When we are in pain, sometimes exercise is the last thing we want to do. However, exercise and movement are fundamental aspects of pain management. Exercise can help reduce pain perception. Even 20 minutes of moderate activity can decrease pain for around 20-30 minutes post-exercise. Regular activity increases tolerance and aids re-entering sport/activity previously ceased due to pain levels.
Exercise has been proven to improve post surgery recovery, or any recovery for that matter, reduce side effects for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, and some neurological conditions.
As exercise can improve function, wellbeing and pain levels.
The psychological impact of pain
Although when pain is something that is long term it also has a psychological impact. This is because certain movements or activity may result in flare ups of certain conditions.
This, creates anxiety for activity as well as reducing self confidence for the movement. Leading to avoidance of exercise, which can result in stiff joints and muscles.
However it is not all negative from here, as long as you are seeing a trained professional (exercise physiologist) you can have a positive effect on the pain system.
This is caused from an increased tolerance to exercise, resulting in a pain sensitisation reduction. The body releases catecholamines which act as an anti-inflammatory response, therefore targeting areas of inflammation to reduce the pressure.
Can exercise change your body’s physiology?
Some of the main benefits of exercise in regards to pain include:
- Improved muscle strength
- Improved endurance
- Improved mobility
- Increase flexibility
- Lubricated joints
These are crucial for pain reduction, as well as exercise showing improvements to the cardiovascular, brain/nervous system, immune system and hormonal system. Pain can have a negative effect on these systems such as a weak immune system, reduction in fitness and strength as well as a negative impact on your mood. These are all symptoms that can be reduced and in some cases reversed with exercise.
- Improved sleep – Pain and poor sleep are closely linked. Exercise can improve sleep quality by reducing the fight or flight response. It promotes relaxation and winding down the nervous system.
- Improved immune function – exercise improves circulation of the body and changes the immune system function, through reducing systemic inflammation. As inflammation promotes pain.
- Improving mood – Exercise reduces stress and anxiety by releasing “happy” hormones like dopamine, which reduces pain perception
- Increase pain tolerance – Exercise can decrease pain for around 20-30 minutes post-exercise, even with just 20 minutes of moderate activity. Regular activity increases tolerance and aids re-entering sport/activity previously ceased due to pain levels. Exercise impacts sleep quality by changing the fight or flight response, promoting relaxation.
Exercise effectively reduces pain by bringing about multiple changes in the body, brain, and nervous system. It improves physical and psychological well-being while minimizing harm and side effects associated with pain medications
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