Exercise can control weight, boost mood and ease discomfort
View Original Article
It’s no surprise that being overweight can cause persistent back, neck and shoulder pain. Even knee problems can develop from carrying around extra pounds.
A Stony Brook University study of more than 1 million Americans found a clear association between obesity and pain. The highest rates of physical discomfort were experienced by the heaviest individuals.
The study, published in Obesity magazine, classified the obese respondents into one of three levels. The least heavy group reported a 68 percent higher incidence of pain than those of normal weight; the second heaviest reported a 136 percent higher incidence; while the heaviest group reported pain 254 percent more than the people who were not overweight.
That held true regardless of gender, age and whether the person had a painful illness — such as arthritis.
Excess weight adds stress to joints and the spine and exacerbates low back pain, which is one of the most common conditions I treat.
While exercise can help manage one’s physique, when a person is in pain, it is often loathed as much as the pain. If we can control our weight with exercise, we can not only alleviate physical pain but also boost our mood.
That’s because when a person is overweight, he or she tends to have low self-esteem and poor mood, depressive feelings that can exacerbate painful ailments.
It is crucial for people who suffer with chronic discomfort to engage in some form of physical activity. I recommend 20 minutes, three times a week, though it depends on age, medical issues and lifestyle. Some need more vigorous exercise five times a week.
Here are my tips for exercising for pain:
- BEFORE ANY EXERCISE REGIMEN: Sometimes physical activity can do more harm than good, so it is important to seek the advice of a physician or even a physical therapist prior to starting an fitness regimen for your pain.
- START GRADUALLY: A gradual approach will allow you to shed pounds without overdoing it or worsening the pain.
- MAKE IT ROUTINE: Exercise should be as routine as brushing your teeth, eating breakfast and getting dressed. Once it becomes habit, it will not be a struggle to get out the door and go to the gym.
- GO LOW-IMPACT: Swimming is the best exercise for pain because there is no impact to the joints. The aerobic and muscle strengthening benefits are tremendous.
- ADD WEIGHT: Weight-bearing exercises are important for pain sufferers because it can strengthen muscles around the joint that hurts. The stronger the muscle is, the less pain you are likely to feel in that joint.
- TEAM UP: Find an exercise partner. If you make it fun, you are more likely to do it.
- THINK OF THE BENEFITS: We often see pain patients in a cycle of feeling physically bad, which can cause emotional side effects. One feeling causes the other. If you exercise (even for a short time!) your mood will improve, most likely causing your aches to improve as well.
About Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a pain management expert and the founder of Gramercy Pain Management. He is the director of Pain Management at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) and has treated over 3,000 patients. Dr. Gottlieb is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology. He has offices in both Manhattan and Montebello, N.Y. in Rockland County.