If you live with chronic pain, you might have a nagging suspicion that you have arthritis, fibromyalgia, or something even worse. The truth is that, for most people who suffer from chronic pain, the explanation is neither exciting nor frightening. Instead, it's our sedentary lifestyles—endless sitting, inadequate exercise, and hunched postures—that cause most forms of chronic pain. Of course, when you're already in pain, a run on the treadmill or a session on the bench press might seem impossible, not to mention impossibly painful. You don't have to give up, though. Start with these simple exercises, and watch your pain melt away.
Yoga encourages you to breathe your way into gentle stretches. While an advanced yoga class probably won't be on your agenda any time soon, gentle yoga can work wonders for chronic pain. Steer clear of positions that place a lot of pressure on your knees and back, and if anything hurts, skip it.
You really can walk your way to fitness. Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise, which means it can help you steadily shed fat. And as long as you maintain an upright posture, steer clear of steep inclines, and avoid pushing yourself to the point of pain, walking shouldn't exacerbate your discomfort. Start slow, walking just a block or two, then gradually build to longer distances and a slightly faster walking speed.
3. Swimming and Water Aerobics
If you want an intense workout that will help you burn calories, sculpt healthy muscle tissue and steadily move toward a pain-free existence, swimming is your best bet. The water helps to support your weight, reducing impact even when you get an intense workout. If you're new to exercise, consider taking a class instead. Water aerobics classes range from gentle to high-intensity, so you can customize your routine to meet your fitness level and goals.
Standing alone isn't going to burn calories or end the cycle of chronic pain, but it is an important first step. Dozens of studies highlight the dangers of sitting all day. If you feel pain in your back, neck, and shoulders, or if you struggle with chronic headaches, you can bet that sitting at a computer plays a role in your suffering. Take a two-minute standing break every hour—or more, if you can—and watch the pain slowly dissipate. If you pair standing breaks with a gentle exercise routine, you'll be well on your way to breaking free of pain for good.
5. Range of Motion Exercises
Simply moving a muscle through its range of motion can help eliminate inflammation, muscle knots, and other causes of pain. The key here is to move just to the end of your range of motion. You shouldn't feel a stretch or experience any pain. Start with your feet, rotating in slow and gentle circles, working you way all the way up to your head. If anything hurts, make a note of the pain and try a different maneuver. If you consistently experience pain with a specific motion, talk to your doctor.