Although resting for short periods can help with pain, too much rest may actually make it worse and put you at greater risk of injury. Research has shown that regular exercise can ease pain long term by improving muscle tone, strength, and flexibility. Exercise may also cause a release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Some exercises are easier for certain chronic pain sufferers to do than others. Try swimming, biking, walking, rowing, and yoga.
Finding the right exercise for YOU is most important. Not every person with low back pain responds to one type of exercise. Not every person with rotatorcuff problems needs to do the same exercise. The “right” exercise is very individual. However, it has to be an exercise you enjoy!
For people suffering from pain, their initial response is to avoid activity and seek rest. And yet exercise therapy is often prescribed as a treatment option to manage pain. There are known benefits of exercise and regular physical activity. CDC lists following as the benefits of physical activity: controls weight, reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease, reduces risk of some cancers, strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health and mood, improves ability to perform daily activities and prevent falls, and increases chances of living longer. Exercises and physical activity not only have benefits in healthy individual but also has proven benefits in people with pain and injuries
Aerobic exercise/endurance training and resistive exercise/strength training are two different types of exercises which can be aquatic or land-based. Pain control is achieved differently with different types of exercises.
Prescribing appropriate intensity and frequency of exercise is important in achieving the desired effects of hypoalgesia and therefore you want to seek out a professional who understands pain and will take the time to evaluate you and who will listen to your concerns and most importantly answers your questions about pain.
An immediate local mechanical hypoaglesic response has been shown to specific exercises of cervical spine in patients having neck pain for at least 3 months. Specific exercises included (1) cranio-cervical flexion with 10 second contraction for 10 repetitions with 10 second hold in between, and (2) cervical flexion endurance exercise of head lift in supine was performed for 3 sets of 10 reps at 12RM with 30 second rest in between sets (each rep lasted for 3 second with 2 second interval between reps).
A systemic review done by Hayden et al, concluded that supervised exercise therapy which consists of stretching and strengthening, and is individually designed improves pain and function in chronic nonspecific back pain.
Martin et al designed an exercise program which has shown to be an effective management for fibromyalgia in short term. Exercise program included aerobic training, flexibility exercises and strength training.
- Thorén P, Floras JS, Hoffmann P, Seals DR. Endorphins and exercise: physiological mechanisms and clinical implications. Medicine & science in sports & exercise. 1990 Aug. 22(4): 417-428
- Koltyn KF, Brellenthin AG, Cook DB, Sehgal N, Hillard C. Mechanisms of exercise-induced hypoalgesia. The Journal of Pain. 2014 Dec 31;15(12):1294-304.
- O’Leary S, Falla D, Hodges PW, Jull G, Vicenzino B. Specific therapeutic exercise of the neck induces immediate local hypoalgesia. The Journal of Pain. 2007 Nov 30;8(11):832-9.