When you find yourself living with pain, just getting up in the morning can seem impossible at times. Most people with chronic pain become de-conditioned due to a lack of physical activity, which makes perfect sense. If it hurts to move, then why move? Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle. The less activity you do, the less your body becomes capable of doing. Eventually, simple tasks like taking a shower or walking through the grocery store can be tiring and painful. Adding gentle exercise to your daily routine helps you fight this cycle.
Evidence shows that chemicals know as endorphins are produced naturally during exercise, which have the same kind of effect as opiates. Endorphins actually block the perception of pain, and create a general feeling of wellness, both of which are invaluable to someone with chronic pain.
Yoga is another form of exercise that is great for chronic pain. Gentle yoga training increases your strength and flexibility, and introduces deep breathing and meditation techniques that are particularly useful in controlling pain. If you have never done yoga before, look for a beginner’s class to start with. Be sure to tell your instructor about your condition before class begins, so she can modify poses for you as needed.
Don’t belong to a gym? Don’t want to shell out big bucks for a yoga class? Then why not try walking? Walking is a wonderful low-impact exercise you can fit into even the busiest schedule. All you need are comfortable, supportive shoes and a little bit of free time. Start by walking around your block at a comfortable pace, increasing your distance gradually as time goes on. Use your walking time to relax, or listen to your favorite music. Better yet, find a walking buddy and turn exercise into social time.
What's behind the increased tobacco use in patients with chronic pain? Smoking appears to be adopted by smokers as a way to cope with managing pain. Studies have found that smokers increase their cigarette consumption when their pain increases. Put out that cigarette! People with chronic pain smoke more, even though smoking can actually make the pain worse. Researchers also have speculated that chronic pain patients smoke due to the depression or anxiety they are more likely to have as a result of their pain.
Unfortunately, pain management patients who turn to smoking as a way to cope are entering into a vicious cycle. Smoking interferes with pain management in a number of ways. As their chronic pain remains unresolved and perhaps even increases, people may find themselves smoking even more to cope with the pain. Additionally, smokers tend to be less responsive to chronic pain treatments.
Medical experts say smoking can interfere with pain management and chronic pain treatment by:
Causing or exacerbating painful medical conditions. Smoking is incredibly harmful to the body and can lead to diseases known to cause chronic pain. For example, smoking causes chronic back and neck pain by contributing to osteoporosis and the deterioration of spinal discs. Smokers are as much as 2.7 times more likely to experience lower back pain than those who don’t smoke. Smoking also contributes to the joint pain found in conditions like arthritis.
Increasing pain sensitivity and perception. Studies have found that smoking causes people to perceive pain more acutely. Tobacco use appears to have some effect on the nervous system, increasing sensations and perceptions of pain.
Interfering with pain medication. Smokers require more medication to ease their pain, research has found. That goes for standard analgesics like aspirin as well as for narcotic painkillers; it takes larger doses of both to reduce or manage pain in smokers.
Patients who are overweight or obese and suffer from back pain may not be aware that their excess weight is actually contributing to their back pain. While it has not been thoroughly studied exactly how excess weight can cause or contribute to back pain, it is known that people who are overweight often are at greater risk for back pain, joint pain and muscle strain than those who are not obese.