“Stretching and exercise can sometimes be uncomfortable or painful, but if you’re already experiencing pain, you have nothing to lose by trying to increase your flexibility and strength.”
– Jason Harper
Jason Harper is a strength and personal trainer at Las Vegas Recovery Center. With over fifteen years of experience in the fitness industry, he has been working with pain recovery clients for the past four years. Jason also owns his own fitness business, Harper Wellness LV, where he works with everyone from the average person to professional athletes.
How does exercise help with chronic pain?
Exercise has been shown to decrease pain, muscle fatigue, and blood pressure, and increase muscle tone, vascular circulation, and flexibility. It also promotes stronger joints and improves sleep (which allows the body to recover properly).
Won’t exercise make the pain worse?
Exercise can make the pain worse if you push too hard or if you are not familiar with the right exercises or the proper form. It is always important to consult with a fitness professional so that you can formulate a plan that works for you. If you start slow and increase your level of exercise gradually, you generally will not have any issues.
Many people who have chronic pain assume that if they exercise, their pain will become worse. But the irony is that as much as exercising might hurt, not exercising can actually make your body hurt more. When someone is experiencing chronic pain, they’re not as active and so over time, their muscles become weaker. This results in more pain.
Just because you’re in pain doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) exercise.
What is one thing you wish more people with chronic pain understood about exercise?
What’s important to keep in mind when dealing with chronic pain and exercise is ‘basic functional movement’. You don’t need to give it 100%, like you might have done before your injury. Stick with the basics. Get an understanding of where your body is at right now and then take it from there. Think of it as reinventing yourself!
Remember, the idea isn’t to make you a body builder. What’s important is getting your quality of life back. Your goal should be resuming the small daily tasks you used to do and to being able to do them on your own. Start small and try to do things around your house.
You can work your way up from there once you’re comfortable.
Where do you recommend your chronic pain clients start first?
Before beginning to exercise again (or for the first time), every person should be evaluated by a physical therapist. This will help them determine the seriousness of their problem. Once that has been done, I usually start people off with the basic functional movements, such as sitting and standing, stepping up and down, pushing, pulling, rotational movements, and an evaluation of their stability and balance.
These are basically simple exercises that engage the core and strengthen important muscle groups. I recommend focusing on exercises that help with mobility. Everyone has to be able to sit, stand, and walk—those are things we do on a daily basis.
Should people with chronic pain try to push themselves?
Don’t do more than you can do comfortably. The key is to start off slow. Try a “sit to stand” exercise and if that doesn’t hurt, do three to five repetitions. If you aren’t in pain, keep going.
But if it hurts, readjust the position until you find something that feels comfortable. Next time, try for eight repetitions and then increase from there until you’re able to do 15 repetitions with no pain.
What about yoga?
Yoga is an advanced stretching modality, so it can be helpful for the right pain clients, but it’s also important to understand your limitations with yoga as well.
Any final words of advice?
Focus on balance and stability and keep busy. Something I always tell clients is “motion is lotion.” As long as you keep your muscles active and keep moving, you’ll be good.
The Best Exercises for Chronic Pain:
Jason recommends using a TRX (pictured below), which is a piece of suspension athletic equipment you can easily attach to any door in your house. The two exercises Jason uses frequently with chronic pain clients are the “squat to row” and the “sit stand”.
How to Do the Squat-to-Row Exercise:
Step 1: Straighten arms and legs and lean back
Legs should be hip-width apart and toes should be pointed forward.
Step 2: Slowly lower yourself into a sitting position
You don’t need to go as low as Harper is in this photo. Go as low as your muscles and joints will allow you.
Step 3: Go even lower if you can, and hold the pose for a few seconds
Step 4: Slowly stand
How to Do the Sit-to-Stand Exercise
Step 1: Sit upright in a chair with your legs firmly planted on the ground hip-width apart.
Step 2: Put your hands together at chest level (finger tips together, as though praying).
Step 3: Now stand up, using the strength in your legs and gluteus maximus (your “glutes”).
Step 4: After you’ve stood up, squeeze your glutes. Hold.
Step 5: Then slowly lower yourself back into your chair, keeping your hands together in the “prayer position”.
Repeat this for at least three to five repetitions. If there is no pain, continue for 15 repetitions.
To learn more about Jason or to inquire about working with him, contact him directly via email at HarperwellnessLV@gmail.com or by phone at 702-370-8118.
In pain and seeking relief? Las Vegas Recovery Center offers more than just pain management in Las Vegas and Henderson: We teach clients valuable skills they can use to fully recover from chronic pain symptoms and lead healthy, balanced lives. Call our 24-hour admissions line to learn more!