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Exercise & Pain

For some people, exercise is pain. It’s a pain to do, it’s painful to do, and it’s usually the last thing they ever want to do. Why then, is it so often recommended when it comes to healing?

Well, here is the sneaky little secret about exercise; it is one of the best ways to combat chronic pain.

In their article published by the International Council of Active Aging, Kim Dupree Jones, PhD and Janice Holt Hoffman say that exercise is the “treatment most closely linked to improved functional ability and quality of life.” Functional ability refers to the mundane tasks of dressing, eating, bathing or preparing a meal. Been there, done that. It was no fun having to be helped to do those mundane tasks.

My friend’s mother, Joyce, just turned seventy. She’d been feeling out of sorts, achy, not herself. She went to her doctor and was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed her as having fibromyalgia, defined as, “a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues”, (The National Center for Biotechnology Information). Not only is it the most common chronic pain syndrome it also affects mostly women.

There were two things that were recommended to Joyce as part of her treatment program. The first was to see a psychologist to help her sort through some unresolved emotional issues. The second was to start exercising! Since she was already a regular walker it meant taking it up a notch. She is now going to the gym and lifting weights.

But more on Joyce in a moment.

The famous Johns Hopkins Medical Center takes the notion of exercising to manage pain even further. In its pain management rehabilitation program, the active participation of patients and their families is a basic requirement! Exercise is used “to reduce spasticity, joint contractures, joint inflammations, spinal alignment problems, or muscle atrophy (weakening and shrinking) to prevent further problems.”

Message received and understood: Exercise is important.

Back to Joyce.

Joyce is having problems getting over the mental aspect of exercising regularly. She thought walking would be enough and now she has to add the gym. So what can you, or someone like Joyce do, when your pain management depends on your “active participation” as Johns Hopkins says, and you just can’t bring yourself to get motivated?

I would like to suggest three ways to turn exercise on its head so that you want to actively participate and in the process reduce pain.

Reshape the experience. Others might call it exercise but you could call it movement, or dance, or your time alone. Already that sounds like more fun, and that will keep you coming back.

Share the experience. If you’re not into having any more alone time who can you find to join you in this movement? Maybe it could become your group therapy they way I used to have girls night out! Tell them why you need them to be a part of this experience. Trust me, they will be there to help you through it, and you will have a great time along the way.

Love the experience. You are not doing this movement, this exercise, for a svelte body. You are looking for healing, improvements in how you function on a daily basis, and a better quality of life. As you learn to love the movement and you decrease the pain you’re in, well, what’s not to love?

Let me know if this works for you. Or do you have any other suggestions? Leave a message on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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