Chronic pain puts us off working out – but we know that exercise makes us feel better. Numerous studies confirm exercise can reduce chronic pain symptoms and improve physical function at injury sites.
But when you’re tired, sore, and moving hurts, working out doesn’t seem like a good idea. It’s a tough Catch-22: your pain stops you wanting to work out, and if you don’t work out your pain gets worse.
The best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle in spite of your pain is to learn how to adapt your workouts. You’ll get the benefits of regular exercise – and your pain could even reduce as a result. It’s a great pain relief alternative to addictive painkillers, too.
Try these tips to adapt your workouts and exercise routine to improve your physical fitness without suffering from more pain in the process.
1. Exercise Little and Often
When you’re having a good day, it’s tempting to go all-out on your workout. However, this could set you back with additional fatigue or further injury.
Instead, plan to exercise little and often throughout the week. You don’t need to take an hour-long gym session every day. Instead, look at building activity into your day to build up to longer workouts.
For example, if you can, walk a few blocks to the next subway station. Or, while you’re watching your favorite show in the evening, practice some yoga stretches in the advert breaks. A few minutes here and there quickly adds up.
2. Take a Supervised Class
When you’re ready to approach a longer workout, take a class. Talk to the instructor before the class starts and tell them about your chronic pain or injury. They’ll keep an eye on you and make sure to suggest alternative ways to carry out exercises safely.
A class also adds a social element that can lift your mood. Feeling happier is related to reducing chronic pain symptoms. So, even if you’re at the back of the class making the most of the Child’s pose while everyone else is in Downward Dog, just being in a group setting and chatting with others after class can help you enjoy your workout and reduce your pain.
3. Plan (and Take) Rest Days
As you build exercise back into your regular routine, it’s easy to get carried away and want to work out every day.
This won’t give your body time to heal. Worse, you might experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) the second day after a big workout. If you don’t plan rest days, this could set you back in your pain management and recovery process.
If you absolutely must exercise every day, choose a gentle activity on your rest days. Perform some yoga poses, take a Pilates class, or swim a few (slow) laps. Even if you feel good on your planned rest day, take the day off –your body will thank you for it!
4. Find a Buddy
It’s much easier to exercise with chronic pain if you’ve got someone cheering you on. Find an exercise buddy who’ll be stubborn enough to encourage you out to that class or walk you’ve arranged to do together.
They need to understand your pain, too. So, as well as being stubborn and insistent, make sure they also realize when you need to stop!
5. Ask a Professional for Alternative Exercises
If you’ve fallen in love with a sporting activity or gym workout that your chronic pain just won’t let you enjoy anymore, seek an appointment with a professional coach.
Find a specialist trainer in your chosen sport or activity. Book a one-to-one session with them and pick their brains about adapting exercises. They’ll show you how to get the most out of the workout you love – without causing more pain.
6. Use Support Aids
If you have to strap up your knee, back, wrist, elbow, or hand to cope – do it. Regularly using support aids can stop your muscles from gaining strength and flexibility: but if you need them to get back into working out, use them.
Elasticated support bands, knee braces, or similar support aids can help you adapt your workout without changing everything about your routine. They provide extra support to lax joints or muscular injuries, preventing you from injuring yourself further.
Finally: Create a Post-Workout Routine
One of the most important things about managing chronic pain is to treat your post-workout routine as seriously as your workout.
Regular massages will help increase blood flow and prevent knots in the muscles (which can lead to more pain). You may also find having a bath with Epsom salts can help relieve sore muscles.
If your pain is stopping you from working out regularly, try BioWave Go. It’s a medication-free solution that uses electrical impulses to block pain signals for up to 24 hours after just one session. You can use it at home, at work under your clothes, and even as you’re traveling to or from your next workout