How can exercise help reduce chronic pain?

Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine
When you engage in a comprehensive fitness program, consisting of cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise, stretching (flexibility), and resistance (strengthening) exercise, you will improve your fitness and most likely reduce your pain. Aside from the proven cardiovascular benefits of exercise, check out the following ways exercise may benefit women with chronic pain: improved sleep quality, weight control, prevention of bone loss, increased energy level, countered anxiety and depression, increased muscle strength, relief for stress and tension, improved body posture, maintenance of range-of-motion in your joints, and decrease tension. Exercising regularly can help women with chronic pain actually decrease pain as they unwind, de-stress, lose weight, increase range of motion or the normal amount your joints can be moved in certain directions, and build muscle and bone strength. For women who suffer with tension headaches, exercise can help to reduce muscle tension and boost endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers. Perhaps one of the immediate benefits of exercise is the psychological boost you get with a decrease in anxiety and tension, an improvement of mood and well-being, and a general state of relaxation.

Regular workouts can boost the production of feel-good endorphins, including dopamine, and reduce chronic pain. Plus, they can prevent your muscles from weakening, your joints from stiffening, and extra pounds from taking up residence on your hips, thighs, and midsection -- a good thing considering that this can worsen chronic pain. Just check with your doc or physical therapist if you're new to exercise or thinking of increasing the type or amount.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.