My workout journey

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

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A few blog posts back I wrote about why I’m having to join the gym to help with my neck pain. It seems to have been a long time coming, but after several months of what feels like wasted gym membership fees, numerous conversations about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, and having the confidence to keep going with it all, I’m finally starting my workout journey. I’ve decided to write about it in a new blog series.

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

I totally get that the reason it has taken so long is because my situation is quite complex, and everyone wants to make sure that I am doing the right workout so that I don’t do anymore damage.

I booked in with a fitness coach this last week to chat things through and see how my local gym can help me. The manager came to speak to us as well and gave some really good advice to the both of us. We came up with a very basic workout plan that is designed to help improve my muscle strength and also help keep my body in alignment.

Like I say, I’ve had mixed advice about whether I should be doing a workout or not, as my 5 years of abnormal sitting has caused quite a few complex problems (see my blog post I’m finally having some proper physio).

I’ve decided that anything is better than nothing, but the key thing is to make sure that whatever I am doing I am doing it correctly so I don’t cause anymore damage. Which is why I booked in with a fitness coach at my local gym, to ensure my technique for each exercise I do is correct.

My workout

  • Squat (2kg weight) – 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Shoulder Raise (2kg weight) – 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Lunges (body weight) – 3 sets of 12 reps on each leg.
  • Row (resistance band) – 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Around the World (2.5kg weight) – 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Around the Head (2.5kg weight) – 3 sets of 12 reps.
  • Bird Dog – 3 sets of 6 reps on each leg.
  • Yoga Roll (gym ball) – 3 sets of 12 reps reps.

I bet you’re thinking Bird Dog? I thought the exact same thing!

I am aiming to do 3 workouts a week. On the days where I can’t get to the gym, or if my pain is bad, then I can do all exercises, except the Yoga Ball, using my own equipment at home.

Progression and achievement

I am keen to see that over time these exercises will get easier, and I will build in more weight or reps. I also want to finish a workout session feeling like I have achieved something. These may only be small steps after each workout, but over time these small steps will hopefully help me improve my overall body strength and be a part of my maintenance to help limit my neck pain.

70,000 steps a week

I’m also aiming to do 70,000 steps a week. I wrote about this in My 2018 goals blog post, and it is proving a little more difficult than I first thought.

I’ve bought myself a new pedometer to help me, but some days I am really struggling to get anywhere near 10,000 a day. I’m not going to beat myself up, as some days my pain and fatigue take over, but I’m certainly more aware of what steps I am doing, and although I may not hit my targets, having some awareness of my movement is really encouraging me to move more when normally I wouldn’t bother.

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

My new pedometer

My physio exercises

I’m having weekly physio to also help reduce my neck pain. It started off quite bad (read my post The day I cried at my needling appointment), and although it is still quite a brutal treatment I’m having (which they openly admit to), the current treatment is a little more bearable.

I’ve had a few cupping sessions on my back which clearly showed the tension through all the redness. At the moment my physio is working on my left thigh and hip. This sounds strange when the aim is to reduce my neck pain. Basically my hip is out of alignment because the muscle in my thigh is really tight. It is like this because of my abnormal sitting. If this is loosened then my hip will move back to its natural position. It involves some cupping and some elbow work and it is extremely painful. Still not as bad as the needling though so I’m trying to stay strong.

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

The cupping marks on my back from a physio session

I have to do exercises at home, and for this I have to use a foam roller and a trigger point ball. With the foam roller, I have to use this on my thigh, slowly moving it into different positions and roll gently on it in the same spot for about 15 seconds. With the trigger point ball, I simply place it in a certain painful (tight) spot under my hip and keep still, again for about 15 seconds. In theory it will get harder to find the painful spot, as the pain reduces over time.

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

Some of my home gym equipment that I featured on my Instagram page – including my foam roller and my trigger point ball

Some days I struggle to do 15 seconds for both these exercises, but anything will help, and I’ve been told the more I do this at home, the easier my physio treatment sessions will be.

I’m also using a stepper at home when I can. I thought I could use this when watching TV, or do a YouTube workout each week. I’m keen to do as much as I can (in a sensible way obviously) and to keep things varied so I don’t get bored. I also want to learn new skills and learning to use the stepper properly will hopefully improve my feet and leg co-ordination. And again, it’s about progression and achievement.

I will be writing regular posts about my workout journey and sharing how I’m getting on.

What exercises do you do for your chronic pain? Have you had advice about what you should and shouldn’t be doing? What do you think of my first workout plan?

I’d love to hear from you, feel free to get in touch or comment below.

