Banishing the Aches: Exercising Away Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, also called persistent pain, is a condition that can disrupt various aspects of your life. Most people will have good days and bad days, but since the pain is persistent, it is something that you have to live with regularly.

So, when you’re dealing with chronic pain, exercise is probably the farthest thing from your mind. But regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage the symptoms of chronic pain.

Join us as we explore how exercising can help you deal with and alleviate chronic pain and the different exercises you can try.

The Science Behind Exercise and Pain Relief

Being physically active can help improve not just your physical health but also your brain and mental health. Exercise helps manage your weight, maintain mobility, and improve your bone and muscle strength while also helping reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

When you’re physically active, you are regularly using and conditioning your bones and muscles. This helps improve your flexibility and coordination as well as reduce chronic pain.

Exercising helps you build strength, minimize fatigue, and decrease the risk of inflammation in your body. Studies have also found that being active and exercising regularly reduces pain sensitivity and increases pain tolerance.

It can help influence your brain’s response to chronic pain or pain. Exercising normalizes the pain signal you experience and triggers the release of your body’s natural analgesics or pain relievers.

Additionally, exercise can overall make you have a better mood. Among chronic pain sufferers, about 85% are depressed or encounter mood swings primarily because they are in pain or always anticipate being in pain. Exercising can help with this.

The Science Behind Exercise and Pain Relief

Popular Types of Exercises for Chronic Pain Management

It’s important to understand that no two exercises will have the same impact on your body. Strength training, cardiovascular workouts, and high-intensity interval training, for example, can work great for some but may lead to someone else experiencing more pain. It’s thus crucial to talk to your doctor and find an exercise that best suits your needs.

Here are some popular and effective exercises for chronic pain management: 

#1. Low-Impact Exercises

If your chronic pain is centralized on your muscles and joints, low-impact exercises could be ideal for you. The activities that fall under this category are less strenuous and put less pressure on your joints while still getting your heart rate up and helping you condition your muscles and bones. 

Take a look at some of the best low-impact exercises you may benefit from:


Yoga is a holistic practice involving the body and the mind to promote overall well-being. It helps you achieve a healthier body and stronger mind through relaxation and breathing. It is one of the milder forms of exercise that helps address chronic pain, like arthritis, migraine headaches, joint pains, and chronic fatigue symptoms.

It’ll be helpful to know precisely which part of your body is subjected to chronic pain because specific yoga poses can help address it. For instance, the downward-facing dog pose and cat and cow poses are great for chronic back pain, while the bound angle and extended triangle poses are ideal for chronic knee pain.


Combining strength training, flexibility, and endurance exercise, Pilates can fortify your core muscles and boost your posture and flexibility. A typical Pilates session lasts an hour, featuring a power-packed workout that can help relax your muscles, boost your mood, and mitigate your pain.

Water Aerobics

A relatively new form of exercise, water aerobics is a refreshing activity performed as a group. It involves routine exercises that you’d typically do on land, like kicks, curls, or leg raises, instead done in a pool. 

When in water, you don’t have to fight against gravity as when exercising on the ground. And thanks to the water’s buoyancy, you have an easier time performing the tasks without your body having to work extra hard. 

Water aerobics helps strengthen your muscles, thus reducing inflammation and tenderness common with chronic pains.


The simplest form of exercise for chronic pain, walking can alleviate discomfort and pain while allowing you to get some fresh air every day. Besides, trying to reach a goal of walking daily can improve your sleep and body circulation, make your bones stronger, and enhance your mood.


#2. Stretching Exercises

Stretching can boost your flexibility and help your joints have a more comprehensive range of motion while stimulating blood flow. Dynamic stretching is essential before any workout regimen as it preps your muscles and lowers the possibility of injury and static stretching is essential after your workout (including after higher intensity household chores, lawn care or gardening) to ensure appropriate blood flow to maintain good muscle health. Stretching also works to help condition your muscles. 

