How can physical activity and exercise impact pain, and should you stop moving if my pain is aggravated by movement?
Physical activity and movement can impact your pain in multiple ways. It has been demonstrated that blood flow to muscles increases with physical activity. The increase occurs rapidly after beginning the exercise. The increase is greatest in the used muscles, but it affects the entire body. This phenomenon is primarily the result of vasodilatation, or the widening of blood vessels, and it causes a drop in blood pressure.
During exercise, the dilation of blood vessels enables the delivery of additional oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, promoting health. For instance, typing with a stationary posture on a computer can result in decreased oxygen levels and blood flow in the neck and shoulder muscles. Consequently, incorporating pauses into exercise and movement can alleviate this discomfort. Several studies have also demonstrated exercise-induced hypoalgesia, or decreased pain sensitivity, and it appears that isometric (muscle contraction without movement), aerobic training, and dynamic resistance exercises may decrease pain levels in an acute manner. However, the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are not yet fully understood, and it appears that pain responses to exercise vary among individuals.
According to the available evidence, there is no exercise or physical activity that is superior to any other. However, resistance training and aerobic exercise have the strongest supporting evidence. Consequently, the choice of physical activity, sport, or exercise is frequently left to the individual. If there is an activity that you enjoy, you should pursue it. The most important factor is activity. Pain complaints can sometimes be triggered by increasing physical activity or performing certain exercises.
However, keep in mind that discomfort is not synonymous with tissue damage. Experiencing pain does not indicate that you are broken. Often, pain is to be expected when beginning a rehabilitation exercise programme, for instance, and it is not cause for alarm.
There are numerous factors that contribute to pain, and it is an individual experience. The experience is influenced by a variety of factors, including sleep, stress, feelings, a person’s approach to overcoming obstacles, past pain experiences and beliefs regarding the source of the pain, among others. Consequently, exercise can also affect your pain by enhancing your mood or the quality of your sleep, by influencing your social environment, or simply by distracting you from your pain and boosting your confidence to move.
Exercise is therapeutic. Give yourself time to discover the best form of physical activity and movement for you. Contact our physiotherapists in Singapore, at River Physio Clinic, if you have any doubts, as avoiding physical activity due to pain is not the solution.