The most valuable thing I’ve learned from having chronic pain is the power of exercise.
I know this is a tough subject for many people who experience chronic pain and chronic disease but try to stay with me for a bit.
I experience chronic pain daily and have been for years. When it first started, the pain was more intermittent. With every flare up, I would withdrawal from exercise. Then when the pain subsided a little, I would begin my exercise routine again. This cycle went on for almost 2 years until my doctor suggested I might have fibromyalgia. I didn’t know much about fibromyalgia, so I started doing some research and found out more. What I discovered is that I was doing the WRONG kind of exercises. I was treating my new body like my old body.
Although I had one doctor, who I saw once for trigger point therapy, tell me that I shouldn’t do much exercise beyond light walking, I couldn’t accept that. I knew I needed to change the type and intensity of exercise I did. It didn’t make sense for to me to give up exercise. So, I kept researching. It took a lot of trial and error. Some days after a workout, I felt OK and other times it took over a week to recover. I would experience overwhelming fatigue, joint and muscle pain.
Eventually I got to where I’m at now which is pretty good.
Recently I had severe pelvic pain and really struggled to get out of bed but I know now from experience that I will feel better if I try to do something physical, even just gentle yoga/stretches. As expected, after doing 30 mins of yoga/stretching, the pain was reduced to a dull ache. I was then able to go to the gym and use the elliptical for 30 minutes, do a few gentle toning exercises, and enjoy the rest of my day.
From my experience, a little bit of movement goes a long way, and I would encourage anyone who experiences chronic pain to keep moving. We are meant to move.
Here’s what works for me:
30 mins on the elliptical at a moderate pace
Shorter sessions of dance or dance aerobics, which I do at home. No more than 15 minutes of high intensity or 30 minutes of low intensity
I’ll follow either cardio session with stretching/gentle yoga
I can do Hatha or Restorative yoga for up to 1 hour sessions without issues. If it’s power yoga, I can’t do more than 20 minutes or so. I favour Hatha over Power. I do yoga for at least 20 mins daily and it makes a huge difference in the way I feel
4) Trail running
I alternate between walking and running. The length of the trail run depends. Sometimes 6k or 3k. On occasion I’ll do 9k. When I do 9 or 6 I sometimes need a nap later but my body always feels good after getting out in the forest. I trail run once or twice per week on the weekends.
I do pilates at home. I generally avoid classes because I require too many modifications in intensity and duration. I generally do 30 mins (depending on the day).
Ultimately, I listen to and respect what my body is telling me. I will always ease into exercise and monitor myself closely if I’m hurting but I will never avoid exercise altogether. I’ve learned that inactivity has only made my joints feel more stiff, brought my mood down, and increased my fatigue and overall pain.
Here are some links to get you started:
Chronic pain and exercise
5 best workouts for chronic pain