Chronic pain is a difficult thing to live with, but what we do know is that physical activity can be a vital tool in managing symptoms of chronic pain. While it may be difficult to even think about exercise when you live with chronic pain, learning how to stay active can be a lifestyle change that significantly improves both pain and quality of life. If you want to find a way to stay active while dealing with chronic pain here are a few ways you can start:
The main thing we want to get across is that staying active and exercise doesn’t have to mean doing anything too extreme, in fact, in people with chronic pain we’re encouraging the exact opposite – start slow! You don’t need to be an avid crossfitter to get the benefits of physical activity, take your time and slowly work your way up to whatever level of intensity and duration of activity suits your body and your needs. That may mean starting with a short 15 minute walk at lunch and slowly working your way up to an hour-long walk every evening, or doing short gentle yoga practices (even chair yoga!). Find an activity (or a few) that you love doing and can see yourself maintaining long-term and slowly increase the intensity and/or duration. Ideally, we want to aim for about an hour per day of low to moderate intensity exercise but if you can’t work up to that without a flare-up in symptoms, don’t be discouraged. Do what you can, every little bit helps!
See a physiotherapist
If you live with chronic pain a physiotherapist can be a great practitioner to have on your healthcare team in general, but when you’re looking to stay active they’re a wealth of knowledge on how you can do so safely and within your limits. Book an appointment to talk to the professionals at Tower Physio Therapy or your own physiotherapist about your physical activity goals, they can help you form a plan, recommend exercises, and help keep you on track with symptom management while you adjust.
Like any new habit, there’s going to be an adjustment period and if you live with chronic pain you may experience setbacks or times when you’ve pushed yourself a little too far and have to deal with an increase in symptoms. It’s hard not to get discouraged and give up in those moments but consistency is key. Try to do some form of physical activity each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. 15 minutes goes a long way in helping you make exercise a habit and getting your body used to something new. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to mean yoga, pilates, running or hitting the gym, some days physical activity is just going to mean doing some light cleaning around your house or taking the stairs at work and that’s perfectly okay.
Get a personal trainer
If you struggle to find an exercise that you enjoy, can’t find the motivation to stick to an exercise program or maybe you’re someone that just requires a bit more support, whatever the case may be a personal trainer can be a great investment. Whether you go to a multi-disciplinary clinic like Evergreen Rehab & Wellness where you’re able to have a team of practitioners including a personal trainer under one roof, or you plan to train at your local gym, when you have chronic pain or any other chronic health conditions a personal trainer can be a great tool for helping you stay active within your means. Personal trainers can help motivate you to stick to your goals, help you figure out where to start, modify exercises for your needs, and help you work up to and find your limits safely.
Listen to your body
Most importantly, be kind to yourself and listen to your body. If your body is telling you it needs to rest – take a rest day, if you feel like you can push yourself more one day and do the bare minimum the next? There’s nothing wrong with that. Staying active is about managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life, but it’s also about learning to listen to your body and realizing all the amazing things you can do, even when you’re up against chronic pain!
If you’re inspired to try a new way to stay active to help manage your chronic pain, talk to a healthcare practitioner, they’re your best resource and support for your healthcare needs.