Note: Before beginning any exercise regimen check with your physician(s) to make sure you don't have any conditions that require you to modify exercises or avoid certain movements. Your overall health is the goal, so taking chances and aggravating a condition are not recommended.
HOW TO EXERCISE WHEN YOU HAVE CHRONIC PAIN
Don't Skip Proper Stretching. This is so important when exercising. Whether you are only going for a short walk, taking a bike ride or just a swim at your local community pool it is imperative to loosen your muscles properly. Here is a great list with slides put out by the Mayo Clinic that gives you a good idea of starter stretches. If you have specific areas of pain make sure to check with your physician before stretching to see what is recommended by them for your condition.
Check out Physical Therapy First. There are many cases where your physical condition and diagnosis will be enough for your insurance to pay for you to have some physical therapy. Before starting an exercise regimen that could exasperate your pain levels check with your physician about possible physical therapy. The benefit is dual purpose. Not only will you have some added pain relief, but the therapists can also coach you and show you what exercises will be best for you to increase your movement without aggrevating your pain. Specifically look for someone who specializes in sports therapy as they deal more directly with how to continue exercise while healing.
Head to the pool. One of the best ways to exercise when you have pain issues is to head to the local pool. The buoyancy of your body in the water allows for less stress on your joints and muscles. Simple water walking or slow laps can increase movement, burn calories and help raise your heart rate while offering a low impact version of exercise.
Start Slowly. Running 5 miles would be wonderful and surely jump start your weight loss but when you are overweight and have chronic pain you need to start slowly and work your way up. Depending on your level of pain and ability you can start as slowly as jut doing stretching for a few days, then adding a 10 minute routine of exercise (swim, walk, bicycle) then slowly add to that 10 minutes in 2-5 minute increments until you are doing 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week consistently. Going slow will help prevent injury, burnout and frustration. It will also help you build endurance for longer sessions.
Have Proper Equipment. Okay, this one can be tough on those of us who hate spending money but it is your health and it is worth it. Make sure you buy proper shoes and support gear. If your doctor suggest a wrist, knee or back brace then invest in something quality. Check out good shoes that fit well, offer support and are appropriate for your specific exercise. If doing stretching, yoga, pilates or other floor exercises check out proper yoga and exercise mats that are thicker and offer full support. They do make some varieties that are wider to accommodate those of us who are plus sized as well.
Don't Give Up. There are going to be days when it just hurts too much and you don't feel like you can continue. Sometimes your body is telling you to take a break, change your pace, do something different but not give up. Don't give up. Pause, take a break, seek out an additional round of physical therapy, soak in the hot tub, get a massage, use prescribed anti-inflammatory medication as needed, but don't give up. Get up the next day and try again.
Chronic pain exists for a lot of people. Sometimes it is caused by obesity (like my case), and other times it is truly unexplained (like those with Fibromyalgia). It isn't to be taken lightly, but it isn't an excuse to not work toward health either. There are always options for your body, your condition, your pain level. Talk to your physician or set up an appointment with a personal trainer to discuss how to exercise when you have chronic pain. One of the greatest benefits you will see is your pain level decreasing as your overall health improves. There are many physical conditions that cause pain that exercise can actually eliminate or help prevent flare ups of. No matter your size, physical condition or financial ability you can always find a way to exercise something in some way to increase your heart rate, burn calories and better your physical condition. I am living proof.