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Paige Waehner

How do you keep exercising when you have an injury/chronic pain?

By July 16, 2012

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There are plenty of good things about getting older, but one of the most frustrating is the fact that your body doesn't always have the same resilience that it used to. In fact, almost all of my clients past the age of 40 are struggling with at least one chronic injury or condition: Back pain, knee pain, shoulder problems, arthritis...or, as one client put it, "I've become my mother...no, it's worse than that. I've become my grandmother."

However, there is an upside to all of this, one that never fails to inspire me: These people still show up for their workouts. They get frustrated and they complain (often quite colorfully). Sometimes they have to miss a workout or spend time with a doctor or physical therapist, yet, overall, they're still committed to exercise.

I know there are many of you out there doing the same thing, getting up and moving, even when it hurts...even when you don't want to. My question to you is: How do you do it? How do you keep moving when you're in pain or have to work around an injury? What advice do you have for people struggling withe these issues? Leave a comment and tell us how you keep exercising.

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July 16, 2012 at 7:18 am
(1) Larraine says:

If I don’t keep moving, I will hurt or be more stiff than I am. So, I would rather be in pain for doing something than doing nothing!

July 16, 2012 at 8:43 am
(2) Al says:

I’ve had a left knee issue for a while. I’d run through it and then ice and elivate my knee. Then I bought a knee compressor and it works wonderfully. At first I was using it only after exercising, though often I now where it while exercising and I don’t get the knee pain while I’m working out. I think it’s important to research your injury, find the best way to treat it and do it, faithfully. My knee has not held me back at all because I take care of it. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

July 16, 2012 at 10:15 am
(3) Lee says:

I have fewer total aches and pains when I exercise than when I don’t. I always ice the chronic problem areas after exercise which seems to help a lot.

July 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm
(4) Theonia says:

Aspirin and Ice become very good friends. = )

July 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm
(5) Tim Huber MSPT says:

Chronic pain is often treated with exercise. You should consult with a Physical Therapist who can properly evaluate your bio-mechanical problems and help you to modify activities that are contributing to your symptoms. Often, people are resistant to adapting as they age (racquetball players come to mind), but there are always good options for exercise! I still run, but not at the 40-mile per week rate that I endured in my 30′s. Now in my 50′s, I have more time to ride my horse and practice Tai Chi.

July 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm
(6) Maganini says:

I had two exercise mishaps this past spring. I fell over a stump while trail jogging and then a month later injured my other side when I fell off my bike as I fell into a pothole on a trail since I was going too quickly down a hill to avoid it. I wrenched my back when I fell off my bike and also hurt my ankle and really scraped my knee and fingers. However, a couple of days later I was back exercising using my Nordic poles and walking. Slowly I started to jog a bit too and am now pretty well back to normal. I still have some sort of sciatica pain now and then, but it doesn’t hurt when I exercise. Same with walking/jogging; exercise seems to help. Also, I’m 61 and realize I’m not 21, so will haves to be more careful. It seems to take a lot longer to bounce back from an injury!

July 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm
(7) SJ Miller says:

Engage in different types of exercise. Depending upon my area/pain level of the ‘aches’ I will choose something that enables me to work at least part of my body because deep down, it’s really about staying active. I can choose between Crossfit, TRX, Pilates or just plain old fashion power walking. Bottom line is there is always something out there that can be modified to fit your needs. Educate yourself and step outside of your box.

July 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm
(8) lahope says:

I fell and hurt my leg a week ago. I’ve been staying off it which means no exercises and as little walking on it as possible. I’ve been icing it a little and should be taking anti inflammatories, but I haven’t been. It isn’t healing as fast as I’d hoped, so I went back to the doctor today and got a knee compression support. I’m taking the time off because I want to come back really strong. I can’t be jumping into yoga poses with a sore knee and I need it to be completely healed to go back to spinning. I can probably meet my trainer at the gym in a couple of days, but I’m not gonna push myself and exacerbate the injury. I’m not someone who has ever had to deal with chronic pain, and I’mnot gonna start now, so I want to be 100% before I go back to my workouts. I’ll get my fitness level back fast. I’m totally watching what I eat while I’m not exercising.