My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

18 thoughts on “My workout journey: what I’m doing to help my chronic pain

  1. Leah Dwyer says:

    Alice,
    I was very happy to hear that you have discontinued your Physio treatment. Like Jill I was also very alarmed at the level of pain you were experiencing and the mixture of pseudoscience based treatments you were receiving such as dry needling and cupping.
    Your blog on dry needling was shared on a pain science FB group page and it had most of us simultaneously weeping for you and knashing our teeth.
    There is absolutely no need for pain during or as the result of manual therapy. Physios and other manual therapists (massage, osteo and chiro) who inflict pain on clients have no understanding of the nervous system and brain’s role in pain and therefore should be avoided.
    Pain neuroscience has moved on since the outdated ideas of aggressive massage and other such treatments. Causing pain to relieve pain is incredibly outdated and frankly there is no evidence to support this style of treatment.

    Please keep us up to date on your future treatments and please don’t let anyone hurt you. Some people call it therapy but I call it assault. Our first rule as therapists is do no harm. Please remember that.
    Kind regards,
    Leah Dwyer RMT
    Sydney, Australia.

    • Alice says:

      Hi Leah. Thank you for your comments and concerns, it really is appreciated. I am still seeing my physio though (sorry if you’ve misunderstood one of my posts). I will be posting regular updates about my physio and future treatments – watch this space 🙂

  2. Katrin says:

    Somatic Education would be in line with what Jill mentions above – graded exposure to movement, working with novel movement to reduce sensation of pain… you can find a teacher via essentialsomatics.com for example. It sounds like you’re taking a lot on so improving body awareness to be able to improve motor control would be very beneficial! Good luck with your program 🙂

  3. Jill Wigmore-Welsh says:

    As an experienced advanced practice clinician I’m alarmed at the Physiotherapist led treatment & management you are describing and that it’s termed proper physio. You have been given non-science explanations, neither dry needling or cupping stand or trigger point treatment stand up to scientific scrutiny, they are very 1990’s approaches, based on myth legend and story. That your physio is causing severe pain during treatment, and that treatment leaves lingering pain after a consult, is not what should be happening. This blog has been under discussion in a group of experienced clinicians and I’m speaking out because your HCPC MCSP Physiotherapist needs to go and do some more science based training. Ask him/her if they have attended any NOI courses, for example Explain Pain. Have they heard of dermoneuromodulation hands on work? I’m not sure if this clinician is an NHS MSK FCP or a private practitioner and would be very interested to know more, whoever they are the HCPC does require that clinicians keep up to date with their professional development.

    • Alice says:

      Hello Jill. Thank you for your comments. My treatment has moved on since I wrote that post, as we both realised it wasn’t the right treatment for me. I can assure you they are appropriately registered and have lots of knowledge and training in this field. I’m writing another blog post to hopefully address some of the concerns that people have raised. Thank you again.

  4. Nicola J Ogston says:

    That’s fab that you’ve joined a gym and I hope that the exercises and Physio are helping you. I had joined a gym but had to stop as it was causing a more pain that good. You’ve given me a little motivation though and might look at going back or trying something else like swimming or yoga xox

    • Alice says:

      I’m glad my blog has inspired you 🙂 Maybe speak to one of the fitness instructors at the gym to see what they can advise. And definitely give swimming a go – my physio highly recommended this for all kinds of benefits.

  5. Angela Noel says:

    I think it’s awesome that you’re working towards what you can do without over doing it. You’ve set up what looks to me like reasonable expectations for yourself and that’s such a good way to setting yourself up for a long term commitment. You’ve inspired me to keep going. If you can, I can. 🙂

    • Alice says:

      Thanks Abby. I might look into band exercises. Someone recommend it on my Instagram too, and we used a band in my Trigger Point Pilates class this evening – decided to give that a go too x

  6. Lauren says:

    70,000 steps a week is a big target. I have a Fitbit and rarely do that many steps, especially in winter. Well done you for starting your fitness journey. I hope it helps with your pain x

    • Alice says:

      Thanks Lauren. I must admit I’m finding it hard to hit 70,000 steps a week. Especially as some days I’m so tired. It’s making me feel defeated and a failure so from today I’ve dropped my target to 49,000 a week – I’ll aim for 7000 steps a day. Much more achievable whilst still making sure I move enough 😃

  7. Hayley says:

    I really struggle with exercise. If my knees & feet aren’t too bad then I can walk, but this is about it for exercise. Whenever I try physio, it just seems to make things worse. Either I’ve not found the right physio yet or physio isn’t for me. Interestingly, another blogger strongly recommended getting a personal trainer, but again it’s finding the right one. How did you find yours?

    • Alice says:

      I’m finding that my physio treatment makes my pain worse initially but then it settles. It’s very off putting I must admit. I’ve been told to stick with it so will give it a try a little longer – reluctantly at £40 a session 😬 I’ve seen two fitness instructors at my local gym. I wasn’t impressed with the first one but the second one is brilliant. She listens to my needs and is really keen to work with me. It’s definitely key to find the right one x

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