Moving away from pain

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No doubt medication can be a lifeline when it comes to dealing with pain. And moving about might be the last thing on your mind when you’re in pain. But did you know that light exercise and movement can help reduce aches and pains? In this article, we will show you have to move your way to effective pain relief.

Movement as pain relief

From improving function for those suffering from musculoskeletal pain to just general pain reduction, movement can be an ideal solution. Improving function in this way has been found to reduce disability, lower feelings of depression and improve someone’s physical condition and quality of life. When it comes to a person’s wellbeing, exercise can help regulate sleep patterns and reduce stress levels. It’s clear to see that movement is not only about losing weight or keeping fit — it’s also crucial for a range of other things.

Options for you

When you’re in pain, you obviously don’t want to agitate it and make it worse. The following types of exercise are low impact and can work towards building up your strength and managing your pain.

Embrace the waves: hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is many people’s go-to movement therapy for handling pain. This involves the use of water to help with exercises and strength building.

It could be as simple as walking in chest-high water to help with knee joint pain, or using more complex equipment like underwater treadmills. The presence of the water counteracts gravity and helps support the person’s weight, making them feel lighter and able to move more freely. When it comes to those who suffer from back pain, the water is able to minimise the axial load (weight on the spine) and allow them to do exercises that they may not be able to do on land. The viscosity in water also creates a resistance which allows people to do muscle strengthening exercises without a risk of further injury through loss of balance — something that they may not have been able to do on land, either.

Water therapy is beneficial to a wide range of causes of pain. In particular, individuals with the following conditions are referred for hydrotherapy: osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis and those with muscle strain or tears. Each person’s water therapy programme is different, some pain sufferers do solely water therapy exercises, and others use a combination of land-based and water-based exercises to manage their pain or rehabilitate.

Slow and steady: yoga

Yoga has been studied in quite some details when it comes to pain relief, particularly for back pain management. One study, for example, discovered significant differences between the brains of those who experienced chronic pain and the brains of those who regularly practised yoga. Researchers found that the sufferers of chronic pain had less of the kind of brain tissue in the regions that help us tolerate pain. On the other hand, those who did yoga had more of this brain tissue.

For persistent aches or occasional episodes of pain, yoga can be a great fix. This is through practising certain postures that lengthen the spine, improve alignment, and stretch and strengthen the muscles.

Stretching can help to release a build-up of tension and the associated pain it causes in the back. If you want to use yoga for this sort of relief, gentle yoga is what you should focus on, as more strenuous styles could cause damage. Always ask what sort of class it is before you sign up.

Some poses are better than others for pain relief. The ‘extended child’s pose’, for example, lengthens the sides of the body whilst providing traction on the spine. And, the ‘cobra’ is all about stretching and strengthening the spine.

Yoga has a variety of other health benefits too. These include lowered heart rate and blood pressure and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Go with the flow: Pilates

Pilates and yoga do share some similar interests in gentle exercises, body strengthening, and breathing control. But, yoga is more about poses that emphasise relaxation and meditation, and Pilates is usually performed as a flow of movement rather than static exercises.

A low-impact exercise, Pilates can be performed on a simple mat or make use of more complex equipment as desired. Specialised apparatus can help resistance if you want to build muscle. Alternatively, the apparatus can be used to support someone with back pain to allow them to do certain movements. The performed exercises focus on improving your flexibility, strength and body awareness by working with your abdominal core muscles.

The exercise is hailed by supporters as having improved their posture, muscle tone, joint mobility, and balance. In addition to this, it works with your body to relieve stress and tension.

You can even sneak some Pilates exercises in at work, with desk exercises. You can find examples of these online, they’re all about controlled breathing and strengthening different muscle groups.

If none of these appeal to you, there’s plenty of other exercises that are gentle enough to help. Speak to your GP about which exercises will be best for your pain management needs and keep active to improve your overall wellbeing.