We know exercise is so important to build a stronger, more resilient body. But what happens when you have chronic pain issues? How can you even do the exercises to get stronger when you are already in pain?
#1 First of all, you need to always be working with a doctor for something like this. Because chronic pain can come from a lot of different issues. But, if your doctor has told you that working out is something you need to start doing, then let’s look at how you can get started.
#2 You may have to get through some tough times. If you are already in chronic pain, like if you are dealing with fibromyalgia, then you are unfortunately going to be hurting while you workout. The good news is that studies have shown that when you workout and get stronger, the fibromyalgia pain eventually lessens. You just have to get through the initial phase of getting stronger. If your chronic pain is from an injury, like your back or knees then you have to watch that. When the pain starts you probably want to stop the exercise you are doing and move onto a different one. You may also want to work with a physical therapist since they can be there watching you, They can also tell you what acceptable levels of pain are and when to tell you to stop. If you are going at this on your own, use good judgment. When you are dealing with chronic pain or injuries, it is better to under do than to overdo it.
#3 Check your ego at the door. Anytime anyone is working out, they should check their ego at the door. But if you are coming back from an injury, dealing with an illness, or chronic pain, this goes doubly so for you. If you let your ego get in the way, you will get hurt. You need to listen to your body and know when to stop or else you could do further damage.
#4 Start with basic exercises that are easy to perform. Bicep curls, shoulder raises, squats, wall pushups, superman’s, etc. You want to start with these basics rather than complex movements. This is because they are easier for you to focus on and control. When you have isolated movements, the ones that only work one specific area at a time, like bicep curl or shoulder press, you can alter what you are doing depending on how your body is feeling. If you’re having lower body pain, no problem – you just work upper body and vice versa. If you have no specific injuries and feel like you can do more complex moves that is fine, but listen to your body and only do as much as you can do comfortably.
#5 Do a shorter range of motion. When you are dealing with pain, only do the range of motion that is comfortable. If you can only go down a couple of inches into a squat that is fine. Your range of motion will naturally increase as you become stronger and more flexible. In fact, when you are dealing with certain limitations in movements, you can even do exercises where you are doing squeezing of specific muscles with no range of movement at all. I know it sounds like you would not be doing much; but, believe it or not, you can still get in a good workout this way. If you do start with the squeezing style of workout, you still want to work up to doing a good range of motion since this is what is going to mimic more of your daily activities. That is the point of all of this: to help you have less pain in your normal day. But you start where ever you have to. As long as you can start.
#6 Use lighter weights. When you are just getting going on a routine. Go with light weights. It may not feel like much, but you will know the next day whether you were lifting enough. If you feel fine the next day, then on your next workout day you can raise the amount you are lifting.
#7 Give yourself a day of rest in between. Many people will workout every day, but when you are working with chronic pain give yourself a day off. If you really feel the need to do something then go on a walk.
#8 Do what you can when you can. There may be days that you can barely get in 10 minutes of a workout that is fine. Do what you can! It is more important that you do something verses getting a full hour in. Many times when people are having this kind of pain and starting to workout, they can get between 10-30 minutes of a workout in, and that is great!
#9 Be gentle with yourself. I know this all seems so mellow, but if you are smart about this and give your body the time it needs to get back into the swing of things you will be able to workout much harder in the future, but without all the detriments to your health. Best of all, you will do it while getting your pain levels under control.
This can be a difficult thing to deal with but you can get through this. You just have to put in the effort, be smart, patient, and listen to your body. Do not rush this, it is a process and takes time.