Chronic pain can become worse if your muscles are tight, so help your body by working on its knots and kinks by stretching religiously as well as occasionally using foam rollers or tennis balls to release the knots.

#3. Balance Training

When you have chronic pain, you often find your coordination and balance off. This must be addressed because it may cause you to fall or lead to a serious accident.

Exercises like side lunges and hamstring stretches are easy as you don’t need any equipment. These daily exercises can minimize joint stiffness, reduce inflammation, and decrease any build-up of muscle tension.

Routine Yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong also help improve balance tremendously.

Creating a Personalized Exercise Plan for Maximum Benefits

Exercise is essential for overcoming chronic pain. Now, more than ever, you need to be mobile and physically active to help your bones and muscles battle the discomfort you are subjected to.

But before you jump into exercising, it’s crucial that you know what kind of exercises your body can handle so you don’t push your limits too much and add to your pain and discomfort.

The first order of business is to speak with your physician and have them review your exercise plan to give you the OK. Your doctor may recommend some guidelines based on your gender, age, and the extent of your chronic pain.

These personalized exercise plans may be based on the needed physical activity suggestion of 30 minutes per day for five days a week for adults. This provides you with 150 total minutes of exercise weekly. You can use this as a guideline, but don’t be limited by it.

Remember to consider the following in your customized exercise plan:

  • Identify your other fitness goals (apart from reducing chronic pain)
  • Incorporate your hobbies, errands, and chores in your plan
  • Consider exercising with family and friends to increase your accountability and to give an extra boost to the pain relieving neurotransmitters released with exercise and close interpersonal encounters.
  • Start slow and maintain consistent progress
  • Be creative and make exercises fun and even a social activity
  • Set goals
  • Celebrate wins
  • Always end your regimen with stretching (occasional foam rolling) and moist heat.
Creating a Personalized Exercise Plan for Maximum Benefits

Overcoming Exercise Barriers and Staying Motivated

Drawbacks are inevitable in any situation, even when you’re trying to maximize the health benefits of exercise to help with chronic pain. And when you’re in pain, it’s easy and tempting to make excuses about being in pain, not having the energy, or not feeling motivated. But don’t let these temporary barriers stop you. Exercising with an accountability buddy will help you to follow through and may make the exercising more social and fun as well!

Here are some common excuses and why you should not give in to them:

“I’m busy and don’t have time to exercise today.”

Plan in advance and set aside 30 minutes to 1 hour daily for your exercises. If you can’t stay home, incorporate your workouts into your daily activities, like walking to run other errands instead of taking your car.

“I don’t have the drive to exercise today.”

Create a bucket list of exercises you want to do, write down your goals, and tick them off individually. A visual of what you want to achieve will further motivate you, and seeing one item being crossed after another will make you want to continue moving forward.

“I don’t think my body can do that, and I’m scared of doing that [exercise]?”

Talk to your doctor and get professional advice and a green light to do specific exercises for your peace of mind. You will be surprised by the things you and your body can do. And to ease your worry, you can have a friend to exercise with you to spot and quickly come to your aid if needed.

“I don’t have the extra money for a gym membership.”

You don’t need one. You can exercise at home or in the park, and most exercises intended for people with chronic pain don’t require any equipment.

Embracing a Pain-free Future Through Regular Exercise

When you create your personalized workout plan, ensure you include “having a pain-free future” in your goals. It will motivate you to exercise daily and invest more time and effort in your health. 

Continuously strengthening your muscles and joints will help maximize the positive health benefits of exercising. It’ll help you look forward to not being bothered by chronic pain or discomfort in your body.

This takes a lot of work, motivation, and emotions, but every set of exercises you do will be worth it.



Don’t let pain be your excuse and stop you from achieving your health goals. Know that you can always do something for chronic pain, and one of the most feasible and effective ways to continue living is to incorporate exercise into your routine.

Exercising regularly will help give your body a much-needed boost by strengthening your muscles, improving your flexibility, and enhancing your balance. It’ll not only enhance your overall health and well-being but also allow you to gain some control over your chronic pain.