How walking helps my chronic pain

How walking helps my chronic pain

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Walking does wonders for our overall health and wellbeing and is a simple way to get some daily exercise. I’ve been doing lots of walking recently, and not only has it made me feel calmer, increased my energy, and helped me burn a few extra calories, but I’m convinced it is helping me manage my chronic pain better.

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I’ve mentioned how much I love walking in some of my previous blog posts:

10 ways to cope with chronic pain

Surprising symptoms of chronic pain: stress

Surprising symptoms of chronic pain: anxiety

For me, any type of movement is naturally going to help me manage and reduce my chronic pain because I am in pain when I sit down (catch up with my blog post I have a sitting disability. Oh and a few other chronic pains to learn more). A huge part of my pain management, and encouraged by my physio, is to move as much as possible to help loosen my muscles. This stops them getting tight, forming knots, and causing additional pain elsewhere in my body.

Why walking is important for me

Due to my many years of abnormal sitting, I have what I call, secondary symptoms – pain which is as a result of avoiding my coccyx pain. The main symptom I have is intense neck pain. I’ve had lots of physiotherapy to try to help reduce this pain, and finally I am at a stage where I am now attending maintenance sessions every 6-8 weeks; which is far better (and cheaper) than my weekly sessions I was having. This maintenance treatment helps keep on top of things and in theory stops my pain getting worse, as long as I do all my other things to help – moving, using physio tape, and sitting as normally as possible. The latter is hard, but I have to weigh up the best of two evils and it is far easier coping with just my coccyx pain and not my neck pain as well.

The health benefits of walking

Walking has numerous health benefits, such as:

  • Burning more calories and helping with weight control.
  • Improving our overall mental wellbeing, including our mood, which in turn can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Reducing the risk of health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.
  • Strengthening muscles and bones.
  • Increasing productivity and creativity.

Read more about the health benefits of walking here.

Keeping motivated

I love going for a walk in the sunshine and fresh air, and even in the rain if it’s not too cold or windy. Sometimes I’ll go on family walks or sometimes I’ll go on my own. I’ll go for a walk by the sea, in the countryside, or to the shops instead of driving.

Walking is brilliant for mental health in general, and can be an effective way of distracting your thoughts. When I start to feel anxious or stressed with things, sometimes the last thing I want to do is go for a walk. Stress and anxiety can consume your energy and make you feel drained, lethargic and zap your motivation. But I know that if I overcome this and ‘just do it’ then I automatically feel so much better.

At the moment I have a goal of trying to hit 10,000 steps a day. This is a good way of keeping motivated. I don’t hit my goal every day, and I don’t beat myself up about it, but having something to aim for helps me do more walking and movement than I normally would if I didn’t have a goal.

My recent canal walk

I mentioned in last week’s #FridayFive gratitude post that I recently went on a canal walk with my Dad and my dog Wesley (I left Milo at home and walked him separately – another way to do more steps!). I wanted to spend some quality time with my Dad, and I know how much he loves canals.

We couldn’t have picked a better day – the weather was gorgeous. Sunny, blue skies, and warm; but not too warm. We didn’t walk far, just a mile each way from Whitchurch to Grindley Brook, in Shropshire.

We parked up in the Canal and Country Park car park just outside the centre of Whitchurch, and set off down the Whitchurch Arm. This is a short section of canal that was restored in the late 1980s by the Whitchurch Waterway Trust with the intention of bringing tourism back in to the town.

The Whitchurch Arm
The Whitchurch Arm off the Llangollen Canal

We crossed the New Mills Lift Bridge over the Llangollen Canal and headed down the towpath.

New Mills Lift Bridge over the Llangollen Canal
Looking back at the New Mills Lift Bridge over the Llangollen Canal

Wesley is a fairly quick walker but we let him stop and sniff as often as he needed and this meant we walked at a steady pace. We stopped to watch the canal boats go by and nearly everyone waved or said hello as they went by.

