Exercise is one of the most important parts of a treatment program for chronic pain. Now we need to distinguish between acute pain where there is actual tissue damage and potential for further injury and chronic pain where appropriate and prudent exercise is beneficial. A properly designed and executed exercise program can not only decrease your pain, but increase your flexibility, overall fitness and mental health.
In addition to cold therapy, I believe that this is one of the most important aspects of an overall pain management and health and fitness program. Exercise is one of the most potent physical medicine modalities that you have at your disposal and you can utilize it whenever you wish. It is one part of your treatment program over which you can assert complete control.
The key, however, is that the exercise program must be well designed and appropriately executed. Any new exercises must be approached with great caution and started at duration and intensities that will cause absolutely no harm to you. Once this has been established, then a slow and gradual progression of exercise intensity and duration can be performed without injury to you and with many positive effects. It will increase your overall fitness and flexibility. It does wonders for decreasing stress levels, depression and anxiety. It is a tremendous aid in a weight loss program and it can allow you to reclaim activities that you have not been able to do for a long time because of progressive deconditioning.
I cannot emphasize this enough. The most important aspects of an exercise program are: Proper design and proper execution with gradual progression so that the exercises are never injurious. The other trick is to get started and stick with the program.
Many of us get anxious to do as much as we can and unfortunately we wind up overdoing it, causing damage and eventually we back away from exercise because we have not approached it properly. You have to start slow and progress gradually. If your goal is to do, for example, 100 push-ups and you are not used to doing push-ups, if you do too many, you will be sore for days and you may not restart doing the push-ups. However, if you start with one today and then tomorrow you do two and the next day you do three and so on, it won't be long before you will be doing large numbers of push-ups without hurting yourself at all and you will be progressing your strength and fitness remarkably.
There are many exercise protocols that can be valuable. One should always check with one's doctor or physical therapist for assistance in designing an appropriate exercise regimen and in defining how to progress the program.
One word about exercise machines. Usually exercise machines are bought and they wind up collecting dust or acting as clothes' valets. A treadmill, a stair stepper, or a bicycle ergometer (exercises both legs and upper extremities) can be valuable if they are used regularly. They are low impact so they do not cause damage. However, as with any exercise, start at low intensity and duration and build gradually day by day.
The many beneficial effects of exercise can be yours if you will just proceed wisely.