Chronic Pain and Exercise.
Updated: Sep 3
What is Pain? Pain is a difficult topic to discuss as it is perceived by each individual differently. You will speak to many different members of the community, each will have their own explanation from previous experiences causing pain. As an Accredited Exercise Physiology (AEP), my explanation is as follows: “Pain is an event perceived by our brain, each individual will experience pain differently. The brain uses past experiences, external sources and images to let the body know something is happening. Pain is not a bad experience; it is used to reduce the onset of injury and prevent further damage to occur. We can use pain to slowly and purposefully improve conditions and enable your ability to handle reoccurring pain symptoms in the future.
Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions including bones, muscles and connective tissues affect around 7 million Australians each year (approx. 1/3 of the population). This is one of the leading causes of pain and burden of disease, followed closely in second is back pain and associated issues. As mentioned 1/3 of Individuals are likely to experience MSK pain although over 80% of the population will experience an episode of lower back pain within their lifetime.
How can exercise help: What is exercise? Exercise doesn’t mean you have to be in a gym! Or be a part of the growing group fitness studios or work till you feel like dying. Exercise is viewed in many forms depending on the individual. Exercise is any form of movement that involves repetitive movements increasing cardiovascular function, strength and flexibility. In association with pain, exercise is used to help with the following:
· Increase Muscle strength and Endurance
· Improve Joint integrity
· Exercised induced hypoalgesia (Decreased sensitivity to painful stimuli)
· Reduced risk of chronic disease and injury
How does this occur: The human body can do some extraordinary things! Through exercise chemicals such as endorphins (feel good) and Adrenaline (rush, excitement) are released by the brain to help increase muscle activation as well as increased wellness. In relation to pain when exercising, the body’s response is to assume that pain is decreasing and carefully instruct itself to remember that this type of activity will not be harmful in the future. With correct movement, limiting pain can be achieved to reduce the ‘danger’ signals from the brain to encourage us to perform such tasks again. Under guidance of an AEP, we are able to slowly and progressively increase these tasks to increase function with minimal pain resulting in not only an improved quality of life but returning to normality.
In designing programs and having individuals
return to exercise post injury or trauma, AEP’s
use the biopsychosocial model to identify all
risk factors that may be a barrier. Categories include: Biological- Pathology (specific injury),
structural changes in the brain and
nervous system. Psychological: Fear of movement, emotions (depression/anxiety), memories
Social: Work, education, socioeconomic status
There are many factors including the ones mentioned above in each category. It’s important to assess each individuals source of pain as they present, re-enforcing an individual’s own interpretation of pain will be different to the next with a similar history. A structured return to quality of life from an AEP might not be exercise driven yet implementing movement patterns and activities to increase regular and progressive adaptations to specific tasks allowing individuals to return to their best, pain free.
Most research within the past 10 years has shown a direct relationship with exercise and reduction of acute and chronic pain. Studies have tracked participation in regular exercises groups and noted that progressively, pain has continued decreased with the number of exercise sessions completed regularly.
In 2021 SCREP will be offering group classes designed to allow individuals with chronic pain and injury under direct supervision of our Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist. These classes will be provided after an initial consultation and implementation of an individual program to be completed in our own rehab facility and gyms. This program is designed to increase participation, reduce symptoms of pain and disease, improve quality of life and provided at a minimal price. Any enquires please contact our clinic today and speak to our wonderful reception staff.