Physical exercise as non-pharmacological treatment of chronic pain: Why and when.

Research paper by Kirsten R KR Ambrose, Yvonne M YM Golightly

Indexed on: 13 Aug '15Published on: 13 Aug '15Published in: Best Practice & Research: Clinical Rheumatology


Chronic pain broadly encompasses both objectively defined conditions and idiopathic conditions that lack physical findings. Despite variance in origin or pathogenesis, these conditions are similarly characterized by chronic pain, poor physical function, mobility limitations, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, and they are treated alone or in combination by pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches, such as physical activity (aerobic conditioning, muscle strengthening, flexibility training, and movement therapies). Physical activity improves general health, disease risk, and progression of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. When applied to chronic pain conditions within appropriate parameters (frequency, duration, and intensity), physical activity significantly improves pain and related symptoms. For chronic pain, strict guidelines for physical activity are lacking, but frequent movement is preferable to sedentary behavior. This gives considerable freedom in prescribing physical activity treatments, which are most successful when tailored individually, progressed slowly, and account for physical limitations, psychosocial needs, and available resources.