For a very long time I would roll my eyes at anyone who dared to suggest to me that movement might help my chronic pain. In my mind, movement was the very thing making my pain worse, so why would I want to do that? It’s safe to say I had a very narrow definition of what movement is back then, and dismissing it altogether was doing me just as much harm as suddenly running a marathon would do. It took a very long time for me to come to this realisation though, and it was thanks to understanding healthcare professionals and fellow chronic pain patients that I finally began to understand how movement can play a part in my care.
Before you even think about increasing your movement, I think it’s really important to reassess your understanding of it. Perhaps like me, your idea of movement has been taking part in sports, going on long walks or visiting the gym. As we discuss in the Leva Clinic pain management programme though, movement can be anything that moves your body. It can be stretching your legs under a table, it can be doing some light housework or playing with your children. When we begin to redefine what movement is, that’s when we can start to increase how much we’re moving our bodies.
It might be helpful by setting yourself a goal, perhaps there is a specific activity you really want to get back to, for me this was swimming. Due to the pandemic I didn’t swim for almost 2 years, which meant that when I wanted to return, I had deconditioned massively and was essentially starting from square one again. Instead of just throwing myself back into the pool, likely triggering a flare-up, I made a plan to gradually increase my movement and prepare my body. Think about what your goal is, and then you can start to build a plan to get you there gradually.
I started out by just doing some simple stretches to get my body used to moving again, after 2 years of spending so much time inside either sitting or laying down it was much needed. I bought myself some resistance bands that I added in when I felt ready too. I also invested in a pedal exerciser, a recommendation from a friend also living with chronic pain and fatigue. It’s like a traditional exercise bike, except you use it sitting down. I started off by just doing 5 minutes everyday, and when that started to feel easy I increased it. Between that and the resistance bands and stretches, my body was definitely starting to feel more ready to move.
You can also use everyday tasks as an opportunity to increase your movement, even things such as more mindfully going up and down stairs can make a difference. If your job involves sitting down a lot then setting reminders to stand and stretch can help to increase your movement too. So many of our daily tasks involve movement, it can be really easy to forget that.
When we begin to move past the traditional idea of what movement can be, that’s often when we see the most improvements. Always remember, slow and steady wins the race.
If you’re looking for more advice and tips for increasing your movement then check out the Leva Clinic 12 module pain management programme, or reach out to gain support from our healthcare professionals.
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