While treating pain, we understand that there are many factors that can affect pain and symptoms – causing them to be better or worse. By adding an exercise program to your daily routine, you will feel better as a whole, provide excellent benefits for your health in general, and should notice alleviation in your symptoms.

If you have chronic pain or a painful condition like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, it may seem counterproductive to participate in an exercise program, as there are many days when it takes an effort just to get through your daily routine. However, by not exercising, the problem may compound and begin to get even worse.

The Mayoclinic.com website recommends three types of exercise for those with pain conditions, which include strength training exercise, aerobic activities and flexibility exercise. Strength building exercises will help you build up the support muscles that will assist in the functioning of your joints. Keep in mind that strength training exercises don’t have to be intense, but can merely include gentle training with free weights.


Aerobic exercise recommended varies by condition and severity of symptoms. Some may find that walking, low-impact aerobics and elliptical machines are a good form of exercise, others with severe symptoms may only be able to do water based exercises, using water for support. It’s important to listen to your body and not cause yourself any damage.

Flexibility or range of motion exercises are recommended to keep joints flexible. WebMd explains that a symptom of arthritis or osteoarthritis is keeping the affected joints bent because they’re more comfortable in that position. This severely limits their range of motion, and after time, these joints can lose all flexibility. By participating in a consistent range of motion exercise routine that includes gently straightening and bending the joints in a controlled manner as far as they can comfortably go, those with joint conditions should find that they’ll regain normal or near-normal range of motion. This will help considerably in maintaining the function of that joint, and may mean the difference between the joint being usable or unusable.

By keeping your joints motionless, they’ll stiffen and lose range of motion. Eventually, you may find that your condition gets too severe to do even basic daily tasks. According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, physical activity is crucial to mental and physical health and can help greatly with symptoms related to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. With consistent physical activity, the muscles around the affected joints stay strong, there is a decrease in bone loss and may help control pain, inflammation and swelling. Exercise also contributes to weight loss or maintenance, which can have a big effect on those with painful conditions. If you have a chronic pain condition and are overweight, the condition may be exacerbated by excess weight putting pressure on painful, weak joints.

According to a study by the Arthritis Foundation, exercise is the most effective non-medication pain management technique for those suffering from fibromyalgia. The study shows that walking, simple strength training and stretching vastly improve physical, emotional, social well-being, and promote self reliance.

WebMd also shows positive results for those with fibromyalgia participating in a consistent exercise program. Long term aquatic exercise programs have shown to be effective in reduction of symptoms and improving the quality of life. Low impact aerobics are also encouraged; examples given are yoga, tai chi and Pilates.

You may want to speak to your doctor about a referral to a physical therapist. Many physical therapists can help you create a fitness plan specific to you. No two pain patients are alike and no two treatment plans are alike. In regard to an exercise program, what may work for one person won’t necessarily work for you. By visiting a physical therapist, they can create an individualized plan that will work with your pain to create the most benefits and alleviation of symptoms.

As with any exercise program, it is essential to work up gradually, carefully and slowly. If you push yourself too hard, you may find your condition to worsen. There should be some discomfort and effort put into exercise, but be sure to listen to your body. If you still have pain hours after you are finished exercising, be sure to rest until your pain flare-up has passed, and then be sure to go easier on yourself the next time. Exercise only when symptoms are at their lowest threshold. If you are experiencing a flare-up, it is best to wait until it has passed, or modify your activity to match your ability for that day.

Overall, regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Patients who suffer from joint problems or fibromyalgia actually find that they experience less pain after consistently exercising. When starting an exercise program, you may feel an initial increase in pain, but be assured the benefits will pay off if you remain consistent. If you exercise sporadically, you’ll find that you will experience the same level of pain each and every time, rather than an overall decrease.

Before starting any exercise or fitness program, be sure to speak to your doctor. They can recommend specific activities to benefit your condition, and can give you guidelines to perform your exercise program safely and effectively.

Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center
The Arthritis Foundation