July 18, 2012 at 8:58 am
(9) shante schuler says:

I have to jeep moving as well or the stiffness stays in my knee, I also have to be sure that my knee is stretched out at night. It will be stiff in the morning if i don’t. I then take about 5 workouts and just walk, do pilates, or yoga. This helps get that kink out then the next workouts I hit them hard so that I can maintain a workable knee.

July 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm
(10) sharon says:

I had a total hip replacement 6 months ago. I was in pain for 2 years prior to the surgery. I never stopped exercising except for the 6 weeks immediately post-op. I just did the prescribed exercises from the PT. I’m now back to doing Step classes and Body Pump classes. I will never stop!

July 24, 2012 at 1:45 am
(11) Veena says:

“I’ve become my mother…no, it’s worse than that. I’ve become my grandmother”. That statement is so true. I’m 44 and i feel 60 because i’m overweight and flat footed (on my right foot) and so have severe arch and ankle pain since past 2-3 yrs. I had stopped regular exercise post 2004 owing to the closure of my gym. So my foot problems may quite possibly be a result of this. I have visited many podiatrists & orthopaedics but no satisfactory solution. Their advice : wear insoles in all footwear 24/7 and lose weight. Following this &also Paige’s columns i joined a gym early this year. I swear i am all for exercise but the pain gets so excruciting at times that u wish u culd run your foot through something like a sugarcane press to experience that pressure pleasure or just unscrew the damn foot and bin it! I always have severe pain post exercise and not during. The whole foot would throb and feel like there was a thousand twists and knots inside that u wished could be released. Since not exercising also gives me pain i figured its better to exercise and suffer the pain. I have learned to ignore the pain and just go about my routines hoping that when and if i reach my ideal weight my problem will be relieved. I don’t know any other solution to this or if i’m doing the right thing by exercising with the injured foot. I have lost only 3 kgs in 5 months but am keeping at it. Still got a long journey to reach my ideal weight. So if any of you out there has faced or is facing a similar problem and has found a solution please let me know. Or if paige is reading this and can gv me sum suggestion i would really appreciate it. Thanks.

July 24, 2012 at 3:05 am
(12) Margie says:

Hah 40, I’ve been suffering with a degenerative joint condition, spondyloarthopathy from when I was 23 (I’m 29 now). I’m regularly in enough pain that all I can manage is shuffling around the pool and always in enough pain that I can’t take on high impact exercises. When the pain first started I cut back drastically on exercise and suffered more, now I know exercise is the best thing for me so I keep with it. Even though you’re in pain, you still get all the benefits. The worst thing is that no one really believes that you can be young, look normal and able bodied but be significantly crippled frequently. Sometimes when I talk about my bad back people laugh, as if I couldn’t possibly know what a bad back feels like. A lot of people with my condition give up on exercise and given that I’m only going to get worse, there is no guarantee that I’ll be sticking with it in my 40′s, but I certainly hope and pray I will be.

July 24, 2012 at 8:14 am
(13) Elinor says:

Exercise is part of my life! Was in an auto accident when I was 19 and was told I was lucky I was still walking but as I got older, i will suffer the consequences. Well i am now 74 and VERY active! Still work (I am a RN) and do Pilates, strength training, golf, bike,and hike! just did a hike in Peru on the Inca trail. Hurt? Yes most of the time but have learned to “live” with it. If I woke up one am without any aches, I’d figure I died! I have made sure that I am doing everthing correctly and is approved by my doctors and they are amazed at what I do and of course tell me to keep doing it! I don’t plan on stopping and it keeps me young!

