rehabilitation services care for the whole person, not just their condition. Our physical, occupational, and speech therapists use a combination of customized treatment plans, hands-on care, and state-of-the-art equipment to help residents in our communities achieve optimal health and wellness.

We offer rehabilitative services and skilled nursing at the following senior communities near you:

If you would like to learn more about our services and communities, please visit our website or contact a member of the Franciscan Ministries team.