Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

feeling fine

Chronic pain sufferers can find relief in motion

Lavinia Rodriguez

Lavinia Rodriguez

It's well known in the medical world that exercise helps reduce chronic pain from such disorders as fibromyalgia, arthritis and back pain.

It's also true that if you're significantly overweight and have chronic pain, losing weight can help minimize the pain. And exercise is a key tool for weight management.

However, many people with chronic pain avoid activity, fearing that it will cause them pain.

This sets up a difficult cycle: The more you avoid the movement you associate with pain, the more pain you experience. And if you gain weight, the pain multiplies from the added pressure on your body.

Exercise can:

• Improve and maintain bone strength.

• Help with weight control.

• Strengthen muscles, including those supporting painful joints.

• Improve mood.

• Provide energy.

• Improve sleep.

As sufferers know, sleeplessness, fatigue and lack of energy are associated with chronic pain.

That is great information, but it won't help you get going when every movement only increases your pain.

Pain is usually the body's signal to stop whatever you're doing. It's not easy to go against a mind that's saying stop when what's needed to get better is to go.

If this is your situation, don't go it alone.

There are many professionals who can steer you in the right direction regarding what types of exercises to do. "See your doctor first'' is standard advice for anyone starting a fitness program, but it's essential for chronic pain sufferers so they don't worsen their condition.

Starting with your physician, your road to pain relief may lead you to physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and personal trainers experienced in helping chronic pain sufferers.

It's also important to educate yourself. Reputable health websites can teach you a lot about getting into shape to reduce pain. One example is the Mayo Clinic's site on arthritis:

You may need to see activity in a new light. Perhaps you can't walk a mile or swim laps. But maybe you can try chair yoga or water aerobics.

Once you get the information about what activities can help your chronic pain, put it to use.

That's where working on your mind-set comes in. Those with chronic pain can't wait until the pain is gone to start getting active. If you've been waiting for years for pain to go away, despite medications and other interventions, waiting longer likely won't do much good.

So, the time is now, not later.

Those who successfully manage chronic pain tend to:

• Accept that reducing chronic pain is a long-term enterprise. It's not about a short-term exercise plan that you do for a couple of weeks.

• Accept some pain. Successful chronic pain managers say they stay active even if they feel some discomfort during exercise. They don't view their pain as something to fear or as a signal to stop what they're doing. Instead, they put a sort of filter on their pain, listening to it and pacing themselves in order to reach realistic goals. They learn to discriminate between acute pain that needs immediate attention and chronic pain that needs filtering.

• Have a good mental grasp on the big picture. They understand they will have less pain in their lives if they continue to do the right things to maintain health and fitness. They don't let the pain in the present interfere with the goal of having less pain in the future. They practice patience and perseverance.

• Experiment. Every chronic pain sufferer is unique. You may try different activities along the way, tweaking, adding and eliminating until you find the right system for you. Give new movements a good try then go to something else if you need to. Just don't give up.

The body will always respond positively to any change that leads to better health. So, don't let chronic pain keep you from being active and getting to a healthy weight. It may seem counterintuitive at first to keep moving despite the pain, but if you're smart about approaching this challenge, you'll be convinced. Like so many others, you'll see that moving can mean moving with less pain.

Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at

Chronic pain sufferers can find relief in motion 02/22/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 4:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Death toll, humanitarian crisis grow in Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria's devastating passage across the island.

    Crew members assess electrical lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Friday in Puerto Rico. Mobile communications systems are being flown in but “it’s going to take a while.”
  2. N. Korea says strike against U.S. mainland is 'inevitable'


    North Korea's foreign minister warned Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland is "inevitable" because President Donald Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the belittling nickname "little rocketman."

  3. All-eyes photo gallery: Florida State Seminoles loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack


    View a gallery of images from the Florida State Seminoles 27-21 loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will face Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 30 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

    Florida State Seminoles fans sing the fight song during the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  4. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park


    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  5. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash


    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.