1) Start Walking
When we move our bodies, we release endorphin-boosting hormones, such as serotonin, which improves mood and diminishes pain. Meanwhile, exercise increases blood flow to vital organs, muscles, joints and tendons and can further reduce pain. The best all-around exercise that is literally at your feet: walking. In addition to reducing pain, a regular walking routine can add years to your life, help you lose weight, boost your mood, improve sleep, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, and keep your bones and brain healthy! For optimum benefits, Cleveland Clinic docs recommend 10,000 steps a day. Pain conditions eased by exercise: fibromyalgia, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and premenstrual syndrome.
2) Step On Your Mat
Don’t take back pain lying down. Take it to an exercise mat instead. New research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that practicing a regular yoga or stretching routine helped alleviate symptoms in people with chronic lower back pain. It also led to improvement in the ability to perform daily activities. Participants attended weekly 75-minute stretching or yoga classes and were told to practice at home for 20 minutes a day. Researchers expected that the yoga classes would make people feel better than the stretching classes, and they were surprised to find that neither outshined the other. According to the researchers, the stretching class was much more intensive than what people would normally do by themselves at the gym. When they performed this much stretching, the study’s participants began to relax, just as people did in yoga. The findings suggest that intensive stretching routines or yoga can be safe, effective treatments for people with chronic back pain. Be sure to look for classes that are geared toward beginners and taught by instructors who can modify exercises to accommodate physical limitations. Need proper equipment? Shop at our Cleveland Clinic Wellness store for all of your yoga needs.
3) Stay Active
Back pain got you down? Don’t give up — get up. Researchers found that people who were advised to stay active despite their pain recovered more quickly than those who were told to rest. That doesn’t mean you should wince your way through a grueling workout, but you should resume your normal activities. According to the study’s researchers, inactivity combined with pain can turn into long-term disability, depression and even more agony. To help alleviate lower back pain and restore strength and function to prevent further injury, practice gentle mind-body workouts like tai chi or yoga.
4) Keep Moving, Even If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
Think having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) means exercise is off-limits? Think again. People with RA, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints, can improve their quality of life and physical ability by engaging in regular cardiorespiratory conditioning, according to a review in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. The American College of Rheumatology recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, such as walking, dancing or water aerobics, for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
5) Go With the Flow
Too sore to exercise? Try Tai chi, a gentle, flowing form of martial arts that works all the major muscle groups in the body. Sometimes called meditation in motion, this low-impact, mind-body workout is perfect for people with chronic pain or injuries. Tai chi builds strength, balance and flexibility, which can help prevent falls and other accidents. In addition, tai chi can reduce stress levels and help alleviate pain, fatigue and stiffness in people with arthritis. That’s according to the Arthritis Foundation’s most recent and largest study to date on tai chi. Exercise is extremely important for people with arthritis. Lack of physical activity can weaken muscles, which puts extra strain on joints. Sign up for a class in your area, or try a beginner tai chi DVD.
6) Go Hot & Cold
Although staying active can help reduce your pain, sometimes adding heat or ice to your routine can help make that exercise a little easier. If you can’t seem to remember when to use an ice pack and when to reach for the heating pad, remember this: First and foremost, never use heat after exercise, and never use cold beforehand. Ice new injuries within 48 hours to reduce swelling, and use on chronic injuries after working out. Use heat on old injuries to loosen up the muscles and increase circulation to the area.