Physical Activity vs Exercise for Pain Relief: Is One More Important Than the Other?

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Physical Activity vs Exercise for Pain Relief: Is One More Important Than the Other?

I know what you’re probably thinking. Aren’t physical activity and exercise the same thing? Partially. You could say that exercise is physical activity, but physical activity isn’t always exercise. Exercise is planned and structured physical activity, often with long term goals in mind. Physical activity is something you typically choose to do because you enjoy it or have to do because it’s part of your job or daily life (ie: standing on your feet all day at work or babysitting grandkids at home).


The dread of exercise...


Often times, exercise is seen as work and something we don’t often look forward to doing. Why? Probably because there’s not a lot of instant gratification. And when you’re in chronic pain, the last thing you want to do is add more discomfort to your life. We know that in the long run, exercise will make us feel healthier, be healthier, and potentially help ease pain (with the right regimen). But it’s all in the long run. Even to feel those post-workout endorphins, we have to put ourselves through a little discomfort first. Physical activity, on the other hand, can be something we choose to do—like a hobby. Or it’s something that’s part of our everyday life—like work or lifting your 1-yr old grandchild all day long. We may find enjoyment or necessity in the physical activity itself, and not necessarily be open to what the long-term benefits are (though those are always nice to think about).


Don’t get me wrong… you may love walking and/or lifting weights. We know there are people in our chronic pain community who do! You know who you are. And I’m sure part of the reason you do it is for the long-term health benefits. Or, you enjoy the mental and physical challenge it brings, the community, and in the case of walking… just being outside.


So, when it comes to pain relief, do I have to exercise if I’m already exerting myself all day?


Like with any physical activity, it really depends on what it is. Unless your daily physical activity moves and strengthens all of the important muscles and areas of your body needed for pain relief (which is rare), you still need some planned, structured time to exercise—even if it’s slightly uncomfortable. It can (and in most cases should) be fairly light and include various stretches. Need some ideas? Click here for 5 easy exercises you can do at home in just 20 minutes, 3 times per week that will help reduce inflammation. Also speak with your doctor, physical therapist, and/or chiropractor about an exercise plan specific to you that will help fight inflammation. Even though you may dread the thought of exercising, you can still make it fun. Do it with a buddy in a location that you love—like at the beach or in a park. And reward yourself afterwards with a healthy, tasty snack or meal. Music always helps too!


As for the physical activity you need to do and/or just want to do, it’s extremely important that you don’t do more harm than good to your body.  Even light physical activity like painting landscapes or cooking, for example, could cause inflammation. For any physical activity you do, ask yourself… does it cause pain? Am I in worse shape the next day? If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions, talk to your doctor, physical therapist, and/or chiropractor about modifications in your posture or time duration while doing those activities. You may also need to do some additional stretches to compensate for the strain on certain areas of your body from those physical activities.


In conclusion, physical activity and exercise are usually not the same thing. Both are important. However, if the goal is pain relief, just make sure that your physical activity doesn’t do more harm than good to your body—ie don’t overdo it. In addition, it’s important to focus on certain areas of your body with exercises designed to give you long term, pain relief.


And remember, physical activity and exercise are just part of the equation when it comes to pain relief. Using Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy, Oska Pulse is clinically proven to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, improve mobility, and relieve pain. You can strap it on or near your point of pain while you're working, exercising, or doing many of the activities that you love. Click here to try it out!


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