If you’ve ever experienced a problem like a muscle pull, a strain, a twisted ankle, or really any type of stress- or impact-related injury, you’ve probably found yourself disinclined to go right back to strenuous exercise. The common-sense cure that people tend to turn to is easing off for a while and giving your body the opportunity to recover. While this is usually a good idea—you don’t want to play through pain—it’s actually common for people to overestimate the degree to which they need to rest up and avoid exercise. In fact, in most cases people tend to be more cautious about over-exercising than they need to be.
Even chronic back or neck pain, which often reduces your range of motion, can benefit from maintaining mobility rather than resting. Light exercise—even just walking—can be used as a conservative treatment to alleviate some common causes of pain in the back, neck, or shoulders. For example, minor chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, back, wrists, and eyes, as well as eye problems and headaches are becoming increasingly common health complaints. Rather than resulting from “overdoing it”, these more often stem from “underdoing it.” These kinds of health issues often result from lifestyle issues like jobs that keep you seated at a desk in front of a computer for long hours, lengthy commutes, poor nutritional choices, or lack of exercise.
Pain tends to make people avoid physical activity, but when the pain is being exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle an increase in daily exercise can have significant long-term health benefits as well as diminishing the experience of chronic pain. However, because many people don’t connect this kind of pain with lifestyle choices, the tendency is to avoid additional strain. This can ultimately result in an even lower level of activity, which is more likely to make the pain continue.
There are situations where it is possible to exercise too much, and where rest is the proper prescription. Injury that results from poor form or exhaustion may require rest, but it should also indicate that it’s time for professional intervention. Qualified sports medicine specialists can help you to understand both the cause of the injury and what you can do to avoid future re-injury.
However, these situations tend to be rare in the general population—if you’ve got minor aches and pains, it’s likely that being more active will be better for you than increasing your rest. Every person is different though, and understanding the cause of your chronic pain starts with getting an accurate diagnosis. Call the Spine Institute Northwest at 206-496-0630 to learn more about the treatments we offer for back, neck, and joint pain.