How to use movement to manage your pain

May 03, 2019

For many sufferers of pain, medication is something that they rely on. But, are you aware of how movement and exercise can be helpful too? Read on as we take a look at the importance of mobility when it comes to pain relief and what you can do to get moving.

What are the benefits of movement?

Pain relief and improved function are just to advantages of movement. Improving function in this way has been found to reduce disability, lower feelings of depression and improve someone’s physical condition and quality of life. When it comes to a person’s wellbeing, exercise can help regulate sleep patterns and reduce stress levels. It’s clear to see that movement is not only about losing weight or keeping fit — it’s also crucial for a range of other things.

Steps you can take

If you are suffering from pain, on a chronic scale or temporarily, the last thing that you want to do is make it worse. The following types of exercise are low impact and can work towards building up your strength and managing your pain.


What is Pilates? Different to yoga, it is usually performed as a flow of movement rather than static exercises.

This type of exercise is not too strenuous, in fact, Pilates is a low-impact exercise that is either carried out on a mat or using special equipment. Specialised apparatus can help resistance if you want to build muscle. Alternatively, the apparatus can be used to support someone with back pain to allow them to do certain movements. The performed exercises focus on improving your flexibility, strength and body awareness by working with your abdominal core muscles.

What are the benefits of this type of exercise? Pilates has been found to relieve individuals of back pain and practitioners of the form say that the exercise improves posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility. In addition to this, it works with your body to relieve stress and tension.

You don’t have to attend a class or take time out of your day to do Pilates either. You can do Pilates at work too with desk exercises. Find examples of these online, they’re all about controlled breathing and strengthening different muscle groups.


Studies have proven that yoga can help with painful issues such as back pain.

In one study, for example, it was found that there are significant differences between the brains of those who experienced chronic pain and the brains of those who regularly practised yoga. Researchers found that the sufferers of chronic pain had less of the kind of brain tissue in the regions that help us tolerate pain. On the other hand, those who did yoga had more of this brain tissue.

Pain relief from yoga is best suited to those who have occasional soreness or long-lasting aches. This is through practising certain postures that lengthen the spine, improve alignment, and stretch and strengthen the muscles.

If you want to know how to ease back pain, stretching in the right way can release built-up tension and eliminate some discomfort. If you want to use yoga for this sort of relief, gentle yoga is what you should focus on, as more strenuous styles could cause damage. Always ask what sort of class it is before you sign up.

You’ll discover that there are certain poses that will suit your body and needs. The ‘extended child’s pose’, for example, lengthens the sides of the body whilst providing traction on the spine. And, the ‘cobra’ is all about stretching and strengthening the spine.

You’ll notice other benefits to yoga as well. These include lowered heart rate and blood pressure and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Hydrotherapy is another form of pain relief through movement. This involves the use of water to help with exercises and strength building.

Exercises can come in a range of forms. They range from easy routines that are carried out in shallow water, to the use of high-tech equipment such as underwater treadmills. The presence of the water counteracts gravity and helps support the person’s weight, making them feel lighter and able to move more freely. When it comes to those who suffer from back pain, the water is able to minimise the axial load (weight on the spine) and allow them to do exercises that they may not be able to do on land. The viscosity in water also creates a resistance which allows people to do muscle strengthening exercises without a risk of further injury through loss of balance — something that they may not have been able to do on land, either.

In particular, individuals with the following conditions are referred for hydrotherapy: osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis and those with muscle strain or tears. Each person’s water therapy programme is different, some pain sufferers do solely water therapy exercises and others use a combination of land-based and water-based exercises to manage their pain or rehabilitate.


Apart from the above, there are other exercises that can help. Speak to your GP about which exercises will be best for your pain management needs and keep active to improve your overall wellbeing.