This is something that I rarely talk about: I’ve been dealing with chronic pain since I was a kid.
Until my early 20s it was officially dismissed as ‘growing pains.’ In my 20s I was ‘to young for that problem’ and officially categorized as having a tendency towards hypochondria. From that point on, every medical concern and question were conveniently ignored by doctors who were more than willing to charge outrageous prices for doing nothing – and that was when I had access to medical care at all.
Over several decades it progressed from pain and minimal migraines to occasionally disruptive pain and regular headaches/migraines. From there it eventually (inevitably?) progressed to near-constant debilitating pain. In short, it was real, unavoidable, physical pain; and it wasn’t going away. Sometimes I was fully functional but most days I was swimming through a tortuous fog.
Like most people dealing with a physical illness/problem without support or assistance from the medical community, I did my own research and tried everything I could financially afford that sounded reasonable. Some worked temporarily, others did nothing or made the problem worse. All of it provided clues about the size, scope, origin and cause of the horrid pain monster whose nasty teeth were piercing deep into my life.
Fast forward to the beginning of my current fitness journey. Two years ago, I started working with a personal trainer. I was honest about my reasons for trying to get in shape: I was in pain pain PAIN! Most of it was concentrated in my back and neck, and I had good reason to believe it was (at least partially) a direct result of being out of shape. We talked about bad posture, limited mobility, overly-tight chest muscles, over-extended back muscles, and general weakness throughout my back, hips and legs. We talked about old sports injuries and the kinds of exercises I habitually used when working out and why (read: they were the only exercises I knew how to do).
For the first time in my entire life a personal trainer (or a gym, for that matter) didn’t freak out over the words ‘back pain’ and immediately dismiss me as both a legal liability and a physical fitness lost cause.
Better. It was the first time someone took my reasons seriously and actually developed a workout routine focused on addressing everything we discussed.
This is going to sound like a bad commercial but I swear…pinky swear, girl scouts honor…by the end of three weeks the workouts were noticeably reducing the pain! It was happening in little tiny chunks, but that horrible pain monster was getting smaller.
After many months the pain reduction plateaued. The workouts maintained the reduction already achieved but did not reduce it further. That was when I found a chiropractor. I didn’t realize how badly locked up and out-of-alignment portions of my neck and upper back were until he cracked them back into place. It took a few weeks and a lot of ice, but I finally reached a point where my head and spine moved freely – like they’re supposed to.
Here it is, about two years later, and the pain is completely under control. There are days when it returns but a workout at the gym usually takes care of it. When that doesn’t work, a visit to the Chiropractor does.
It’s amazing. I’m convinced my chiropractor and personal trainer are miracle workers! For purely financial reasons, I’ve stopped working with the personal trainer, but I visit the gym regularly and put what I learned to good use.
The Magic Fight-The-Pain Workout
For those who also struggle with chronic pain, I am including my pain/stress workout. These are the things I do, at least twice a week, without fail.
It is important to note that these are not the only things I do. There are other exercises and stretches that I use to work on (or stretch out) different muscle groups and change things up a bit. This is merely the absolute core of my fitness routine – everything else builds on these exercises.
Therefore, this is not a goal-setting workout or a get-in-shape workout or even a hot-body workout. This is a fight-the-pain workout. Just pain management and stress reduction. Nothing else.
- Pull-Ups (weight assisted)
- Dips (weight assisted)
- TRX Rows
- TRX Squats or Leg Press (machine)
If you are dealing with chronic pain and nothing is making it better, then take my story under consideration. I am not a doctor or physical fitness expert, but I can say with absolute certainty that this is the only thing that has worked for me. So, if something like this won’t make your situation worse (read: talk to your doctor) then consider talking to a personal trainer. It might work.