Chronic pain is no laughing matter. Over a fifth of the country suffers from chronic pain, which equates to about 50 million people. And while options exist for chronic pain relief, only half describe adequate pain control. Given this fact and the known side effects of pain medications, alternative measures for chronic pain relief are always being sought. And of these, stretching exercises are commonly encouraged. But can stretching exercises really help someone in need of chronic pain relief? Yes. Yes, they can.
Among the types of chronic pain that people usually suffer from, lower back pain and neck pain are most common. Likewise, arthritis and related joint pain are quite prevalent in the U.S., accounting for significant disability. Stretching exercises have been routinely used for these types of conditions, offering great relief as well as improved function. In fact, research has shown that massages, stretching exercises, and similar care is considerably more beneficial than prescription medications.
Actual Benefits of Stretching
The following highlights exactly how stretching exercises can help provide you with effective chronic pain relief:
Stretching Exercises and Mobility
Effective stretching improves mobility and flexibility by enhancing the range of motion of the joints. As a result, muscles, tendons, and ligaments enjoy greater movement and less stiffness, which naturally means less pain. In addition, proper stretching exercises can reduce the amount of inflammation that may develop from joint inactivity. All these things help provide significant chronic pain relief while also reducing the chances of musculoskeletal injury.
Stretching Exercises and Postural Effects
While individual joint pain can develop from arthritis, chronic pain can be perpetuated from poor joint alignment. Once muscles, ligaments, and tendons tighten, it can throw joint position and posture off-balance. Unfortunately, this can aggravate musculoskeletal conditions even further. However, stretching exercises can help, and enhance function by improving posture and joint alignment. As a result, stretching can break the vicious cycle of pain, poor joint position, and poor joint function that often develops.
Stretching Exercises and Tissue Health
When you perform stretching exercises, you invite improved health to all your body’s tissues. In addition to providing chronic pain relief from mobility and postural effects, stretching exercises also improve tissue circulation. This detail means nutrients and oxygen can more easily gain access to your tissues. Likewise, it means the waste products of metabolism can be more readily removed. Tissues are less likely to be inflamed, thus providing higher degrees of chronic pain relief.
Stretching Exercises and Psychological Benefits
It’s no secret that chronic pain can take its toll on you psychologically. In fact, more than two-thirds of those with chronic pain admit to having depression at times. However, stretching exercises can help reduce the risk of depression through several mechanisms. Naturally, depression becomes less likely as stretching provides greater chronic pain relief. And stretching also reduces levels of stress, which is known to augment pain as well as the risk of depression. Through positive psychological effects, stretching thus offers a more holistic approach to chronic pain relief.
Best Practices for Stretching and Chronic Pain Relief
Many who seek chronic pain relief want a single “magic” stretch or move to eliminate their pain. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing. Instead, an effective approach to chronic pain relief requires a routine regimen of several different stretching exercises. Often, the actual cause of tissue or musculoskeletal pain may not be precisely coming from where it hurts. Thus, adopting a stretching program that promotes alignment, flexibility, and mobility is typically more effective on the whole.
Also, any approach to stretching shouldn’t be an aggressive one. In actuality, stretching exercises do not need to invoke severe pain and be extremely strenuous to be effective. A stretching program that offers light, gentle and sustained stretches in a static position tends to be the most effective long-term. Ultimately, those exercises that focus on proper alignment and technique offer the most benefit for chronic pain relief. When it comes to stretching, you can definitely make gains without added pains.
Bold Living with Stretching Exercises
Without question, stretching exercises can offer significant chronic pain relief when done correctly. You may choose to perform this type of regimen on your own or by joining a yoga class. Or you may decide to seek professional help from a physiatrist, physical therapist or chiropractor. In any event, stretching exercises provide a holistic strategy to reduce chronic pain while avoiding medications and their potential side effects. Moreover, in the process, stretching will boost your confidence and sense of wellness—thus, further enhancing your overall health.