Exercise is good for everybody, even people who struggle with pain. Exercise helps build strength, improves balance, contributes to feelings of well-being through the creation of endorphins and is a significant factor in maintaining appropriate body weight.
Researchers in pain management are circling around three exercises that show promise in contributing to a healthy lifestyle: Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi.
All three exercise groups are beneficial because:
- They include slow, controlled movements.
- They don’t involve any sudden movements or jolts, meaning they are low-impact.
- They encourage strengthening core muscles, including the trunk as well as limbs.
- They help patients focus on breathing.
- They often include quiet meditation.
Before you embark on any exercise program, check with your health care team. They will recommend the best practitioners and will also tell you what exercises and positions to avoid, like flexing your back or neck or certain positions that might put too much pressure on hip or knee joints.
Go visit a class or watch a video if you are going to exercise from home. See if the motions look doable to you. Meet with the instructor prior to attending and discuss your exact needs.
During any class or demonstration, follow your doctor’s orders. There is no longer any support for “no pain no gain” exercise regimens. If you are in pain, stop the movement; ask the teacher for some sort of modification or just sit quietly until the group moves on to the next task. On the other hand, do not shy away from a little exertion or a bit of a stretch. It is okay to break a sweat (less likely in Tai Chi, however.)
If you were an exercise lover before your pain episodes, these three exercise types may or may not be a perfect fit for you. For some, Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi feel slow or contemplative. The music is quiet, but not peppy, and the pace can feel cumbersome. But taking a slow route back to health and wellness is a reasonable detour, before making your way fully back into more vigorous cardiovascular workouts or even weight-bearing strength routines, both of which are crucial components to a lifetime of physical fitness.