Chronic pain affects millions of Americans every day. Specifically there are 116 million Americans in chronic pain on a daily basis.
Some of these pain sufferers are able to get relief from their pain. Sadly, many of these chronic pain sufferers are not able to relieve their pain. They have not found a medication or treatment that can reduce their pain. There are also many chronic pain sufferers who can take something or do something to reduce their pain a little, but can’t get rid of it.
I cannot imagine how it would feel to be in pain each and every day. Sometimes the pain associated with chronic pain can be unbearable, and sometimes it can be reduced. It depends on how the person heals, how injured the person is, and the history of injuries and abuse to their bodies. I see people each and every day that suffer from chronic pain. Many of these people have run the gauntlet of doctors. Many chronic pain sufferers have seen every type of doctor that is available, and still they can find no answers to what is causing their chronic pain and how to treat it and manage it so that it doesn’t affect their life.
Many chronic pain sufferers start out at their primary care physician and are then sent to an orthopedist. The orthopedist will then send them to physical therapy. If their pain isn’t resolved then, maybe they will be sent to a neurologist and then to a neurosurgeon. Then maybe back to physical therapy. Then maybe they will go to a pain specialist. Then after they have exhausted all of their options, they’ll come to me, or someone like myself, who practices alternative health care.
As a chiropractor who specializes in trigger point therapy, the entire focus of my practice is on musculo-skeletal injuries and pain reduction. I usually see these chronic pain sufferers after they have gone to every type of doctor out there and have gotten no relief. Maybe a few therapies have provided mild, short term relief, but nothing substantial. Usually this experience is accompanied by a doctor or a few doctors telling the chronic pain sufferer that they don’t know what is causing the pain or that they are crazy.
Modern medicine does not have all of the answers. Unfortunately, people realize this when they have had the experience of going to many doctors and not finding a way to treat their pain. I feel that many people think that if they have a health problem or pain, they can go to a doctor and the doctor will give them something or cut something out and then they will be all better. It never works like this. There are always some type of complications. Modern medicine has its limits, just as everything else does.
Modern medicine cannot take back 20 years of abusing your body and not taking care of yourself. It is very tough and very time consuming to fully get rid of pain that has been around for years and caused by years of abusing your body, but exercise makes any health issue easier to treat and easier to manage.
A common issue with chronic pain sufferers is osteo-arthritis (OA). OA forms in joints after years of abusing your body, and usually forms in areas where the person was injured years ago. Any area of previous injury is going to be susceptible to OA formation over time, especially if you are not exercising and taking care of yourself. I find that those who have played high school football, wrestling, cheerleading, gymnastics, or any other high impact sport done when younger will make you more likely to get OA in those overused and previously injured areas. Once you get OA, you cannot get rid of it. OA is basically the degeneration and breakdown of a joint over time, usually over many years.
One of the interesting recent findings concerning chronic pain is that chronic pain can get wired into your system. Chronic pain can far outlast the original injury. I feel the reason why this happens is that when a muscle gets tight from overuse or injury and not exercising or stretching, it will get so tight to the point that it tears. When you pull a muscle or sprain or strain a muscle, it is being torn on a microscopic level. When a muscle is torn, the rest of the muscle will reflexively contract to prevent further tearing. It contracts so hard, though, that it establishes a neurological pathway between the muscle and the spinal cord that perpetuates the muscle spasm. The muscle spasms associated with the sprain will be accompanied by pain, sometimes severe and debilitating, and inflammation.
The muscle can eventually tire itself out and fall out of that pattern, but many times the muscles can stay in these patterns for years and years. Once the muscle falls out of this pathway of spasm and inflammation, the neurological pathways will stay there, thus making it easier for the muscles to fall back into those patterns of spasm and inflammation later on.
If you are in chronic pain, it can be hard to conceptualize that exercise will help ease the pain. The right exercise and stretching routine can also allow you to be more active and to do the things that you want to do. Regular exercise and stretching can manage chronic pain and can prevent it from flaring up and can keep it at a minimum level of intensity.
I feel that there is not a health issue that can’t be helped by the right exercise and stretching routine if done consistently. For chronic pain, exercise is better for you than any medication or anything that any doctor can do for you. It is just a matter of finding the right exercise routine that is easy on your achy joints and that you can do consistently and long term.
Pain Free Lifestyle is set up to be easy to follow and easy to get into. It is easy on your body and helps you to ease your way into exercise at your own pace and at your own level. It is an exercise prescription that I developed for anyone who suffers from chronic pain.
If you suffer from a chronic condition, it is important to see your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. Check with your doctor to make sure that you are in good enough health to start exercising.
If you suffer from heart disease, visit your cardiologist before starting to exercise. Your cardiologist can give you a stress test to make sure that your heart is strong enough for rigorous exercise. It is important to keep in mind that during the first 1 to 2 months of starting a new exercise routine, you don’t want to go hard and stress your heart. If you go too hard during the first few workouts, your body and your heart will not be in shape to handle the rigors of intense exercise and you can hurt yourself. You have to get yourself in shape to start exercising with intensity.
If you do suffer from heart disease, a stress test can tell you if you can handle low intensity cardiovascular exercise. Also, make sure to cool down after exercise. This means take an extra 5 to 10 minutes to slow down. Walk slowly or do some other type of exercise easily and slowly to cool down. This will allow you to reduce your body heat, which can lead to low blood pressure and dizziness. Cooling down can also prevent muscle cramping.
If you suffer from OA or Fibromyalgia, you may feel like you are in too much pain to exercise. The thing is, if you don’t exercise, then your pain will progress and get worse. You cannot get rid of OA or fibromyalgia once you have it, but you certainly can manage the symptoms with gentle exercises and stretches. The trick is not to overdo it. If you overdo exercise, your symptoms and your pain will flare up.
The answer to how much exercise to do if you suffer from chronic pain is the right amount of exercise. It will vary for everyone. And it will change the more you exercise and the better shape you get into. If you start out too easy, and take your time, and slowly increase the intensity and the duration of the exercise, you should be fine. Let pain be your guide. If it hurts then don’t do it. Try to stop before the pain comes on. If you can’t go more than 20 minutes on an elliptical machine without your feet going numb and your back bothering you, then just do 20 minutes. Don’t do more than 20 minutes until you get comfortable with the time and you don’t flare up afterwards.
Chronic pain can be hard to get control of, and can be harder to manage. It is my opinion, based on over 13 years of clinical experience, that most illnesses will respond well to exercise, if done correctly. Using exercise and nutrition to control and manage chronic pain is the Pain Free Way.