A report presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine in February 2008 suggests that your level of physical fitness can have dramatic effects on pain, both immediately and over the long-term.
A lack of physical fitness often goes hand-in-hand with chronic pain, because when you hurt, you may exercise less. This vicious cycle can also result in weight gain. The study’s investigator, Dr. Burleson from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, studied chronic pain patients over a three-week period focusing on brief 10-minute aerobic exercise sessions (adding up to only five hours per week), and how this protocol affected mood, pain, and perceived exertion. The patients reported immediate effects on all three factors, which is surprising since the program was so brief.
There were also improvements in heart function after the end of three weeks, as well as improvements in depression and anxiety scores. This suggests that including exercise as part of one’s lifestyle could reduce their risk of premature death.
The research also implies that exercise may be a helpful non-drug alternative to some types of medications for treating both pain and depression. (Note: It’s important to always consult your medical doctor before discontinuing any prescription medication.)
Your doctor of chiropractic can work closely with you to implement a safe and effective exercise program. It’s important to implement a new exercise program gradually to reduce the risk of injuries. You may also need help with weight-loss, which is best done before starting rigorous exercise. Excess weight can make the risk of injury greater, which will ultimately curtail any fitness program.
You generally cannot lose weight with exercise alone. Your doctor may order tests to identify and address any important nutrients lacking in your diet. Adequate rest is also needed so that you have time to recover and rebuild after a round of exercise. Moderate and modest exercise levels are key to sustaining a program over the long run.