Woman exercises with physical therapist despite pain

Exercising When It Hurts: How to Be Healthy Without the Use of Pain Medications


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Woman exercises with physical therapist despite pain

The physical benefits of exercise are well documented to most Americans and if you turn on any television you are bound to see the next “instant” diet or workout regimen to a beautiful body. Working out, using cardio or a mixture of cardio and strength training is very beneficial to a body that has abused itself too long. Unwanted calories are burned off, encouraging weight loss, muscles become more defined, and serotonin is created naturally for healthy mood and fights depression and anxiety. Anyone who has dealt with insomnia often reports a better night of sleep right away.

However, many people have suffered injuries or illnesses that make their day to day lives physically limited, preventing them from exercising regularly. Injuries acquired while someone was high or an illness such as Hepatitis C or something similar will limit your energy and stall your pain threshold.

While it may never be easy, doing whatever you can to help yourself be as healthy as possible or even strengthening yourself to the point of overcoming some injuries and illnesses is well worth it.

Exercise can still be very beneficial even in these instances. But what if it hurts more to exercise than not? Or it exhausts and exacerbates your illness more than it would an otherwise healthy body? A well-meant exercise routine can be sabotaged quickly if you end up in bed after a few days of effort. Being sober means that prescription pain medication is off the table as an option. For some, even over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or aspirin are no longer wanted in their bodies.

So how do you reap the rewards of exercise when you are limited in these ways? Try these suggestions for exercise and pain management.

1. Practice yoga.

People with back or neck injuries can use yoga to become more flexible and there are yoga routines to help with pain specifically. Stretching those muscles and holding poses that release tension and loosen tight spots gets easier every time you do it. Even those who are restricted to a chair or bed can find success.

2. Use resistance bands.

Made in different sizes and thicknesses to accommodate the amount of resistance you are trying to achieve, resistance bands are a great way to tone your muscles in the comfort of your home. Some may have handles on them enabling you to use them as a “weight-free” way to strengthen your upper body, while others great to tie around your ankles or knees to help work the thighs and hips without impact.

3. Switch to a stability ball.

These large versatile balls come in various sizes and are now seen being used as office chairs in many businesses. Just sitting on one at home takes pressure off the spine and encourages better posture. These balls are also great low or no impact aerobic tools and are featured in many workout DVDs that can be found in your local library or purchased on Amazon.

4. Jump in the pool.

If you have access to a public pool or even a backyard pool, the exercise options are limitless. Walking through water no more than 3 feet deep provides no impact resistance and can increase your heart rate and build your legs and hips up. This type of exercise is excellent for those recovering from surgeries and leg and back injuries. In a deeper pool, swimming in general is a calorie blaster that works every muscle in your body and you can customize your work out or mix it up every time you wade in without the joint impact of jogging or similar types of exercise.

5. Apply aspirin or menthol-based creams.

When you have finished your workout or have had a long day at work, rubbing this type of pain reliever on your sore spots helps. Aspirin creams enter the painful area through the skin providing similar relief to taking the pill itself. Menthol-based creams or gels provide a cooling sensation that is excellent for inflamed areas. Switching from one to the other is similar to the hot/cold recommendation by many doctors. So if you are not in a place where you can switch out your ice pack and heating pad, this is a great way to still feel relief.

6. Soak in a hot bath or whirlpool.

Most people are well aware of the benefits that soaking in a bath tub or whirlpool have on a painful body but it bears repeating. Besides the physical aspect of a relaxing soak in a tub, lighting a few candles and some music can take away stress and tension too.

7. Get massage or physical therapy.

Massage therapy is very popular and the variety of massages available has a veritable menu of relief options. Reflexology is touted not only to provide foot pain massage but also to be connected to internal relief in other body parts alleviating certain illness symptoms. Deep tissue massage focuses on a specific area that is giving you trouble and can loosen tendons and ligaments too. Physical therapy is provided by a trained professional that has medical training and is most often prescribed by your doctor. A physical therapist will create a regimen catered to your body’s individual needs. Many insurance plans cover at least a portion of physical therapy and may include massage as well.

8. Take supplements.

Supplements like turmeric, ashwaganda, cloves, willow bark and collagen can be taken along with a daily vitamin to reduce inflammation and pain that occurs with arthritis or other joint issues. Vitamin B gives you energy and focus to work through your pain. If you are not comfortable ingesting these herbs, an ointment can also be applied topically to knees, shoulders, neck and back.

While it may never be easy, doing whatever you can to help yourself be as healthy as possible or even strengthening yourself to the point of overcoming some injuries and illnesses is well worth it. Never give up and try to be as diligent about this as you are about your sobriety.

Maintenance medications prescribed by your doctor that are required each day should be taken as directed without question. Always discuss exercise and vitamin supplements with a medical professional before starting any new routine.

Are you or someone you love ready to get help? Browse our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to inquire about addiction specialists in your area.

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