Ways to manage pain with movement

Medication may be what many of us turn to in order to manage pain, or the likes of gels for relieving back pain in particular. However, do you know that movement and exercise can offer a huge helping hand too? Here, we outline how important mobility is to the body in relation to pain relief and the things you can be doing to get yourself more active…

Understanding how movement helps manage pain

As discussed by painHEALTH, a website developed through the Department of Health in Western Australia in a collaboration with Curtin University, the University of Western Australia and the Musculoskeletal Health Network, pain can be relieved through movement in a variety of ways. Not only that, it can improve function for musculoskeletal pain sufferers too. Improving function in this way has been found to reduce disability, lower feelings of depression and improve someone’s physical condition and quality of life. When it comes to a person’s wellbeing, exercise can help regulate sleep patterns and reduce stress levels. It’s clear to see that movement is not only about losing weight or keeping fit — it’s also crucial for a range of other things.

Three ways to move more

Obviously, you don’t want to make a pain feel any worse, either on a chronic scale or temporarily. The following types of exercise are low impact and can work towards building up your strength and managing your pain.

1. Yoga

If the results of various pieces of research are anything to go on, yoga can certainly help when you’re suffering from back pain. One study reported on by Everyday Health, for example, discovered significant differences between the brains of those who experienced chronic pain and the brains of those who regularly practised yoga. Researchers found that the sufferers of chronic pain had less of the kind of brain tissue in the regions that help us tolerate pain. On the other hand, those who did yoga had more of this brain tissue.

People who are suffering from severe pain may not find yoga very beneficial, but it can help those with long-lasting aches or occasional soreness. This is through practising certain postures that lengthen the spine, improve alignment, and stretch and strengthen the muscles.

Suffering from back pain? Stretching in the right way can release built-up tension and eliminate some of this pain. If you want to use yoga for this sort of relief, gentle yoga is what you should focus on, as more strenuous styles could cause damage. Always ask what sort of class it is before you sign up.

Some poses are better than others for stretching muscles though, and the same can be said for strengthening muscles. This has been discussed by The ‘extended child’s pose’, for example, lengthens the sides of the body whilst providing traction on the spine. And, the ‘cobra’ is all about stretching and strengthening the spine.

There’s other health benefits from practicing yoga too. These include lowered heart rate and blood pressure and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Pilates

Pilates is similar to yoga in that they both have a focus on controlling your breathing, involve gentle exercise and aim to strengthen your body. But, yoga is more about poses that emphasise relaxation and meditation, and Pilates is usually performed as a flow of movement rather than static exercises.

According to the NHS, Pilates are low-impact exercises either performed through the use of special equipment or on a mat. Specialised apparatus can help resistance if you want to build muscle. Alternatively, the apparatus can be used to support someone with back pain to allow them to do certain movements. The performed exercises focus on improving your flexibility, strength and body awareness by working with your abdominal core muscles.

As reported on by Health Central, back pain can be relieved by practicing exercises involved in Pilates. Practitioners of the form also say that the exercise improves posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility. In addition to this, it works with your body to relieve stress and tension.

Even when you’re at work, you can carry out Pilates exercises at your desk. You can find examples of these online, they’re all about controlled breathing and strengthening different muscle groups.

3. Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is another technique for relieving pain through movement. This involves the use of water to help with exercises and strength building.

Exercises identified by Spine-health when it comes to hydrotherapy include easy routines performed in shallow water, as well as more advanced routines where high-tech equipment like underwater treadmills are used. The presence of the water counteracts gravity and helps support the person’s weight, making them feel lighter and able to move more freely. When it comes to those who suffer from back pain, the water is able to minimise the axial load (weight on the spine) and allow them to do exercises that they may not be able to do on land. The viscosity in water also creates a resistance which allows people to do muscle strengthening exercises without a risk of further injury through loss of balance — something that they may not have been able to do on land, either.

So many people who suffer from pain can find water therapy a huge help. In particular, individuals with the following conditions are referred for hydrotherapy: osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis and those with muscle strain or tears. Each person’s water therapy programme is different, some pain sufferers do solely water therapy exercises and others use a combination of land-based and water-based exercises to manage their pain or rehabilitate.

These are just three types of gentle exercises that you can do to help manage pain through movement mind. Speak to your GP about which exercises will be best for your pain management needs and keep active to improve your overall wellbeing.