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Exercise and pacing

When dealing with a chronic health condition or the management of persistent pain it is best to consult with a physiotherapist to find the best exercises that work for you. Persistent pain (over three months) should not be treated the same way as acute pain.

Staying active and mobile

Keeping active maintains fitness and improves physical and mental well-being, both of which are of critical importance in the management of pain.  

An excellent resource by ‘HealthTalk’ challenges some of the myths related to pain and exercise. It includes videos and shared experiences of those living with persistent pain. Also, a useful leaflet about ‘keeping moving’ from Arthritis Research UK can be downloaded

Weight loss may be required to facilitate activity and to help with pain.  The NHS site has useful information on this. 

Exercise and pain

Don’t feel like you always have to do a heavy workout like you might have been able to before experiencing chronic pain.

Be kind to yourself and recognise that getting some exercise is a great achievement in meeting your goals and managing your pain better.

Any movement is good, no matter how small.

Activity cycling versus pacing

People with persistent pain often vary their activity depending on their daily pain. This may result in cycles of over activity during good days and under activity during bad days. 

Regular activity for people with chronic conditions and/or persistent pain can be difficult because many people over-estimate what they think they should be doing.

People should be encouraged to ‘Pace’ activities, by this we mean to do small amounts of activity on a regular basis. Be advised that this activity should not exacerbate pain. This will result in a greater tolerance of activity and improved fitness allowing the person to gradually increase what they are able to do.

Practical tip: Break the task down into smaller components.  For example:

Doing 30 minutes of housework in the morning, and the same again in the afternoon as opposed to trying to do all the housework in one go. This 30 minute period of activity could be gradually increased over a period of weeks and months. Similarly, a walk could be broken down into more manageable periods and then gradually built up over time.

Improving fitness 

For further information on improving your fitness, the Australian Pain Management Association offers some guidance, but always seek tailored advice from your health professionals such as GP or physiotherapist when making significant changes to your health and exercise regimes.

Pacing and goal setting

Pace your progress. DO NOT increase the frequency & length of time you commit to an activity in the same week. 

Safe, steady and regular exercise will help you and is unlikely to cause or further any damage related to persistent pain.

Be kind to yourself and recognise your achievements in meeting your activity and exercise goals.

Any movement is good, no matter how small.

More information on Pacing and Goal Setting shared by and for people living with persistent pain.

Physiotherapy referral

More information on Hereford and Wye Valley NHS Trust Physiotherapy services 

Still not convinced on how exercise can help change your life when living with chronic pain?  View Dr Mike Evans fantastic video on the one single thing you can do to improve your life. 


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