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How to Start Running If You Suffer from Chronic Pain

How to Start Running If You Suffer from Chronic Pain

How Do You Run Through Chronic Pain?When you're suffering from chronic pain, probably the last thing you're thinking about doing -- or want to do -- is exercise. For most of us, for better or worse, society has ingrained the idea in our heads that, when we're in pain, the best thing to do is take medicine and wallow around in our discomfort.

Simply the mere idea of physical activity, especially something strenuous like running, when we're already dealing with chronic pain is laughable at best and offensive at worst.

However, what if there is something to the idea of running if -- or perhaps because -- you have chronic pain? Maybe the notion that including running into your chronic pain management plan has some merit after all.

As is often the case with many pain reduction or mitigation strategies, your mileage may vary -- literally and figuratively -- if and when you include running into your chronic pain management plan. What may work well for you may not work as well, if at all, for your peers. If you're looking to minimize or better manage your chronic pain, it may be worth attempting.

Below, I'll describe in detail some tips to help guide you as you start running while also dealing with chronic pain. It goes without saying, but please note that this is general advice only and doesn't supercede anything from your own personal medical provider. If you have any questions or concerns, definitely take the time to chat with your practitioner.

Some guidelines to help you start running if you suffer from chronic pain include the following:

Definitely get the all-clear from your provider first.

Talk To Your Health Provider About Running With Chronic Pain

Before jumping headfirst into a running-focused fitness regimen, it'll behoove you to first secure the all-clear from the medical provider who manages your care. It's always a good idea to get a yearly physical, just to make sure all your bodily systems are working as they should, so if you haven't had a physical in some time, you may also want to consider getting one first as well. In particular, talking to the provider who manages your chronic pain care plan can potentially give you the best type of insight into how running may or may not affect your chronic pain. In addition, your provider may be able to make specific recommendations as to whether you ought to make any special modifications to your running so as to not magnify or intensify your chronic pain.

Start very slowly.

Start Running Slowly With Chronic Pain

Particularly if you've not run very much or very often in the near past, it'll behoove you to start very slowly. It's not safe to go from 0 to 100 with running, even if you don't have chronic pain to manage, so especially if you have chronic pain, you'll want to take things easy. Give yourself run-walk ratio goals, such as run for 30 seconds, walk for a minute, and repeat for a determined amount of time. Don't be afraid or too prideful to start small! Honestly, you may spend more time getting dressed and ready for your run than actually running for your first few forays.

Progress incrementally.

How To Pace Yourself While Running With Pain?

As you continue with your run-walk ratios, experiment as you progress incrementally. Maybe switch your ratios from 30 seconds of running:1 minute of walking to 45-60 seconds of running:1 minute of walking. As your body becomes stronger and your stamina and endurance enhanced, you may find that you'll be able to handle the rigors of running for longer. Again, though, take things really easy, and scale it up very slowly. When you're running, especially when you're first starting out, you should be able to run at a pace that still allows you to talk comfortably or even sing. If you can't, you're working too hard and should ease back.

Listen to your body.

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This is very important for all runners anyway, but if you have chronic pain in the first place, this bit of advice becomes even more important. Chronic pain sufferers have good days and bad days, so if you're feeling so horrible that you can't get out of bed in the morning, don't guilt yourself into running that day. Additionally, if you've been running for a few days or weeks and begin to feel little aches, pains, and niggles surface, take some time to do some additional strengthening and flexibility exercises. Invest in a foam roller to help you do some self-massage on your sore and tired muscles, too.

Mind the medicine you're taking.

If you're taking medicine to help you manage your chronic pain, be mindful of how taking it may make you feel when you run. Some medicines are incredibly powerful and can have deleterious side effects, like extreme dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, and nausea. Please be careful if you're taking these medicines and running because you may find that that medicine-exercise combination isn't very copacetic. Talk to your provider about your concerns to be safe, however.

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Wear clothing and shoes that are both comfortable and supportive.

Wear Comfortable Clothes and Shoes For Exercise Specially with Chronic Pain

Again, this is important for all runners, but especially if you already have pre-existing chronic pain, it'll become even more important that you wear supportive and comfortable clothing and shoes so as to avoid exacerbating your pains. Take the time to get fitted for running shoes that are good for your body from a professional at a local running store.

Consider working with a coach.

Finally, consider working with a coach when you're first starting your running journey. Doing so can help ensure that you don't progress more quickly than you should, and having a professional guide your routine can give you some peace of mind that you're running safely and responsibly as regards your chronic pain. It can be tempting to simply “wing it,” but doing so may be unwise, especially if you don't have any experience in building running training plans for athletes with special circumstances.

These are just a handful of guidelines that will help you start running successfully while also dealing with chronic pain. It's my hope that running will help bring relief to you and will help mitigate your aches and pains. As part of your pain management plan, who knows? Running may be the missing piece of the puzzle for which you've been searching but haven't found … until now.


Jane Grates, Professional Runner
Meet the Author : Jane Grates
A professional runner and vegan. Doing at the fulcrum of simplicity and intellectual purity to craft experiences both online and in real life. She also writes reviews and recommendations on Runnerclick, ThatSweetGift, NicerShoes and GearWeAre.