Exercise – Brain Connection: Chronic Pain – MS, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Back Pain

Posted: August 4, 2009 by Dave Kohrell in Exercise - brain connection
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Exercise and pain – two blogs have been devoted to it and a third one is presented here.  Maybe there’s a connection?  Even back to our brains. This blog addresses chronic pain from three prevalent health issues and the benefit of exercise to each.  The next blog will address managing long term pain from exercise – pain not to be ignored whether associated with knees, plantar fasciitis or achilles tendons.  Call this a sort of ying and yang of exercise.  This blog addresses the ying once again.

Benefits of Exercise – Take 2 – Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Back Pain.

I’ve shared that exercise provides benefit to a person of any age.  Can it help with significant pain diseases / issues?  The research indicates yes!  As with any exercise consult your physician first.  Also, as with the entire series on the Exercise – Brain connection, exercise is not offered a singular, exclusive solution that’s accomplished in four simple steps – it’s meant for a life long commitment that weaves and supports other treatments and activities. This ain’t an  informercial.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – I’ve seen the debilitating effects of progressive MS on my oldest brother.  Formal confirmation and diagnosis was provided in 2004/05.  His is not a relapse form of MS – it’s a downhill slope.  He is still active, aided by an iron will,  tremendous family support, treatment and moderate exercise.  While a marathon is not in the cards, he can be there at then end laughing at me trying to hold off the winner of the 80 and older age group.  That’s what brotherly love is all about.  Swimming and moderate strength training are his two primary forms of exercise.   The following video from WebMD provides some insights on how exercise can help manage the symptoms from MS

http://www.webmd.com/video/multiple-sclerosis-and-exercise

Fibromyalgia

A disease which has exercise intolerance as a root symptom might seem an unlikely candidate to benefit from exercise.  Research does indicate that, in moderate and careful doses, exercise can provide invaluable support.  The following is from the Arthritis Foundation, Research Update, March / April 2008.

Exercise and Education for Fibromyalgia

The authors conclude in their article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “The present study suggests that progressive walking, simple strength training movements, and stretching activities are effective at improving physical, emotional and social function, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia who are being actively treated with medication. Furthermore, the benefits of exercise are enhanced when combined with targeted self-management education.”

Back Pain

Back Pain is a common discomfort for most everyone at some point in their life.   For a some though chronic back pain is a life long issues.  President Kennedy’s struggle with back pain following his WW2 service is widely documented.  What is not as widely known is that the best relief was not provided by six daily pain treatment shots, rather it was after that approach was abandoned for moderate, back strengthening exercises.  The National Pain Foundation chronicles the work of Dr. Kraus in the following article:

Muscles, Back Pain and Exercise

Dr. Kraus, who originally was an orthopedic surgeon, actually established the first multidisciplinary pain center in the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which very few people know. It was at the Columbia University School of Medicine in the department of orthopedic surgery. There were psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, physiatrists, and orthopedic surgeons researching at back pain and trying to understand it.
They found that about 80% of patients presented with nothing that could be demonstrated on an x-ray or physical exam that suggested there was something significant pathologically, so they tried to understand it from the perspective of conditioning since that was Dr. Kraus background. They studied about 3,700 patients for 4.5 years and created a test – called the Kraus-Weber test – and an exercise program to go along with the test to deal with what they thought were the types of functional muscle pain that exist

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