At Home Exercises for Chronic Pain

 

Physical activity is still considered the cornerstone for managing chronic pain effectively.  Physical activity has many health benefits including its effects on the development of pain; as a clinical treatment to reduce pain and improve function; its ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes; its effect on the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety; and many others.

 

This article has been written to assist you with ways of reintroducing movement or continuing to move at home.  With the recent coronavirus pandemic, many people are concerned about leaving their homes to exercise, whilst others simply want to maintain an exercise regime that is easy to follow, low cost and convenient.  The challenging part is determining what this regime looks like and how to set up a space for exercise.  The below is some simple guides for exercising at home, it is important to check with your doctor and physiotherapist prior to undertaking any new activities.

 

Stretching

Regular stretching increases flexibility, increases range of motion through your joints and increases blood flow to your muscles.  It allows you to improve your ability to perform physical activities by preparing your muscles, whilst reducing your risk of injury.  Stretching reduces your recovery times and “training pain” or soreness after physical activity.  Stretching has the additional benefit of reducing tightness in muscles and improving posture, both of which can add to pain.  Stretching daily for 10-15mins is a good practice for managing pain.

Dynamic stretching involves actively moving muscles to stretch them out and is most commonly done before exercise.  This form of stretching prepares the body for exercise, reducing the risk of injury, allowing the blood to start flowing to muscles.  Typically you would warm up for 5-10 minutes prior to commencing your exercise regime.

Static stretching involves holding stretches for 10-30 seconds and is most commonly done after exercise.  This form of stretching will involve moving through the main muscle groups over a period of 10-15 minutes after your exercise regime.

 

Video courtesy of Cara Kircher

 

Video courtesy of Michelle Kenway

 

Balance

Good balance is important for allowing you to do everything you do each day.  Strong muscles and keeping steady assist you to prevent falls and manage some types of pain, particularly back pain.  Exercises that improve your balance include yoga, tai chi, pilates, hydrotherapy, martial arts, combined balance and step training, and exercises you can do at home.  These exercises focus on strength, flexibility and core muscle training.  Balance exercises should be practised at least for 5 minutes twice a week, however the more, the better.

 

Video courtesy of DoctorOz

 

Core Training

Core training works on strengthening the entire musculature of your midsection, including the muscles in your lower back, glutes, hip flexors, around your spine and behind your abdominals “six pack”.  These muscles stabilise your spine, support you with all the activities you do, and they allow you to move without unnecessary back, hip, knee, neck and shoulder pain. Core training exercises should be practised 2-3 times per week after endurance training.

 

Video courtesy of Michelle Kenway

 

Strength

Strengthening exercises are also known as weight or resistance training.  These exercises are designed to apply weight to your muscles, allowing them to adapt, grow stronger and protect you. This type of exercise may involve weights, like those found in the gym, or objects around the house like bottles, baskets and cans (used as free weights), or even your own body weight,  Regular strength training prevents the natural loss of lean muscle which is common with ageing and injury.  Strength training exercises should be practised 2-3 times per week to improve, or once a week to maintain strength gains.  Each exercise should be completed 8-15 times (1 set), with a 60 second rest, before repeated 2 more sets, with a rest in between.

 

Video courtesy of Michelle Kenway

 

Endurance

Endurance or aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate; its goal being to keep your lungs, heart and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness.  Some added benefits of this type of exercise is a reduction in risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes.  Endurance exercises should be practised most, if not all, days of the week; with 2 days being at a higher intensity for 20-40mins e.g. a brisk walk where “you can talk but not sing”.

 

Video courtesy of Zacharia Isaac MD

 

Video courtesy of FitnessBlender

 

Interval Training

Another types of high intensity endurance exercise is interval-training, which is a convenience means of burning calories and building muscle in a short amount of time.  Generally you should aim for 20mins duration, with a starting point of intervals of 1min higher intensity and 4mins lower intensity, building up to equal higher/lower intensity intervals.

 

Video courtesy of Body Project

 

Setting up your home gym

Setting up your home gym at minimal expense isn’t as hard as you may have thought.

Here are some options you can try, using everyday household items.

 

Household items you can use as weights:

  • Carton of milk
  • Laundry detergent
  • Water bottles
  • Cans of soup
  • Flour or sugar
  • Laundry basket
  • A backpack

 

Household items you can use as resistance bands:

  • A towel
  • A t-shirt or jumper
  • A rope
  • A tie
  • A belt

 

Household items you can use for endurance exercises:

  • A box
  • A step
  • A staircase
  • A chair

 

Video courtesy of Citizen Athletics

 

Household items you can use as gliders:

  • Paper plates
  • Towels
  • Socks

 

Video courtesy of Cathe

 

Yoga

Chronic pain can alter the brain structure, changing the volume of gray matter and integrity of connections within the white matter.  There is some research which suggests practising yoga can have a positive effect on these very same brain structures and assist with pain management.  Yoga also has the additional benefits of increasing flexibility, increasing muscle strength and tone, improving cardiac and circulatory health, stress reduction and improving balance.

 

Video courtesy of Cara Kircher

 

Video courtesy of Yoga With Adriene

 

Tai Chi

Tai chi is a mind-body exercise, which is low-impact and performed in slow-motion.  It combines mindfulness, meditation, breath control, stretching exercises and strengthening exercises.  Tai chi improves balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, coordination and balance.  It also has the added benefits of reducing stress and there is emerging evidence in can assist with pain management.

 

Video courtesy of Cara Kircher

 

Video courtesy of Living Better

 

Pilates

Pilates is a set of low-impact exercises that involve flexibility, breath work, posture, balance, strength and alignment.  These exercises can be affective in training and physical rehabilitation. Pilates can be beneficial when managing chronic pain, as it encourages movement, increased function, greater independence, improved posture and core strength.  It can also be effective for managing and reducing stress.

 

Video courtesy of FitnessBlender

 

Walking

Walking is generally considered a convenient, safe and effective way of increasing function, reducing pain and reducing risks of diseases such as heart, stoke and diabetes. Walking is effective in managing emotional, mental and physical health.  Walking should be practices 30 minutes, 5 times a week.  Studies have shown exercising outdoors can increase the positive benefits associated with exercise.  Here are some ideas for some great walks you can do around Sydney:

 

Written by Aimee Carter