Exercise Science & Physiology
San Jose State University
Whether you have chronic pain or chronic illness or not, you have to consider your starting point when it comes to exercise. You may be a regular exerciser already or perhaps you are looking to begin exercising for the first time in awhile (weeks, months, years). Research has demonstrated chronic pain patients that begin gentle exercise routines experience reduced pain, less depressive symptoms, improved sleep and report lower levels stress. If you are regular exerciser, you may be looking to add new activities to your existing routine. If you are starting an exercise program, it is very important that you choose gentle types of exercise and begin with a duration and intensity that is well below what you know increases your pain over the next day or several days. Many people with chronic pain have not exercised in years and may have NO IDEA what duration or intensity would be too much. No worries! I will give you a map for how to build up very slowly and stay below an intensity that will trigger your pain.
In the world of exercise, there are so many options! It turns out that all of those workouts and classes you have heard about or seen on television fall into one of three categories:
As a person with chronic pain you can benefit from any of these categories, as long as you begin slowly and choose a gentle form of exercise.
For example, the most gentle form of "CARDIO" exercise is walking. For some people, walking is not so gentle, due to the effects of gravity on the body. Another option is water walking or water exercise class or swimming, ideally in a warm pool. Indoor cardio exercise that can be done at home includes dancing to your favorite music, chair dancing if being on your feet hurts, and if you already own home exercise equipment it may be useful.
In the "STRENGTH EXERCISES" category gentle choices include calisthenics; which can be done on the floor, on a wall, or in a chair. Exercises for strengthening that are given to you in physical therapy can be great, especially if your PT is good at teaching them to you. Resistance training, using small weights or stretchy bands are also something you can start with, as long as you begin with low repetitions and light weights or bands.
"FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES" is the category that may be the best to start with if you haven't exercised in awhile. Gentle stretches to relieve muscle tension are a wonderful way to get moving again and can make a huge difference in how well you do your everyday tasks. Physical therapy often provides suitable stretches you can do at home to increase the range of motion you have in your body. Other types of flexibility exercises include Yoga poses, Pilates movements and a technique that is truly wonderful for anyone with chronic pain, "Feldenkrais." The Feldenkrais Method was created by it's namesake, Moshe Feldenkrais. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be available to you. Click here to see the website
5 minute Flexibility Video
10 minute Strengthening Video
Exercise at Home for Chronic Pain