What is Chronic Pain? Who Suffers?
Chronic pain affects one in four Americans. This is according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and means someone you know and love, maybe even you, suffer from pain lasting weeks, months, or even years.
Chronic pain is not the normal warning signs our bodies use to alert us of a short-term injury or illness. It may start as a regular injury–a back sprain, whiplash, a bad fall–but the pain lasts long after the healing is done.
In some cases, persistent pain is the fault of a condition such as arthritis, anxiety, endometriosis, or fibromyalgia. With such a wide variety of causes, it’s no wonder so many Americans suffer from it and it has become the number one reason Americans seek health care.
How is Chronic Pain Treated?
Chronic pain often limits mobility, flexibility, and can make day-to-day activities excruciating. If not treated, this can lead to loneliness, depression, drug abuse, and other harmful conditions. So how are doctors treating chronic pain?
In the past, opioids, or prescription pain relievers such as codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine, have been widely prescribed to treat long-term pain. However, in recent years prescription opioid-related addictions and deaths have skyrocketed.
In 2016 the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reported that over 20,000 people had died as a result of prescription opioid abuse the year prior and in 2012, “259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.”
As a result of this and other similar reports, physicians are cracking down on their use of such medication and many chronic pain sufferers are searching for alternate forms of relief.
There is good news. There are alternate forms of chronic pain relief. Successful ones. In addition to natural supplements and heat therapy, physical activity is typically a physician’s first recommendation to reduce chronic pain.
While exercise may sound like the last thing a long-term sufferer wants to do, its benefits are undeniable. Gentle exercise keeps muscles warm and loose, improves flexibility, and range-of-motion.
Exercise may not completely cure persistent pain but it absolutely prevents decline, meaning it keeps pain from becoming worse over time.
Sufferers are often tempted to shy away from any activity for fear of pain flare-ups but the less the muscles are used the more likely pain is to increase and mobility is to decrease.
Physical activity also releases endorphins in your brain and nervous system. This is a natural hormone often associated with euphoria but which also interacts with receptors in your brain, reducing the perception of pain.
Ever felt on top of the world after a workout? That’s endorphins hard at work in your body. Exercise can even act as a kind distraction–when you’re faced with a goal of a few miles to run, pounds to lift, or laps to swim, your mind can escape the pain and focus on something new, healthy, and maybe even fun.
How Can Swimming Help Relieve Pain?
So what is the best exercise for reducing and slowing chronic pain progression? There is no competition here. The obvious winner is swimming.
Related Article: The Swimming Pool: An Investment for Health
You should always consult a doctor before engaging in exercise, but it’s proven that swimming a few laps on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your health, especially as a long-term pain sufferer.
One of swimming’s best features is the lack of any pressure on your joints, limbs, and tender nerves, therefore, swimming is considered low-impact exercise for your back and other joints.
Painful areas are free from the weight of walking, sitting, standing, lifting, and daily life activities which cause flare-ups.
In the pool, you not only reduce existing pain but also decrease the risk of added injury by exercising in a gentle environment.
Swimmers also receive the benefit of a total workout in one fun and refreshing location. A few walking or swimming laps in the pool gives you a solid cardiovascular workout, increasing the endurance and strength you’ll need for the challenges of everyday activities accompanied by chronic pain.
Even after a few laps, you’ll begin breathing heavy and working hard. The more and more you challenge yourself in the pool, the more benefits you will see.
The water also acts as resistance against your limbs, strengthening your muscles with every motion. Keeping those muscles loose and warm prevents tension which can cause added pain.
Chronic Pain Relief Just for You!
While not everyone has the resources to install their own pool, it is the best option for long-term sufferers. Having to commute to a gym or public pool decreases your ease of access and may limit the amount you’re able to exercise or can even prevent you from swimming altogether.
Related Article: Small Backyard Swimming Pool (Spool) Guide
Having your own pool means you can engage in low-impact physical activity on a daily basis and even in the midst of a pain flare-up. It also means spending time with friends and family.
You can welcome those you love most to enjoy the pool with you and at the same time get a relieving workout to aid your suffering.
Chronic pain is certainly no joy, but finding an alternative remedy, such as swimming, can ultimately bring about a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Take action against persistent pain and prevent it from dominating your future.