Believe It or Not: Exercise is Crucial for Pain Relief

woman exercising
Shutterstock

When you’re in pain and it hurts to move or be active, it might seem contrary or perhaps even downright crazy to say that exercise will help relieve your pain – but according to doctors, scientists and researchers – exercise can absolutely help.

Studies have shown that regular exercise can alter the way in which a person experiences pain.

How exercise reduces pain

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined how the body reacts to and deals with pain during exercise.

During exercise, the body stimulated by aching muscles, releases endorphins, natural opiates and other substances that can slightly dull the body’s reaction to pain.

The effect is known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia. The term hypoalgesia refers to a decreased sensitivity in response to painful stimuli, where the path between the receptors and the brain’s recognition of the pain is interrupted or decreased. This effect typically begins during the workout and may persist for 20-30 minutes afterward.

Exercise can ease pain and increase mobility

Experts say that exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. While it may be difficult at first to get moving, moving joints helps to actually reduce joint pain, while improving strength and flexibility.

Doctors say that exercise alone can eliminate many types of both lower and upper back pain without the need for medications or other treatments.

It’s important to strengthen the muscles around your joint, as well as, maintain your bone density and strength.

Oppositely, without exercise, your joints may become increasingly stiff and more painful. The more the muscles that support your joints weaken, the more stress your joints will absorb, aggravating your joint pain.

Three important types of exercise to engage in

1. Range-of-motion exercises:

These types of exercises focus on keeping your joints mobile, moving through their full range of motion. These would include raising your arms, bending your elbows, moving your head, rolling your shoulders, raising and bending your knees, moving your legs forward-back and to the side, rotating your ankles, flexing your thumbs-fingers and toes, flexing and rotating your wrist, bending at your waist, and other movements.

2. Strengthening exercises:

These exercises are intended to help you build muscle or maintain muscle strength. These may include lifting weights, using exercise bands or using body weight resistance. This also may include water-based exercise.

3. Aerobic exercise:

Aerobic exercises are intended to help improve your respiratory and cardiovascular health. They may include exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming or using an elliptical machine. Adults need 150 minutes of moderately intensive aerobic exercise per week, and seniors need up to 300 minutes.