Treat Pain, Even from Excess Weight, with Exercise

The HealthGal Health Guide September 03, 2012
  • If you search online for the phrase exercise and pain, you will find endless links to a variety of well-researched, evidence-based studies on the impact of exercise on pain.  Exercise can improve and also prevent back pain.  Exercise can improve musculoskeletal pain in older patients.  Exercise can reduce the risk of and improve the profile of arthritic pain.  Exercise appears to help with the pain symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.  Studies are now looking at the benefits of exercise on pain associated with certain cancers.  Exercise may improve chronic pain induced by activities of daily life.  And remember that when we use the term exercise, it can cover aerobic, weight training, low impact aerobic, yoga, Pilates, and a variety of other modalities.  In fact, pool aerobics was specifically created to address the needs of morbidly obese people and individuals who could not tolerate the initial pain associated with more traditional forms of exercise on land.  Someone who is overweight and suffering with horrible knee or back pain, may need to start with a water-based exercise program, and progress slowly to more challenging land-based workouts. 

     

    People who are overweight typically refrain from exercise because they fear more pain and they especially fear an injury.  It’s a reasonable fear, but not reasonable enough to justify not exercising.  Should an injury occur, you can turn to rehabilitation and physical therapy which will involve specific exercises to improve and strengthen the injured body part.  Runners who experience knee pain often engage in hip strengthening exercises.  Suffer from tennis elbow because of overuse of that joint and after initial rest and local treatment, you will be given range-of-motion exercises to strengthen the area.  So even when exercise is the cause of sudden, acute pain or even chronic pain due to an injury, exercise is often the solution as well.  Experts say that doctors don’t recommend exercise enough during encounters with patients, especially overweight patients.  That’s not surprising, since office visits tend to be focused on a specific complaint and time constraints force the doctor to be very specific and to point.  Doctors may not be willing to initiate a discussion about exercise, even when an overweight patient is compaining about pain.  But according to many studies, exercise “does pain good,” and it is crucial to helping someone lose weight and build muscle mass.

     

    Exercise also boosts certain brain endorphins, helping to blunt pain because of the mood-altering impact. Exercise can reduce the risk of developing an injury by keeping you limber.  Exercise can also help to strengthen joints so that a sudden movement is less likely to cause an injury and pain, especially if you are obese or significantly overweight.  The most important piece of information that overweight people need to realize is that excess weight bearing down on lower body joints causes pain.  Excess weight can also contribute to a diagnosis of diabetes type 2, which is associated with complaints of acute and chronic pain, especially nerve pain.  But being overweight or obese can prove to be a deal breaker when it comes to exercise.  Maybe you feel embarrassed going to a gym and looking large or inexperienced.  Maybe you fear the initial discomfort that comes with exercise.  Maybe you feel that you are so overweight that exercising is simply not possible.  The truth is that by not exercising you are compounding your pain issues, because extra pounds directly contribute to joint pain and other conditions that have pain as a significant symptom.  To choose not to move will invariably make your pain worse, physically and emotionally. 

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    So take a first step to better health and less pain.  You can begin in your home with a fitness DVD or an online exercise program, engage the help of a personal trainer or begin a walking program.  You can also ask your doctor for an exercise prescription.  Yes it may make your pain a bit more amplified initially, but over time it will more than likely reduce or even banish your pain issues and your weight issues.