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Regular Exercise Prevents Chronic Muscle Pain

We all know exercise is good for you, but it’s nice to have some good quality scientific evidence to prove it! The fact that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience chronic pain is commonly observed in practice everyday, and by patients first-hand. It is not too far fetched to suggest that exercise keeps our musculoskeletal system strong, and therefore less likely to hurt ourselves, but a recent study has looked into the proposed mechanisms as to how exercise prevents pain, from a neurological perspective.

Without going into too much detail, it is commonly believed that exercise produces its chronic pain-prevention benefits by activating what is known as the central opioid receptors in the nervous system, and this is a key factor in reducing pain sensation.

In brief, the reseachers did a study on mice whereby they were given access to a running wheel prior to induction of chronic muscle hyperalgesia (pain), and compared them to a group of mice without the running wheels. They closely measured and compared the neurochemistry of both groups and found that the wheel running produced analgesia (pain-relief) via central pain inhibitory mechanisms.

If you are keen to get stuck into the full science of it, there full research article can be found here.

 

What does this mean for us in everyday life?

If you are suffering from chronic pain, it is likely that regular exercise will assist in conjunction with your existing treatment. Exercise doesn’t have to be super-high intensity either – brisk walking is good start! The key is finding exercise that is conducive with any existing injuries of musculoskeletal conditions you may have. It is recommended to consult with your usual health practitioner who can advise you on exercise that is appropriate to you.

 

References:

Brito, R.G., Rasmussen, L.A., Sluka, K.A., 2017. Regular physical activity prevents development of chronic muscle pain through modulation of supraspinal opioid and serotonergic mechanisms. PAIN Reports 2, e618. doi:10.1097/PR9.0000000000000618

https://journals.lww.com/painrpts/fulltext/2017/10000/Regular_physical_activity_prevents_development_of.7.aspx

2 Simple Exercises to Keep Your Shoulders Strong and Pain-Free

Following on from our blog last week on subacromial bursitis and shoulder impingement, I thought it would be useful to provide some information on two exercises I have found to be very helpful for my patients with various forms of shoulder pain.

Stretches are beneficial to keep soft tissue structures flexible, but strengthening is really the key to enabling the shoulder to move correctly and be stabilised. Strengthening increases the capacity of the muscles to perform the tasks we demand of them, in a pain-free manner.

 

1. Resisted External Rotation

This is an excellent and very popular exercise to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, and will generally form part of the initial rehabilitation phase in most clinics.

With your elbows by your side at 90 degrees, hold a length or resistance band between both hands. Keep one arm still as an anchor point, and slowly rotate the opposite arm away from your body. Alternatively, you can tie the band onto a pole or hook. It is important to keep your elbow up tight against your body with the movement, to ensure the rotator cuff muscles are doing the work and not the torso trying to help out. Also ensure that the wrist stays straight, as it too can try to compensate for a weakness in the rotator cuff. The body will look for ways to cheat and avoid using the shoulder if it is painful, so keep an eye on your form!

2. Seated Rows

This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles of the upper back that help support the scapula(shoulder blade). The scapula forms the base of support from which the upper limb operates, so it important that we have a strong, stable foundation here. Issues with scapular control and stability, can often have a significant flow-on effect down the chain.

It is best to start with this exercises in a seated position, with your arms slightly elevated out to your sides. With the resistance band in each hand, have it looped around a pole or a hook in front of you. Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together in the middle of your back, without shrugging your shoulders. Try to focus most of the strength and movement at the shoulder blades, and not the arms/elbows. Also, be careful not to jut the neck/chin forward!

 

These exercises are meant as a guide only. It is recommended that you consult with your usual healthcare practitioner prior to commencing exercises, to rule out any contraindications or underlying pathology that may need to be addressed.

Winter Exercise Tips

It’s easy to let the exercise go by the wayside over winter. Here are some tips for keeping active over the cooler months…

1. Make the most of daylight hours – With limited daylight hours before and after work, look at ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. This might include a brisk lunch-time walk or a midday exercise class.

2. Plan an active winter holiday – A winter escape to a warmer location is a good way to avoid the worst of the weather, and to also plan some outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking and surfing.

3. Get an exercise partner – It can take a lot of determination to get out of bed on those cold, dark mornings. Having an exercise buddy is a great way to commit to an exercise plan.