Exercise Your Options: A Lesson in Pain Reduction
By Martha Michael
You may remember your grammar school gym class where the PE teacher would lead you in jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups and arm circles. If you’re like a lot of baby boomers, you probably look back and assume it really didn’t do much for the health of the students -- just kept the class busy for an hour.
Elementary school days may be way behind you, but exercise carries many benefits now that it couldn’t offer a younger you, especially if you’re battling pain from an injury or chronic condition.
The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics published a report on randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, looking at the result of exercise as treatment for patients experiencing intense pain from soft tissue injuries in the hip, thigh or knee. Success was measured by the following factors:
- Intensity of pain
- Quality of life
- Psychological outcomes
- Adverse events
“One RCT found statistically significant improvements in pain and function favoring clinic-based progressive combined exercises over a ‘wait and see’ approach for patellofemoral (anterior knee) pain syndrome,” the study says. “Patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome or groin pain had the best results with clinic-based exercise programs.”
An ABC News blog posted an article about a study comparing the outcome of three different forms of treatment for pain. Results show that both the patients treated by chiropractic professionals and the individuals who received home exercise advice, referred to as HEA, had higher rates of success than those who turned to medication for relief. Just 13 percent of the patients who took medication reported a satisfactory reduction in pain, whereas, about two-thirds of those who were treated through either chiropractic care or HEA said they were pain-free.
A total of 272 patients, age 18-65, who were suffering from recent-onset neck pain took part in the study, which the National Institutes of Health spearheaded.
"I always prescribe exercises and/or physical therapy for neck pain," wrote Dr. John Messmer from Penn State College of Medicine. "I also tell patients that the exercises are the treatment and the drugs are for the symptoms."
Dr. Lee Green, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, also talked to ABC News about the study.
"Doesn't surprise me a bit," Dr. Green said. "Neck pain is a mechanical problem, and it makes sense that mechanical treatment works better than a chemical one."
The study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, singles out the effectiveness of spinal manipulation therapy, or SMT, to provide relief for patients with neck pain. Researchers found that in both the short-term and long-term statistics, SMT had the most effective outcome. The report adds that HEA proved equally effective at some points in the study.
Participants rated their pain at several intervals: 2, 4, 8, 26, and 52 weeks. This enabled scientists to draw specific conclusions, such as the evidence showing that 12 weeks of SMT provided greater pain relief than up to one year of medication.
Your chiropractic professional can guide you in choosing exercises that target the areas you need treating. Chiropractic visits, in addition to home exercise practices, are a way to double down on your odds of successful treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, there are multiple benefits to using exercise for your joints, as well as improving general wellness. Exercise serves to:
- Strengthen the muscles around your joints
- Help you maintain bone strength
- Give you more energy to get through the day
- Make it easier to get a good night's sleep
- Improve your balance
We’re not talking about the kind of punishing calisthenics that win you the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, but something to just curb your symptoms and add some range of motion. Consulting with a chiropractor to incorporate some exercise seems to be the best way to get a passing grade in pain relief.
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