Exercise as Medicine: How to Get Pain Patients Active Again

Author: Peter A. Abaci

Chronic pain can lead to inactivity, functional impairments, and prolonged disability. Some of the potential secondary consequences of pain related avoidance of typical daily activities include unemployment, a loss of independence, and an increased risk of other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. The need to improve physical fitness and function with daily activities should be considered an essential component of addressing chronic pain as a public health epidemic. Helping pain patients become both more globally active and functional with symptomatic body parts can be difficult. Practitioners are often not trained in focusing on chronic pain and rehabilitation and may struggle in achieving long-term success. Understanding the complex central nervous system changes that take place in chronic pain syndromes and how exercise can positively counteract these changes is an important first step. Fear avoidance is often a significant barrier to progress, and learning specific steps to work past it can be critical. While each patient's own set of physical limitations and challenges are unique, there are certain core concepts of chronic pain rehabilitation that practitioners can employ to improve measurable outcomes.

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