Can Exercise Help Ease my Pain?
Earlier this week, a great article was written in the blog of the New York Times’ Health section. The blog was discussing an article published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. In the article, the researchers found that groups that participated in moderate intensity exercise showed an increased tolerance to pain compared to those that didn’t exercise.
It’s an interesting phenomenon because one of the biggest reasons people give for not exercising is because of a nagging pain, or a fear of a new injury. Most people would expect that exercising more would aggravate an injury or make the pain worse.
Exercise Changes Your Brain
What it really shows is that the brain and nervous system have a marvelous ability to adapt. If you’ve been a regular reader, you know that I have a huge passion for exercise and fitness. A lot of people think it’s about being fit, and losing weight, but exercise for me has always been about something different.
Movement and exercise work like a nutrient for the brain and nervous system. It provides a wave of stimulation through the spinal cord, brain stem, midbrain, and the cerebral cortex. This wave of activity through your nervous system causes your brain to re-wire itself in different ways. Exercise and movement help make the brain work better. I think more clearly, and I have a better ability to focus when I’ve exercised during the day.
A side benefit of this is the fact that movement overrides pain as a signal to the brain. When you move, your brain processes movement before it processes pain signals. This is one of the reasons that people used to say “walk it off” and why you shake your hand feverishly when you stub a finger. It’s also one of the biggest reasons that exercise is a prescribed treatment for people suffering with diseases like fibromyalgia.
Injury or Pain?
Many times, it’s important to decide whether you have an injury or if you have a pain syndrome. When you have an injury, a short time spent immobilizing damaged tissue is important to prevent further damage. However, if your pain is unrelated to injury, than adding more movement into your life may be a valuable step in recovery.
Of course, it’s always important to find out more about the nature of your condition, and to see what interventions you will benefit from.