Canal boat passing us by on the canal
One of the canal boats we saw passing by

We saw some baby ducklings on the canal, and a squirrel watching us along the towpath.

A squirrel watching us along the towpath
We were being watched!

After about 40 minutes of walking, stopping and taking in the sights, sounds, and scenery, we stopped at the Lockside Cafe in Grindley Brook for a rest and a coffee.

Our coffee at the cafe
Having coffee at the Lockside Cafe – with some free popcorn

The cafe is literally next to the locks, so as we sat outside we saw the boats rising out of the lock before setting off on their way again.

The Grindley Brook locks
The lock right next to the Lockside Cafe

Wesley had a bowl of cold water from my SHO flask – perfect for sunny, warm days like this.

Wesley having a drink at the cafe
Wesley having a drink at the cafe

After we finished our drinks, we stayed at the cafe for a little longer to enjoy the views and have a chat, and then set off again back towards Whitchurch.

The other end of the Whitchurch Arm
The other end of the Whitchurch Arm

Not only was this walk good exercise for us both, but it was so good to get out in the sun and fresh air and spend quality time with my Dad and create some happy memories, that I will cherish and look back on with a smile on my face.

In next week’s post I share some of my top tip to help you hit your 10,000 steps.

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12 thoughts on “How walking helps my chronic pain

  1. JayanthyGovindarajan (@JayanthyG) says:

    I love walking, but don’t do it regularly. The days I walk, I feel super fresh and sleep early. On others I have more annoyed moments. I am glad you had an amazing day with your dad as well as walked a good distance and captured great memories.

    • Alice says:

      Thank you πŸ™‚ I always sleep better too on the days I’ve had a good walk, or hit my steps goal. I should’ve included something about this in my post πŸ™‚

  2. Lisa Orchard says:

    Walking is so good for you. I’m glad to hear it’s helping you manage your pain. I had issues with my sciatica a couple of years ago and I couldn’t do anything. I started going to physical therapy and I must say it has helped tremendously. I’m running again to try and get rid of the weight I gained when I couldn’t exercise. I think the more we move the healthier we will be. I hope walking continues to help you manage your pain. I’m so sorry you have this condition, but it sounds like you’re moving in the right direction.

  3. CARMEN | says:

    I remember when I was in labor (this is so far the worst pain I have ever felt), nurses, midwives and doctors advised me to walk around as it helps ease the pain. But I never did that. I just curled up on my bed and screamed during contractions. That was really bad pain management. I am truly inspired that even with chronic pain, you are motivated to walk. It really has lots of benefits. The view where you walked is amazing and looks peaceful. Plus, Wesley is so cute.

  4. Jecca says:

    I have a different chronic pain situation, and you’re right that moving is a big part of managing it. I use a pedaler most days — it’s something I can still do if I can’t get out of bed. Just a little bit of physical activity has made a big difference!

    • Alice says:

      I’m glad you find some sort of moving helpful too. It gets the blood flowing and can be really beneficial – both physically and mentally.

  5. Rachael Stray says:

    With nicer weather hopefully you’ll be able to get out and about and do more walking – it sounds like it’s helping you which is great. You’re right it does help lift your mood and getting some Vitamin D is great too!

    • Alice says:

      It certainly is. I’ve had a bad pain day today and really could not be bothered to do anything. I’ve just been for an hours walk and I feel so much better. A good combination of fresh air, sunshine, and my music πŸ™‚

  6. Lydia says:

    I love walking as well. I didn’t know it could be used as a form of pain management and relief, though. That’s pretty cool.

    How long have you been taking walks for this purpose?

    • Alice says:

      I’ve been walking to help my pain management since September last year when I started seeing my physiotherapist. It may not help everyone but it can certainly lift our moods and help with relaxation, which in turn can help reduce pain. I read a really good book recently on how exercise can help with depression. It’s called The Real Happy Pill, by Anders Hansen. It talks about how exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety too – I struggle with both so it was a real eye-opener.

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