If you’re suffering from pain, you have an extra reason to be active. No matter what type of pain you have or where you hurt, the right type of exercise just might bring some relief. Scientists are still trying to understand all of the ways that exercise influences pain, but it’s already clear that regular exercise should be a part of any comprehensive plan to bring the pain under control.
Arthritis and back pain
Millions of people with arthritis have already discovered the pain-relieving power of exercise. As reported by the National Institutes of Health, regular exercise — including water exercise, weight lifting, aerobic workouts, and flexibility exercises — can ease the pain and stiffness that are the hallmarks of the condition. (If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should let your joints rest during a flare-up.)
Most of the pain relief gained through such activity can be chalked up to increased strength and flexibility of joints and muscles.
It can also help with weight loss, which reduces the strain on joints. There’s some evidence that regular aerobic exercise can also ease inflammation in arthritic joints, a major cause of pain.
In a similar way, exercises that strengthen muscles in the back, abdomen, hips, and thighs can help reduce and prevent back pain.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends combining back exercises with whole-body workouts such as swimming, jogging, walking, and bike riding.
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Reduced sensitivity to pain
Suffering from pain other than arthritis and back pain? You can find relief as well. Although exercise provides clear-cut benefits to people with arthritis or back pain, those with other types of pain may also find relief on a jogging trail or at the gym. As reported in Sports Medicine, exercise seems to actually reduce the entire body’s sensitivity to pain, at least in the short term.
The pain-killing power of exercise seems to be most consistent during intense aerobic exercises such as a half-hour treadmill stint that takes the heart rate up to 70 percent or more of its maximum level. If weight lifting is your thing, you may also see some relief.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 45 minutes of weight lifting can