The longer you cope with chronic pain, the more it starts to feel like the pain will never go away. Once you start to accept a particular pain as a part of your life, it becomes more and more difficult to look at the pain as something that you can handle and treat. Instead, many people begin to turn to ways to mask the pain, which often includes the use of pain medication, but this is not always an effective strategy, and the long-term use of pain meds can lead to significant problems on its own.
How to Overcome Chronic Pain with Physical Therapy
When pain hits, the desire to move more starts to go away. To help your body heal you need to let it rest. However, in the case of chronic pain this isn’t always the case. Chronic pain won’t go away with a bit of rest. Rather than spending more time off of your feet, getting a bit more active could be what you need to help finally experience relief from your discomfort.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard the pain and start pushing through it on your own with intense activity. Working with a physical therapist can help you to reduce the experience of pain and discomfort with targeted activities that are safe, so it won’t leave you feeling worse after your done.
Being active daily can help to reduce the experience of chronic pain by:
- Improve heart health
- Supporting weight loss
- Increasing range of motion
- Supporting healthy muscle development
Strategies to Become More Active
The longer you’ve dealt with chronic pain, the more accustomed you start to become with avoiding activity. This is unfortunate, however, because engaging in regular activity—especially when supervised by a physical therapist—can help you to begin to overcome the daily experience of pain and discomfort. Finding ways to gradually become more active can help you to feel better.
As you are getting started with becoming more active, baby steps are key. Attempting to go from doing nothing to running a marathon isn’t the right plan. You need to take small steps that can help you to build a more active lifestyle. The smaller these steps, the more sustainable your new active lifestyle habits will become. The key is to find ways to integrate activity into your life in a way that is so natural that you won’t even notice how much time you are spending being active. This goes far beyond making a trip to the gym for 30 minutes to an hour every day—though that is a great way to support an active lifestyle, as well.
Here are seven strategies that can help you become more active every day:
- Make a habit of taking as many steps as possible when doing basic tasks around the house. This may mean something as simple as taking the dog for a walk a few times a day rather than just letting him out in the yard to run around, or deciding to go for a walk to the mailbox rather than stopping at the end of the driveway on your way home.
- Try to incorporate activity into family time. Instead of spending an evening together on the couch, think about ways that you can become more active together by going for a walk together or spending time throwing a ball together outdoors. This is a great way to become a bit more active while encouraging healthier habits across your household.
- Start fitting in short workouts throughout the day. If you don’t think you have time to fit in a full workout in the morning or evening, then try fitting in little bits of a workout in pieces throughout the day. Do 10 minutes of stretching in the morning followed by a few basic cardio moves, and then engage in that process again on your lunch break—just for another 10 minutes. Before bed you can start to do some more light stretching, and by the end of the day you’d have fit in 30 minutes of dedicated exercise time. This together with increased mobility throughout the day can make a huge difference in your activity level.
- If you’re talking, start walking. This is especially a great strategy if you are in the office on the phone a lot. Don’t sit in your seat and talk on the phone. Get up and pace back and forth to get a bunch of steps in as you get the job done.
- Treat TV time as active time. Just like at work, when you are at home engaging in sedentary activity like watching TV, try to get more active. You don’t need to skip your favorite TV shows to fit in time to exercise. Try working out as you are watching TV. If you can make it to a gym you can even start to watch TV while on the treadmill.
- When possible, walk—don’t drive. This isn’t always possible depending on where you live and work, but if there is an errand you can run by foot instead of in the car, give it a try. Another way to make this possible is to figure out what errands you can run by parking your car in one location. See if you can go into multiple stores in a parking lot without having to change parking spaces.
- Skip the elevator. Wherever you are, wherever you are going, take the stairs. The elevator is convenient, but stairs are a great form of exercise and so incorporating these into your daily activity can really help you on your journey to becoming more active.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, starting small by increasing your activity level naturally is the best place to start. For guidance on what kind of exercise is best for you, and how to treat chronic pain while becoming more active, contact us. Call our office today to see how physical therapy can help you live a pain-free life.