Can stretching help with chronic pain?

Monday 7th August

Dear fellow fibro warriors,

To help with my condition, I am part of lots of fibromyalgia and chronic pain Facebook groups. These are places we can vent, seek advice or ask questions. The top question I keep seeing is ‘what exercises can I do with my chronic condition?”

This is a complex question and will depend on the nature of your condition and on any advice by your doctor or specialist. However, in my personal opinion, the first place to begin is stretching.

Over the years, I have seen numerous specialists about my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome who have all recommended some form of movement to me. Be that stretching, walking, swimming, biking, running, yoga, pilates – you name it and it has been mentioned! After the appointments, I always go away thinking ‘yes I am going to work really hard at this and see what happens.’ I have a good go at what has been offered to me but then after a while, the enthusiasm wears off, life gets in the way, pain flares occur and I stop doing them, even though they have helped me.

I have been shown lots of basic stretches by my chiropractor, my sport physiotherapist, my powerlifting coach and my occupational therapist to complete and, in my opinion, stretching is one of the easiest forms of movement someone with a chronic condition can partake in.

(Please do speak to your GP or specialist before attempting any new work out as I am not medically trained. These are my opinions and what works for me only).

I know on a personal level that I need to do some form of movement, not only for the physical benefits on my body but for the mental health benefits too, so here is a list of the top stretches I do for my chronic pain.

Basic breathing and shoulder stretch.

This image shows how to perform the deep breathing stretching exercise described.

This is a very simple movement focused on breathing deeply whilst stretching your arms up from the centre of your chest and releasing them back down your body to your sides, again. I do this 5 times in a row, which releases some tension in my shoulders and enables me to relax my body. I also feel a lot calmer after doing them, so is a perfect movement for when you wake up or just before bed. It is also an easy move to perform whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil or your toast to pop up!

Cat-Cow pose

This image shows how to perform the cat cow yoga pose

I also do some cat-cow poses for my lower back pain. For those that don’t know what these are it involves kneeling on all floors with your back arched and, in sync with your breathing, slowly dropping the belly down and then lifting the back and torso up. This feel a good movement for the back but can be a little uncomfortable on the knees; so a pillow or a yoga mat might be helpful to have.

Quad stretches

This image shows how to perform the quad stretch.

I might often start or finish a workout with some quad stretches. These are where you stand up straight, lift each leg in turn up to your bottom, hold for 5 seconds and then repeat on the other side. This is great for really getting some movement back into the quads and working on your balance. For those with poor balance, please do hold onto a chair or something for support. I also find focusing on something in the distance can be really useful when doing this stretch.

Arm climbers up the wall

This image shows how to do arm climbers up the wall.

Arm climbers up the wall are what they say on the tin! You stand facing the wall and climb your hands up, as if you are trying to climb the wall. I complete this 5 times with each arm and is a good stretch for my upper back and my shoulders.

Knee hugs

This image shows how to do knee hugs lying down.

Knee hugs are where you lay down flat on the floor and bring one leg up at a time; hugging it into your chest. It feels like a nice rest because you get to lie down and these help my tight back. I would recommend a yoga mat to lie on and if your hands are sore you can use a strap or a dressing gown belt to bring your leg up to your chest. Only go as far as is comfortable for you.

Knees to chest

This image shows a list of fibromyalgia exercises I was given by my rheumatologist.

I have been given a sheet of simple basic stretches and movement to use from my rheumatology occupational therapist. One easy one to do from this list is knee to chest stretches, whereby you stand up straight and pull each leg up one at a time to your chest. This helps with balance, tight hips and back pain.

Straight leg behind in standing

This image shows how to perform a hamstring stretch.

Straight leg behind in standing is a fantastic stretch that runners often complete and involves putting one leg in front bend and one leg behind, thereby stretching the hamstrings. This stretch is extremely beneficial for me, as I immediately feel the tightness from my hamstrings fade.

Arm circling backwards

This image shows how to do arm circling backwards

Arm circling backwards can be completed stood up or sat down and involves circling the arms, one at a time, backwards and back to the start again. A perfect shoulder stretch!

Straight arm above head

This image shows how to do straight arm reaches against a wall.

Straight arm above head to touch the wall is a stretch that involves standing with you back against the wall and, one at a time, raising your arm straight up, holding it for a few seconds, and then back down again. Repeat on the other side. This does wonders for your shoulders and upper back.

Hip rotator stretch

This image shows how to do a hip rotator stretch.

My chiropractor recommended this stretch to me which involves putting one ankle over the opposite knee in sitting and then leaning forward. Again, helpful for a sore back and tight hips.

I really see the benefit on my fibromyalgia after doing these exercises and on my mental health. Once I have completed them, I feel as if I have got it a much needed boost.

Mummy the Fibro Warrior Top Tip:

1. Find some simple stretches you can do for your body that might help you with your pain. Even 5 minutes will help not only your physical health but your mental health, too.

If there is one takeaway I need you all to remember today is that sometimes we just don’t have the time, the energy or the mental capacity to complete vigorous exercise. But sometimes all our body needs is a simple stretch to feel rejuvenated; even if the effect is miniscule (and as a warrior myself I will take even a miniscule of difference). I need you to know you are doing the best you can, your child/children love you as you are and you are Mummy the Fibro Warrior!

Until next time,

x.

P.S what simple exercises, movement or stretching do you do for your chronic condition? I would love to know in the comments below! Sharing is caring 🙂

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5 responses to “Can stretching help with chronic pain?”

  1. […] a list of all the things I wanted or needed to do and tried to strike a balance between them all. Exercise and watching the required videos were on this list and I am proud to say I ticked them […]

  2. mummythefibrowarrior avatar

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!! The relaxation side of stretching isn’t often spoken about 🙂

  3. Tetyana Skrypkina avatar
    Tetyana Skrypkina

    Thanks for such an amazing post and including the pics! The pictures helped me better understand the exercises.

    I will definitely try them today!

    1. mummythefibrowarrior avatar

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment 🙂 I’m so glad the pictures helped!

  4. mummythefibrowarrior avatar

    I can’t wait to write more ❤️

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