July 24, 2012 at 8:24 am
(14) roxy798 says:

I keep exercising because that momentary discomfiture builds up my muscle strength so my chronic shoulder & back pain is later diminished.

July 24, 2012 at 8:54 am
(15) sgg says:

I have had knee and hip trouble repeatedly after attempting to run a marathon a few years ago. After seeing a PT, he said that a good part of my problem (and many people’s problem in fact) is that I have muscles compensating for others that are simply weak and/or not working. The worst part is that the ones that are weak are in my glute, which helps stabilize hips down to knees when running etc.
I mention all of this because every time I think I have things figured out, I re-injure myself. After my last session I started to figure somethings out that I thought I might share for some people who may also have some trouble doing squats or the like that put pressure on hips and knees. Often we are told to stand HIP distance apart. (at least I was) For me, I assumed a larger stance than I should have, which caused pressure that hurt. Why? Because I was thinking about the hips I could SEE not my hip BONES. I am a curvy person and it made all the difference in the world to make this change. I guess people were telling me hip distance instead of shoulder distance because it seemed like an easier concept, but for those of us who aren’t thinking on a structural level it could cause more pain. Just thought I would share this…

July 24, 2012 at 9:53 am
(16) Mike m. says:

I am 73 years old and still exercising. I have been exercising on a regular basis since I turned 50. My current routine is 20 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes on a Nu-Step (recumbent cross) trainer, 3 times per week. On 3 alternate days I do 20 minutes of free weight exercise. I think that exercise is one of the keys to a long life/ My father and his 5 brothers all died of heart attacks when they were in their mid fifties. I decided that I wasn’t ready to join them quite yet and that plus my wife, children and grand children are my motivation to live as long as I possibly can.

July 24, 2012 at 10:08 am
(17) thumper says:

I have many strategies for exercising while in pain. I first find a way to exercise what is not hurting. Then, I research and find possible reasons why it is hurting. Then, I try to remedy it myself or go to the doctor. I fight elbow, knee, wrist, shoulder, and back pain. I went to the doctor for my bad knees and I got an exercise regimen along with a foam roller to remedy it. I switched up my grip and hand placement on chin ups and do knuckle push ups and placed a good warm up before it. Now, I can say i don’t hurt as much as I used to. Lastly, I drink water heavily and take a product with resveratrol in it and it helps little by little.

July 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm
(18) Martha says:

I have had lifelong hip problems, then two years ago injured my shoulder, which is better now but not 100%. Doctors recommended staying off my feet as much as possible to preserve my hips, and for years I followed that advice. But I realized that in the hopes of avoiding disability later, I was effectively disabling myself now! Not to mention missing out on other benefits of exercise. So I try to stay more active, and I do feel better as a result. I modify activities as needed to avoid further injury and focus on appreciating just how much I can do.

July 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm
(19) Kelcey says:

Whenever I am sore or have an injury I turn to the pool. Water aerobics, water jogging and swimming (if the injury isn’t an upper body one) ALWAYS makes me feel better and speeds healing and recovery.

August 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm
(20) LOVES2 DANCE says:


November 24, 2012 at 2:10 am
(21) HBGIRL says:

I have degenerative disc disease in my spine which causes my chronic back pain. I can no longer work as I can’t sit or stand more than a few minutes at a time. Due to failed back surgery, it somehow affected my hips too so they are in constant pain as well. In 3 years, I have gained 50 lbs. The heaviest I have ever been. Before all of this, I worked out daily by lifting weights and running, etc. Working out was my life and now I can’t even walk half a block without feeling like my hips are dislocated and my back is screaming in pain. I want desperately to work out again but I don’t know how or what to do to get started again. I am severely depressed because of all of this so I have no motivation to even try to work out again. I am in Aqua therapy at the moment, but it has not been very aerobic so far. Does anyone know what type of exercises I can do that won’t hurt so bad? Any advice will be greatly appreciated as I want to start living again!

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