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Natural Pain Management: Exercise & Chronic Pain
When you find yourself living with pain every minute of every hour of every day, just getting up in the morning can seem like too much to ask. When you find it hard to remember the last time you weren't in pain, it's not unusual for fear and depression to take hold and drag you into a downward spiral that makes the pain even worse. Even on good days, exercising can still be the last thing you feel like doing.
There's evidence, however, that exercise may be one of the best things you can do to help manage chronic pain. A recent study by Martin Hoffman found that moderate exercise reduced the amount of pain people suffering from chronic back-ache perceived they felt. Other anecdotal studies and reports have confirmed that sometimes, activity can work wonders.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EXERCISE & PAIN RELIEF
Experts have suggested four possible reasons for the pain-reducing effect of activity. The first has to do with endorphins. These are chemicals your body produces naturally during exercise, which have the same kind of effect as opiates like morphine and codeine. Endorphins actually block the perception of pain, and create a general feeling of wellness, both of which are invaluable to someone with chronic pain.
Finally, if the chronic pain occurs after an injury, targeted exercise can strengthen the muscles around the injury site, taking pressure off the injured tissue. Of course, the wrong kind of exercise can actually re-injure the area too, so it's important to get professional guidance from a physiotherapist, or a personal trainer who specialises in rehabilitation work, rather than trying to go it alone.
USING EXERCISE TO HELP YOU MANAGE PAIN
An important disclaimer: this article is written assuming that, if you're experiencing chronic pain, you're already working with a healthcare professional to manage it (and if not, you need to be!) Check any suggestions you want to try with that professional, and follow their recommendations. Also, if an activity increases your pain levels, don't do it.
Finally, be aware that exercise will be most helpful for pain management if it's one out of many tools you use. Medication, diet, visualisation, relaxation, acupuncture and biofeedback have all been shown to have positive effects on pain individually - but the best effects seem to come from taking a multi-disciplinary approach. Take time to research the different therapies available to you. There are a number of excellent pain management sites online - two of the more popular ones include The Chronic Pain Haven or The Mayo Clinic.
Chronic pain will never be fun to live with, but there are options available that make it more manageable. Give yourself the gift of being willing to try out different options until you find the combination that's right for you, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Meanwhile, until the next issue, may every day bring you closer to your Optimum Life.
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