Many researchers are beginning to unlock the benefits of exercise for overall health and wellness. As discussed earlier, John J. Ratey, MD claims that exercise can improve neurological functioning and help treat many common mental conditions. Other researchers are now studying how exercise can impact and help treat chronic pain conditions.

From diabetic nerve pain to fibromyalgia, researchers are beginning to find evidence of the benefits of exercise for pain relief.

Of course, for many with chronic pain, the idea of exercise itself can seem excruciating. However, even a small amount of exercise increased gradually can provide benefits and certain exercises may be better suited to your exact condition. Always work with your pain doctor when creating an exercise program to find the one that works best for you and is most likely to help you find pain relief. The following studies may shed some light on how exercise can help you.

Diet and exercise improve knee pain and function

According to a study published in JAMA, knee pain caused by osteoarthritis diminishes overall quality of life and, moreso, only 30% of patients see a reduction in pain by using prescription medications. Researchers of the study wanted to look at how tackling obesity–a major risk factor for knee osteoarthritis–could reduce pain. Three intervention groups tracked benefits from diet only, exercise only, and patients that combined both diet and exercise for treatment. Overall, those who combined diet and exercise saw “less knee pain, better function, faster walking speed, and better physical health-related quality of life.”

Moderate exercise may lessen fibromyalgia pain

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center hoped to show that exercise could benefit patients with fibromyalgia pain, especially those who quit exercise programs after pain flare-ups thinking that the exercise had caused it. Patients in the study participated in moderate intensity exercise (such as light jogging or walking) for 20 minutes a day for 36 weeks. For those patients who participated in the study, they did not find any worsening pain symptoms after exercise and those who exercised at least 12 weeks “showed greater improvements in clinical symptoms.

Exercise may slow diabetic nerve pain development 

Neuropathic pain is a condition that affects approximately half of all patients with diabetes. In a study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, researchers used diabetic rats to test the benefits of exercise for pain relief. After two weeks, it was found that the animals put through an exercise program had delayed rates of neuropathic pain compared to those animals that did not exercise. According to researchers, the study “provides support for the concept that exercise can slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy.”

What other benefits have you realized from using exercise for pain relief? 

Image by knehcsg via Flickr

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