From minor aches that cause temporary discomfort to chronic pain that affects around 100 million U.S. adults,the presence of pain can threaten your productivity and diminish your enjoyment of daily life. Exercises for chronic pain offer a natural treatment that may help alleviate pain, free of the risks and side effects typical of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications.

The benefits of exercise

In the short term, exercise can melt away stress, help you sweat away toxins and enhance your mood thanks to the release of endorphins and serotonin. In the long term, certain fitness exercises can build muscle, improve strength and promote better circulation — all of which could help reduce some discomforts — particularly those related to the back, hip, knee, shoulder and neck. In addition, a recent study suggested that, over time, working out may actually change the way we experience pain by increasing our tolerance.

Additional body benefits of exercise can include:

Decreased inflammation

Improved mobility

Reduced fatigue

Better mental clarity

Increased flexibility

With all the potential to aid in pain management, it’s worth looking at ways to integrate more exercise into your day. The trick is to choose activities that fit your body type and lifestyle, and that won’t exacerbate your pain or stress your joints. With approval from your doctor, try one or a combination of the following activities to promote natural pain relief.

Exercises for cardiovascular fitness

Walking around your neighborhood or on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day, a minimum of three times per week, can go far to help you build leg muscle strength, enhance overall endurance and improve cardiovascular health. If you’re able, try walking hilly terrain or “power walking” at a brisk pace; or try biking, rollerblading or using the elliptical machine. Jogging, jumping rope and stair climbing can also be effective if you have healthy knee joints. Otherwise, opt for a low-impact motion like swimming or water aerobics.

Strength training

Strength training with free weights, machines, weighted balls, kettlebells or exercise bands can be effective for building muscle and taking some of the strain off of supporting joints. While Dr. Fast feels exercise machines can provide support by guiding your movements, he believes free weights can offer a wider range of muscle-building benefits. In addition, yoga poses and Pilates training are two disciplines that can lengthen and strengthen your arm and leg muscles while helping you build core (abdominal) strength — a strategy shown to help lessen back pain.

Stretching techniques and physical therapy

Stretching before and after you exercise can help you avoid injury. But extended stretching sessions alone can help you relax sore or stiff muscles and joints, and improve mobility in the process. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist for personalized guidance on stretching techniques to relieve pain in specific areas. Physical therapists are trained to treat pain using a combination of therapies to enhance strength and flexibility in weak, stiff or sore muscles and joints.  Before you begin any new fitness regimen, be sure to make an appointment at The Back Pain Clinic in west Belleville, for guidance on exercise for chronic pain.