Exercises to Reduce Pain

Blue Cross has reported that one in four Canadians over the age of 15 has some sort of chronic pain. Alex Edye-Mazowita, a disability case manager at Manitoba Blue Cross, said that it’s more dangerous to not exercise when experiencing chronic pain. “A lot of these chronic pain conditions are going to indirectly cause secondary complications because a person isn’t active due to the pain,” he said.

According to the National Library of Medicine, chronic pain affects 20% of adults and, for many years, the treatment choice for chronic pain included recommendations for rest and inactivity. “However, exercise may have specific benefits in reducing the severity of chronic pain, as well as more general benefits associated with improved overall physical and mental health, and physical functioning. Physical activity and exercise programs are increasingly being promoted and offered in various health-care systems, and for a variety of chronic pain conditions.”

It should be noted that “active” doesn’t necessarily mean hitting a gym or getting involved in any strenuous sports or exercises. However, it’s important to get moving every day and not stay sedentary in your pain. There are still certain activities which you can take part in that won’t be dangerous or risky in any way. These include…


Keeping a slow but steady pace, get walking, either outside, around the mall, or on a treadmill. Wear good-quality, comfortable athletic shoes. Choose a time of day when your pain is at its least, whether that be first thing in the morning, in the afternoon once you’ve been moving around a bit, or at the end of the day to promote restful sleep.

Water exercises

The great thing about doing any sort of exercises in the water is that you’re essentially weightless, so there is much less pressure on muscles and joints. Swimming is also a fantastic form of cardio exercise as it provides strength training thanks to water’s natural resistance. If you feel comfortable enough, swim laps. Otherwise, join a water aerobics class to learn some simple movements that will keep you in shape without adding to your overall pain threshold.


We all know the benefits of yoga: it helps with stretching, flexibility, balance and mental wellness, to name just a few. But it can also be an ideal form of exercise when you’re experiencing pain because the movements are all about executing them slowly and fluidly. And most yoga poses can be adjusted to accommodate novices who have more limited ranges of motion, so don’t shy away just because you don’t deem yourself “flexible enough” to participate.


Pilates is another great type of exercise that is gentle and easy-flowing. It not only gives you a great full-body workout, it can help to stave off the pain that you’re currently feeling. Pilates is all about strengthening your core and, when your core is strong, the rest of your body will feel strong as well. It is also beneficial for flexibility, posture and mental awareness.

Martial arts

No, we’re not suggesting kick-boxing or breaking boards with your hands and feet. However, some forms of martial arts are ideally suited to those who are in chronic pain because the movements are slow and calculated. Tai chi, for example, has been used for centuries to help manage and ease the symptoms of pain. Reiki is another.

Exercises to avoid when in pain

It’s important to note that there are certain exercises and activities that you shouldn’t undertake when you are living with chronic pain. Anything with a lot of impact that involves running, sudden stops and starts or jumping should be completely avoided. These activities can cause you added strain and increase your chance of further injuring yourself.

By Jennifer Cox